Françoise Hardy: A Seventies-to-2000 bio...

The 70’s marked the beginning of Françoise Hardy’s increasing involvement with astrology, a subject which had fascinated the singer since she was 18 years old. Convinced that "people can change the world on an individual level, before they do so on a collective level", Françoise Hardy went on to become a specialist of astrological birth charts,.

Meanwhile, Françoise Hardy’s relationship with Jacques Dutronc was still very much a feature of her personal life, although the couple continued to live apart and were beginning to lead increasingly separate lives by this point. Dutronc was not only pursuing a successful singing career, he had also launched an acting career and was rapidly becoming a major French film star. The fact that he scarcely ever had time to spend with Françoise soon began to put an increasing strain on the pair’s relationship. Yet, the celebrity couple managed to survive and on June 16 1973, Françoise gave birth to a son named Thomas. Following the birth of his son, Jacques would move in with Françoise and the couple began spending a little more time together.

Having left the Sonopresse label, Françoise Hardy went on to sign a new recording deal with the American firm Warner Bros. The singer was soon back at work in the studio, recording a new album "Message personnel" under the direction of Michel Berger. Despite several artistic differences between the pair during the increasingly fraught recording sessions, the album proved to be a huge commercial and critical success. Indeed, the album’s title track, "Message personnel", went on to become one of Françoise Hardy’s best-known songs. Yet, fans had to be content to listen to their idol on the airwaves - there was still no question of Françoise resuming her live performances.

Françoise was more than happy to continue her recording work, however. In 1974 she returned to the studio with the singer Catherine Lara (a close friend of Hardy’s) and a string section, to begin work on her new album entitled "Entracte". Françoise Hardy also enlisted the services of the English producer Del Newman (renowned for his work with British pop star Elton John). Jean-Marie Perier was also involved in preparations for the new album, designing the cover just as he had for all Françoise Hardy’s previous works. (This would be the last occasion on which Périer designed for his ex-lover however). Although "Entracte" is nowadays considered as one of the finest albums of Françoise Hardy’s career, at the time the album’s sales were reasonable but never spectacular.

By this stage in her career, Françoise was spending an increasing amount of time bringing up her young son. She had put her days of being a fashion model well and truly behind her and began dressing in a more comfortable, laid-back style, sporting jeans and baseball boots. Françoise also began distancing herself from the hectic world of showbiz, only making rare media appearances to coincide with her album releases. Between 1974 and 1976, Françoise also began to reduce her busy work schedule, recording only one song in this period (for the soundtrack of Claude Lelouch’s film "Si c'était à refaire"). The only song she wrote during this period was "Que vas-tu faire" (a song for which Jean-Michel-Jarre composed the musical arrangements).

In 1977 Françoise Hardy was to make a major comeback, however, after meeting the musician Gabriel Yared through an editor friend. Yared, a great fan of the singer’s work, offered to work on a new album with Hardy, looking after all the musical arrangements. Once again the recording sessions for the new album were somewhat strained, Hardy’s legendary "ice queen" behaviour doing nothing to improve relations between her and Yared.

Yet the album "Star", which featured excellent material by prestigious songwriters such as Michel Jonasz, Serge Gainsbourg, William Sheller and Catherine Lara, proved a great success. Released on the Pathé-Marconi label (with whom Françoise had just signed a 3-year recording deal), "Star" revealed a whole new side to the singer. And Françoise Hardy soon found herself extremely popular with a whole generation of teenagers who had never even heard of her work in the 60’s. In fact "Star" would catapult Françoise Hardy back into the media spotlight and the singer’s record sales soon began to take off in a major way. Despite their squabbles in the studio, Françoise and Gabriel Yared continued to work together up until 1982, their collaboration producing a further four albums.

