"If I'd been four feet tall and fifteen stone, I would certainly not have followed the same career"
I've always thought Françoise Hardy had a striking, natural beauty. The boho sex appeal, pared-down mod style, chiseled cheekbones and intense gaze made her unforgettable. She had a combination of thrift shop clothes and an amazing wardrobe by Andre Courréges and Paco Rabanne. Everything looked fantastic on her elegant, boyish figure. An icon in the mid Sixties the cool girl with the acoustic guitar and beautiful voice captivated many. She was a muse for Bob Dylan who pursued her as did Nick Drake, David Bowie and Mick Jagger.
"I had no interest in Dylan as a man, only as an artist...
Jagger was different. He is someone I could really have fallen for.
Unfortunately he was with Chrissie Shrimpton at the time"
From The Independent, 18th October 2003
by Fiona Sturges
It's 1968, and the singer Françoise Hardy, France's biggest export after Brigitte Bardot, is halfway throuhg a show at the Savoy in London. Having worked her way through her biggest hits, Tous les Garçons et ls Filles, Et Meme and All Over the World, she announces that she's going to try a new song.
"I warned the audience that I might forget some of the words, so they should be lenient," she remembers. "But as soon as I started to sing, my mind went blank and I began to go so hot and cold. I tried again but I couldn't remember the words, and in the end I had to abandon it. I still have nightmares about it today.
Tracksuit by Paco Rabanne
That same year, aged twenty four, the multi-million selling pop singer gave up live performances and became a studio artist. Hardy disliked travelling and had already found that the life of a touring musician didn't suit her. She had also just begun a relationship with the singer and actor Jacques Dutronc (now her husband) and resolved not to let her career get in the way of her personal life. For a while she considered giving up singing altogether, though the head of her record label talked her out of it. "He told me, 'It's not important to promote the records; it's important that the songs exist.' How could I refuse?"
Reclining on a leather sofa at her stylish Paris apartment, just a few minutes walk from the Arc de Triomphe, Hardy revels in her tales of the good old days. "I went to the fashionable clubs in London and would always bump into the biggest bands of the time - The Animals, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones..." she says proudly. The problem was that I didn't know them very well and I was too shy to say anytying. They all seemed very strange to me, the way they behaved. I didn't know anything about drugs; I was very naive. I found out that all these musicians that seemed so charming and confident were all high.
Hardy's second favourite subject is astrology. She became interesting in it in the early Seventies and has since become a specialist in astrological birth charts. In recent years she has hosted radio shows on which she has read the charts of French celebrities, and she has just published a book entitled Les Rhythmes du Zodiaque. "Once you start learning, you never stop," she says. "Astrology is about helping yourself as well as others, but it's a partial enlightenment. It doesn't have all the answers."
In her Sixties heyday, Hardy was celebrated as much for her elegant, ethereal beauty as for her sophisticated love songs. She was the original girl next door, who provided a striking contrast to the pouting sexuality of Bardot. Over the years, she has gathered a reputation for being aloof, a perception that she maintains stems from the shyness that has plagued her since childhood. "In the Sixties, I was very young in both body and mind," she exclaims. "A young girl in those days was much younger than the girls today. I didn't know how to talk to people. When I was eighteen, I didn't know how babies were made! When my son was five years old he already knew that."
Born in Paris in 1944, Hardy was brought up by her mother, an assistant accountant. As a teenager, she would compose songs inspired by music on the radio - The Everly Brothers and Elvis were her favourites. Her father, a largely absent figure in her early childhood, gave her a guitar after she passed her baccalaureate. "It changed everything for me," she recalls. "I larnt how to play three chords, and with those I found I could reproduce the songs I heard on the radio. Then I began to take my music very serioously." In the spring of 1960, she started auditioning for record labls, and was signed up by Vogue Records. Two years later she released the single Tous les Garçons et les Filles". It was a huge hit, selling two million copies - more than Edith Piaf had sold in eighteen years - and it catapulted her to the forefront of the music scene. Hardy quickly cultivated a stylish image with the help of her boyfriend at the time, the photographer Jean-Marie Périer. Soon she was appearing on the front pages of Paris Match and Vogue, wearing the latest designs by Yves Saint Laurent, Paco Rabanne and André Courréges.
When she was thirty five, Hardy declared in a French newspaper that she would never record a song after she was forty. When she was forty four she announced her final record, Décalage, though since then there have been at least two comebacks - one in 1996, with Le Danger and another in 2000 with Clair-obscur. Her new album Messages Personnels, a compilation of lesser-known songs, forgotten album tracks and old B-sides. These days Hardy still won't perform live but continues to write and record. She has just completed a duet with Brian Molko of Placebo on a Serge Gainsbourg tribute album. "I told the producer, David Costa, 'I have to warn you, I'm a very bad singer.' He said, 'That's OK - I'm a very bad producer.' In the past decade, she has also been rediscovered by a new generation of artists. In the Nineties she recorded with Iggy Pop, Malcolm McLaren and Blur, and her songs have been covered by Saint Etienne and Barry Adamson. More recently, the singer Alison Goldfrapp has heaped praise on Hardy's songwriting, citing her as an important influence.
Swimsuit by Pierre Cardin
Hardy remains a lover of British pop music. She gleefully tells me how she went to a Radiohead concert in Paris when they were virtually unknown. "I had heard the opening few lines of their first song Creep, on the radio long before and jumped to switch on my tape recorder so I could record it. I listened to it for two years without ever knowing who it was by. Of course, now they're very famous. They came to play in this tiny venue, and I got to meet Thom Yorke. It was incredible."
Despite having a career of more than forty years, she admits to still feeling insecure about her songwriting. "When I wrote my first song, I was afraid it would be my last, that I wouldn't be able to write another one. The more time goes by, and the older I get, the more likely it is that it will happen. But writing songs is still one of the most exciting things for me. That hasn't changed. The End
From French Elle, 1998
In July 1967 Françoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc were just friends. "It was only in September" explains Françoise, "that we took the plunge!" This led to the birth of their son Thomas a little later. At twenty five years old, slightly taler than his dad, he has his parent's blue eyes. Tom is a professional guitarist. Keen on Django Reinhardt, he has just accompanied his mother on a track written by Eric Clapton. "He is not as good as Clapton" says Françoise modestly "but he is really not bad!"
More than thirty years separate these two photographs by Jean-Marie Périer the first is Françoise and her future husband Jacques Ductronc
Françoise and son Thomas
"She was the ultimate pin-up of most hip, Chelsea, beat bedroom walls, and I know for a fact that many of the groups who were notorious and slowly becoming successful, such as the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones and Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and many others were desperately interested in having Françoise Hardy become their girlfriend in some way"
"I was for a very long time passionately in love with her, as I'm sure she's guessed. Every male in the world, and a number of females also were,
and we all still are"