Maintenant un article dans le magazine "Culture" de "The Sunday Times" 14 avril 2013. We love her yé-yé-yéSwinging London fell in love with her image. Let’s now fall for Françoise Hardy’s music
Published: 14 April 2013 [Vous devez être inscrit et connecté pour voir cette image]
Still mad for it: Françoise Hardy (Stuart Kirkham)
Françoise Hardy, timeless icon of Parisian pop, opens the door to her Paris apartment, signals for my translator and me to enter, then declines to shake hands. “Germs are spread by hands,” she explains. Here we go, I think: diva time.
“I am very old,” says the singer, who recently turned 69, by way of explanation, “and I am no longer strong. I get so tired.” Hardy is thin — but she was always slim — wears no make-up and her once perfect features are now heavily lined. Unlike many a celebrity pensioner, she has avoided the surgeon’s knife: in life, as in music, Hardy is devoid of artifice. I’m here to discuss her 50 years of music-making — although, typically, she claims ignorance of said anniversary until EMI emphasised it — and her superb new album, L’Amour fou (Mad Love).
L’Amour fou’s 10 original songs are contemporary chansons that find Hardy crooning over ambient piano and the Macedonian Radio Symphonic Orchestra’s striking string arrangements. Hardy has always excelled at suggesting the murmuring of a wayward heart, and L’Amour fou finds her little happier than when she first won huge international attention with 1962’s Tous les garçons et les filles. Back then she sang: “All the guys and girls my age know how it feels to be happy, but I am lonely. When will I know how it feels to have someone?” Hardy now sings with a world-weariness that comes with knowing how it feels “to have someone”.
“I’ve always had a very difficult, tormented love life,” she says when I ask what inspired L’Amour fou. She then laughs at herself — for someone so melancholic, she laughs a lot. “Also, I like reading, especially melodrama and, at present, 19th-century English literature. Especially Henry James. OK, he’s American, but he lived in England. I find myself through these books.”
I tell Hardy that L’Amour fou is a stronger album than recent efforts by her old admirers David Bowie and Bob Dylan. She smiles at this, then looks gloomy and explains that the album did not find a wide audience when issued in France.
“Radio did not play it. Radio only plays music for kids, and for an artist like myself who does not tour, well, I need radio.”
This surprises me, as Hardy is hugely admired in France and, over the past decade, has released a series of strong albums, a bestselling autobiography and, to coincide with L’Amour fou, a collection of short stories also called L’Amour fou.
“My publisher wanted another book after my autobiography did well,” she says, “and I had these stories originally written for myself many years ago. Stories exploring the pain of love. He encouraged me to rewrite them and they came out in conjunction with the album.”
On L’Amour fou, Hardy swings a literary connection by turning a Victor Hugo poem into a lyric. “I’m not especially a fan of Victor Hugo,” she says with a very Gallic shrug, “but a musician had written a melody to this poem and sent it to me. I liked the melody, and while I generally do not like poems, this one was a marvel of simplicity. It goes: ‘Why are you coming to see me if you have nothing to tell me?’ I like that.”
Across the 1960s, Hardy epitomised French beauty and style. While her looks certainly helped her win international fame, her music was strong enough to ensure that she became the only French singer to succeed in Beatles-era Britain. She hit the UK Top 40 three times across 1964-65, often performing and recording in London. Musicians including John Paul Jones, soon to join Led Zeppelin, and Mick Jones, later to lead Foreigner, backed her — yet Hardy reserves her fullest praise for the now largely forgotten British arrangers Charles Blackwell and Tony Cox, both of whom she worked with closely during the mid-1960s.
“In France the musicians were not very good at all, and what I found is that only English musicians could play with me on these songs. Also, I felt there was a disrespect for young singers in France, while I did not feel this in England.”
Last month, a 1965 documentary featuring Hardy singing her hits in London locations was posted on the website Dangerous Minds. How, I wondered, did the epitome of Parisian chic find Swinging London?
“Oui, I liked London. I performed at the Savoy three times, and after the concerts I would go to clubs, as they were the only places in London where you could eat late back then. What struck me was how you could go to a club and meet all these famous musicians — the Beatles, Stones, Animals, Georgie Fame. In Paris, this did not happen.”
If Hardy liked London, it is fitting, as London loved her: Mick Jagger called her his “ideal woman”, Brian Jones tried to seduce her (and failed), David Bowie stated, “I was for a very long time passionately in love with her. Every male in the world, and a number of females, also were.” Even Bob Dylan fell hard for Hardy, beginning a poem on the back of his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan “for françoise hardy / at the seine’s edge”. Dylan would famously demand Hardy come backstage during the intermission of his debut Paris concert, and later that evening serenade her with I Want You and Just Like a Woman in his hotel room. Hardy, standing almost 6ft, refused the tiny American’s overtures. “He was very thin and small and did not look healthy.”
Being muse to the greatest figures in 1960s British and American pop music must have made her feel very special?
“All these big artists were in love with my image,” she replies. “They did not know my songs. My genre is so much different from what they like. So you cannot say I was truly their muse. What I think happened was they probably saw me on TV and they liked what they saw!”
I somehow doubt this, as admiration for Hardy — as muse and musician — continues across the decades, with the likes of Blur, Malcolm McLaren and Iggy Pop all having travelled to Paris to record with her. For the record, she liked Blur and Iggy, yet found that McLaren “treated people like objects”. Of her many admirers and collaborators, Hardy retains greatest affection for Serge Gainsbourg, the late French singer-songwriter and producer who also recorded with (and seduced) the likes of Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin.
“In France, Serge is one of our greatest artists, and to my family he was a really close friend. But he was like one of his songs, a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde — when he was sober he was very charming, but when he was drunk he could be unpleasant. He was a genius and a warm, funny man. But he drank and drank, and I knew he was going to die. It was very sad. With his passing, I felt the passing of my youth.”
While Hardy has consistently recorded over the decades —beyond taking much of the 1990s off to write several books on astrology — she now refuses to perform. Was this, as is rumoured, due to stage fright?
“No. In 1967, my relationship with Jacques Dutronc started and I wanted to be with him rather than to be always on tour. With my first big love affair, my boyfriend was a photographer and I was away all the time, and when I came back to Paris he would be about to go away to work. So I cried all the time. This made me decide to stop touring.”
Dutronc, a celebrated French musician and actor, remains Hardy’s partner to this day. Yet he chooses to live in Corsica while she stays in Paris. This situation surely feeds Hardy’s “l’amour fou” ethos.
“Yes, I am romantic,” says the timeless icon with a wry smile. “This is my life.”L’Amour fou is out tomorrow; the book is available in paperback