Listen to 8 Songs From the Bewitching Françoise Hardy


When she first broke through in the early 1960s, the bewitching French pop star Françoise Hardy, who died on Tuesday at 80, was initially lumped in with the yé-yés, the commercially minded rocking and twisting French singers of the era.

She later came to see many of her early recordings, including her first hit, “Tous les Garçons et les Filles,” as sappy and lightweight. Hardy went on to forge her own path, becoming one of the rare singer-songwriters of her generation (and even rarer women in that category) — an immediately identifiable performer who unleashed emotion by, counterintuitively, refusing to over-emote.

Her brand of cool has continued to beguile new listeners. A new generation of arty-minded Americans was introduced to her when the Wes Anderson film “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012) prominently featured her hit “Le Temps de l’Amour,” with its catchy, sinewy bass line.

Here is a selection of songs — some of them famous, others less so — that provide entry points into Hardy’s extensive career.

It bears repeating that Hardy was an anomaly in the 1960s as a female pop star writing and performing her own material. Starting in the 1970s she tended to stick to lyrics, but in the previous decade she often also composed the music, as on this gem from her 1964 album, on which she wrote or co-wrote almost all the tracks.

Hardy and Serge Gainsbourg’s finest collaboration may well be this adaptation of the song “It Hurts to Say Goodbye,” created two years earlier by Margaret Whiting, with French lyrics by Gainsbourg. The French version is much punchier, and Hardy is having great fun with the way Gainsbourg plays with the sound “ex.” This particular video is a good illustration of Hardy’s power: She barely moves, sometimes smiles slightly, and effortlessly projects intense charisma.

In 1971, Hardy released “La Question,” a collaboration with the Brazilian artist Tuca, who wrote or co-wrote most of the songs. Against expectations, the album leaned into folk rather than the then-popular sounds of bossa nova, and was a bold departure for Hardy, who was coming off some very successful years. It initially disoriented her audience and was a commercial failure. “La Question” has since become acknowledged as a masterpiece and a turning point in Hardy’s discography.

In the early 1970s, Hardy reached out to Michel Berger, a brilliant singer-songwriter and producer then at the beginning of his career, whose influence would loom over French pop in the 1970s and ’80s. They worked hand in hand on the album “Message Personnel” (1973), whose heartbreaking, half-spoken title track became a big hit and immediately joined the Hardy canon.

Starting in the late 1970s and through most of the 1980s, Hardy experienced an often commercially successful but musically fallow period — she did not even contribute many lyrics to some albums. An exception is this stand-alone “last days of disco”-type single, for which she penned the words. Its nonchalant elegance helped “V.I.P.” stand the test of time.

Hardy set bittersweet lyrics to a melody by Jacques Dutronc, her husband and fellow French star, with whom she had a long, tempestuous relationship. One of the most heartbreaking love songs ever written, “Partir Quand Même” was a memorable coda to one of Hardy’s otherwise most musically frustrating eras. Feeling at an impasse and with her record deal ending, she declared that she was retiring and that the album would be her swan song.

Eight years after she said she was quitting singing, Hardy resurfaced with a heavy-hitting comeback album, “Le Danger,” that was an artistic and commercial success. Encouraged by a close friend, the singer Étienne Daho, she teamed up with a new generation of musicians, including Rodolphe Burger, frontman of the band Kat Onoma. (Fun fact: Bertrand Bonello, now a renowned art-house film director, plays the organ and piano.) Hardy’s unprepossessing vocal style and her evocative lyrics pair surprisingly well with the more rock-oriented direction.

Although her health had been in steep decline since a diagnosis of lymphatic cancer in 2004, Hardy sounds very much like herself on her last album, “Personne d’Autre” — if anything proving that her voice and singing style, criticized as “weak” at the start of her career, turned out to be strikingly adaptable as the years and decades passed. “Can you follow me where I am going?” asks this song, a beautiful cover of a 1975 ballad by her former collaborator Berger.



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