Following the release of "Star" Françoise began spending an increasing amount of time with her son Thomas. Meanwhile, the singer also continued to devote a great deal of time and energy to her new passion, astrology. Music was left to take second, even third, place in her life. Yet, in spite of having renounced her live performances, Françoise continued her recording career, returning to the studio in 1978 to begin work on her new album, entitled "Musique saoule". This album (on which the musical arrangements were almost all composed by Gabriel Yared and the lyrics written by Michel Jonasz and Alain Goldstein) marked another change of musical direction. Françoise appeared to have some difficulty with her new musical style, complaining that she found the rhythm of the song "J'écoute de la musique saoule" practically impossible to follow. Yet the single received rave reviews in the French press and massive airplay on national radio. (This was not the first time that Hardy’s fans dared to disagree with her over what constituted her finest work). Françoise Hardy would continue her recording career at a steady pace, releasing on average one new album a year. 1980’s offering, entitled "Gin Tonic", featured excellent contributions from Hardy’s loyal trio of collaborators as well as the renowned songwriter Jean Claude Vannier. The single release, "Jazzy retro Satanas", was not a unanimous hit with the critics. Indeed, many French critics began to express doubts about the new direction Françoise Hardy’s career was taking and some even started implying that the singer’s work was much better when she herself was in charge of the songwriting. (However, Françoise Hardy would remain convinced that her songwriting talent was far inferior to other people’s). In 1981 Françoise returned to the studio to put the finishing touches to a new album, "A suivre". As her habitual songwriters Jonasz and Goldstein were both busy working on other musical projects, Françoise enlisted the services of Pierre Groscolas, Jean Claude Vannier andLouis Chedid . Gabriel Yared assured the musical arrangements once again. The album "A suivre" would soon spawn two immensely successful hit singles, "Tamalou" and "Villégiature". Yet, in spite of this new success, Françoise Hardy continued to steer clear of the media spotlight, her public appearances remaining extremely rare. After signing a new recording deal with the label Flarenash, Françoise Hardy went back into the studio in 1982 to begin work on a new album, entitled "Quelqu'un qui s'en va". This album featured material by a host of prestigious songwriters (Carole Coudray’s "Tirez pas sur l'ambulance",Michel Fugain ’s "Tabou" and the song "C'est bien moi" written by Alain Souchon). Needless to say, the musical arrangements were courtesy of Gabriel Yared.

In the spring of 1984 Françoise Hardy went on to record a new single "Moi vouloir toi", which she had co-written with Louis Chédid. Fans were excited by this new release, believing that it heralded the arrival of a new album. In fact, the singer was devoting an increasing amount of time and energy to her astrological charts and music seemed once again to be taking second place in her life. Fans would have to wait another two years for Françoise Hardy’s next single release, "V.I.P." This single, written by Françoise Hardy and set to music by the singer’s new collaborator Jean Noël Chaléat, received a massive amount of airplay over the next few months and went on to prove a major hit.

Since the very height of her fame in the 60’s, Françoise Hardy had always vowed that she would stop singing before the age of 50. In fact, the singer began preparing her farewell album "Décalage" at the age of 44. On this album - announced as the singer’s final recording - Hardy's own lyrics were set to music by a host of prestigious names including William Sheller, pop star Etienne Saho (one of Hardy’s most loyal fans) and her husband Jacques Dutronc (who composed the excellent "Partir quand même", a song which he had been originally going to record himself). Despite the evident quality of the album, Hardy fans appeared disappointed by this final work, obviously expecting a grander finale than "Décalage". In fact, Françoise Hardy’s farewell would not prove as final all that. In 1993 the star made a quiet comeback, recording a duet with Alain Lubrano, a young up-and-coming singer/songwriter from Pau in the South of France. The couple’s duet "Si ça fait mal", a song about love, sex and AIDS, was originally recorded on a fund-raising compilation album entitled "Urgence". (All the proceeds from "Urgence", the brainchild of pop star Etienne Daho, were donated to AIDS research). But the song was later re-recorded as a single, Hardy inviting Lubrano - who had composed the music for the song - into the studio with her and helping him launch his singing career.

