Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images Francoise Hardy
French singer, songwriter and fashion icon Françoise Hardy just released her 24th studio album, Personne d’autre, at the age of 74. But Hardy hadn’t initially planned on making this one at all. “For many – very reasonable – reasons, I wasn’t planning on making another album,” explained Hardy in a statement, “But circumstances dictated otherwise.” Despite a health scare that briefly took her out of the game, Hardy still managed to put out an album that ranks with her ethereal, plainspoken best.
But Hardy’s appeal and reputation transcends even her career as a terrific singer and songwriter whose career has spanned over a half century -- she’s also an extremely influential actress and fashion icon. In the early ‘60s, Hardy was at the forefront of the yé-yé movement, itself a play on words of the chorus of the Beatles’ “She Loves You” that aimed to answer beat groups of the day. Her looks and unique style -- a simple, bohemian and intriguingly androgynous look still copied today -- made her a popular crush for rockers like Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and more.
But Hardy was no bubble-headed muse to “real artists”: every bit the equal of the rock n’ roll boys who’d pine over her, she worked her talent and brilliance on her own terms. Beyond Hardy’s vast songbook, here are five great moments in which the singer appeared in pop culture as one who always led the way.
The Fab Four Want to Hold Her Hand, Hardy Could Care Less Malcolm McLaren, who collaborated with Hardy on the song “Revenge of the Flowers,” was open in his admiration for the singer, recalling this: “The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and many other groups were all desperately interested in having Françoise Hardy become their girlfriend in some way.” Imagine yourself in her shoes for a sec -- the biggest band ever is internally competing for a date with you. But rather than capitalizing on a position thousands of those screaming Beatlemania girls in A Hard Day’s Night may have committed murder for, her beautifully removed opinion of the Beatles was genius. In a 2006 interview, she one-upped the Cute One and the Smart One both: “Actually, I began my career before the Beatles, so they didn’t influence me at the start.” She still offers a little olive branch about the Fabs: “But I like their songs, because they are timeless.”
Bob Dylan Writes Free-Verse Poetry For Hardy, Who Calls Him “Thin and Sickly” Dylan released his second album, Another Side of Bob Dylan, in 1964 with a series of poems on the record sleeve. One was an ode to -- you guessed it -- Hardy, and it began as such: “for françoise hardy / at the seine’s edge / a giant shadow / of notre dame / seeks t’ grab my foot.” Later, he found Hardy in the front row for his first concert in France, then proceeded to take her to his suite and personally perform his new songs “I Want You” and “Just Like a Woman” for her. Hardy wasn’t impressed with Dylan’s wooing: “I had no interest in him as a man, only as an artist,” she reflected to The Telegraph’s Colin Randall. “He wasn't a very attractive man, and didn't seem well in himself.” Later, she even roasted Dylan a bit in a talk with The Independent’s James McNair: “He looked very thin and sickly, which may explain why the concert was so bad.” It was Mick Jagger, who described her as his “ideal woman,” who she really had the hots for. Said Hardy to Randall, “[Jagger] is someone I could really have fallen for. Unfortunately, he was with Chrissie Shrimpton at the time."
Hardy Sings a Spooky Chamber Pop Song With Blur About an Unhappy Relationship “To the End” was a respectable hit for Blur at No. 16 on the UK Singles Chart, with its rough-patch sentiment drama'd up by a choral vocal from Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier. On the other hand, Hardy is the master of conveying existential dissatisfaction with a single sighing, monotone turn of phrase, so it was only natural that Blur’s frontman Damon Albarn would tap the singer for a redo of the track for the “Parklife” single. Hardy’s added verses, sung in French, almost land at Radiohead in their disaffection: “All these masquerades / Of bad films / Why so much hatred / It’s a car crash.”
For Wes Anderson’s Tale of Child Runaways, Hardy’s The Perfect Soundtrack As the years and decades wore on, Hardy’s music started to seep into TV and film as shorthand for “quirky adolescent longing.” This certainly culminated in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, a coming-of-age film about 12-year-olds who run away from home that used Hardy’s “Le temps de l’amour" prominently. Case in point: when Suzy Bishop decides to bring her portable record player along for the ride, the only long-player she vouches for is Hardy’s The Yé-Yé Girl From Paris, calling it her “favorite record album.” Later, they play “Le temps de l’amour” on the beach in a thunderingly awkward yet sweet scene when the two dance together and discover French kissing.
‘Actually, Scratch All The ‘Icon’ Talk,’ Implies Hardy To truly understand how enigmatic Hardy remains, it’s helpful to think about what nearly anyone else in her situation would have done. She’s been a multimedia-spanning star since the early ‘60s, the girl the world’s rock n’ roll heroes tried to woo and a meteoric influence on fashion ever since. But in later interviews, Hardy betrayed a deep insecurity that had dogged her since a child. She related her toxic relationship with her grandmother to the Daily Mail, saying “She had told me throughout my childhood that I was ugly and that I was the worst creature on earth. I was concerned I would never meet anybody and that I would become a nun.” Even after she conquered the fashion and music spheres, she is still unfailingly humble; when the word “icon” was broached in the same interview, Hardy basically shuddered: “The word ‘icon’ – that’s sometimes used about me. I don’t recognize it. It’s as if you’re talking about someone else.” It’s one of the only times fans of Hardy may be inclined to smile and perhaps politely disagree: oh, we aren't.