Two years later Françoise Hardy went on to make a major comeback, signing a new recording deal with the British label Virgin in 1995. The singer’s new album, "Le Danger", was released in April 1996 to general critical acclaim and Françoise Hardy soon found herself a pop idol on the British music scene. Indeed, shortly after the album's release, the French singer would be invited to work with the crème de la crème of the British music scene, performing on Malcolm Mc Laren’s album and recording a duet with the hip group Blur entitled "To the End". Encouraged by a group of close friends to get her singing career up and running again, Françoise Hardy would go on to enlist the aid of her protégé Alain Lubrano, and Rodolphe Burger (lead singer of the up-and-coming French group Kat Onoma) who wrote three new songs for her. Listening to the hippest new groups on the Anglo-Saxon music scene such as Portishead and Garbage, Hardy invented a totally modern pop sound for herself, proving that the old 60’s idol was more than capable of adapting to the 90’s music scene.

Françoise Hardy made a major comeback in the spring of 2000, releasing a new album entitled "Clair-obscur" on May 3rd. Hailed as an "essential" Hardy album, "Clair-obscur" received rave reviews from the critics who praised Hardy's performance and the superb arrangements on the album. Hardy invited a whole host of guest stars into the studio with her and the new album included a brilliant duet with the singer's partner Jacques Dutronc - whom she had not teamed up with on record since "Brouillard dans la rue Corvisart" in 1978. The duet, a cover of an old French classic, "Puisque vous partez en voyage", was chosen as the first single release from the album. "Clair-obscur" also featured a duet with Hardy's old friend Etienne Daho (a cover of the Everly Brothers' hit "So Sad"), a double act with young up-and-coming African singer Ol (on Hardy's favourite track on the album, "Celui que tu veux") and a duet with Iggy Pop on the tender ballad "I'll Be Seeing You". Hardy's new album also featured contributions from Rodolphe Burger, Alain Lubrano and Jose Maria Cano (lead singer from the Spanish supergroup Mecano).

Françoise Hardy did not follow her album with a promotional tour, however, preferring instead to stay out of the media spotlight and protect her private life. Later that year Hardy and Dutronc decided to move from their home in the city's 14th arrondissement (where they had lived since the 60s) and buy a new flat together near the Etoile where they became the perfect modern couple, each living on their own floor.
Throughout her successful 30-year career Françoise Hardy has been renowned for her romantically nostalgic songs and her rather melancholy lyrics. These lyrics and the fact that the French star has tended to shun the glare of the media spotlight may lead music fans to conclude that Françoise Hardy is a rather moody person. In fact nothing could be further from the truth! It’s true that the French singer is an extremely private person, but Françoise Hardy’s rare interview appearances also reveal her to be an extremely passionate person, especially when it comes to her double raison d’être : music and astrology.

Towards the end of 2000, Françoise Hardy made a guest appearance on Henri Salvador's album "Chambre avec vue", performing a duet with the popular crooner entitled "Le Fou de la reine." A few months later, she reappeared on Marc Lavoine's new album, guesting on the duet "Chère amie."
In 2002, fans were treated to "Message personnel", a boxed set of three CDs featuring 74 songs from Ms. Hardy's extensive career.
Mother, son and a host of talented songwriters

Françoise Hardy returned to the studio in September 2004 to record a new album, "Tant de belles choses" (released in November that year). The songs on this new album were contributed by a crack team of songwriters and composers including the singer's loyal collaborator Alain Lubrano, Benjamin Biolay, Thierry Stremler and Jacno. Françoise also put her feelers out across the Channel and enlisted the services of the English singer-songwriter Ben Christophers and Irish songwriter Perry Blake, who penned two songs in English. Françoise managed to keep things in the family, too, inviting her son, Thomas Dutronc, to produce four tracks on the album. Thomas also played guitar on several tracks."

1 comment:

Luuk said...

Great reading about this singer of which little or no information is available in my country except the few known sixties' hits.