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Françoise Hardy, renowned French singer-songwriter, has died at 80

The French singer and actress Francoise Hardy wearing a fur coat in Piazza Sant'Ambrogio. Milan, 1960s (Photo by Mondadori via Getty Images)
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The French singer and actress Francoise Hardy wearing a fur coat in Piazza Sant'Ambrogio. Milan, 1960s (Photo by Mondadori via Getty Images)

Updated June 12, 2024 at 16:21 PM ET

Françoise Hardy, a renowned French singer-songwriter, actress and model, has died at age 80, according to reports. Over her career, she released more than 30 studio albums and appeared in over a dozen films — and enchanted the likes of Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Bob Dylan, who wrote a poem for her that appeared in the sleeve notes of his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan.

“Maman est partie,” her son Thomas Dutronc wrote on Facebook Tuesday, which translates to “mom is gone.” He shared a photo of her holding him while he was a baby.

While the exact cause of her death was not disclosed, Hardy had battled lymphatic cancer since 2004, and also had laryngeal cancer, according to Variety. In an interview with the French magazine Femme Actuelle in June 2021, she shared that she had been diagnosed with a tumor in her ear, and that her health had become so poor that it took her more than five hours a day to prepare food that she could swallow. In that interview, she also argued for the legalization of assisted suicide in France. The same month, she gave an interview by email to The Guardian because speaking had become so difficult.

The French Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, wrote a personal tribute on social media Wednesday: “French icon, singular voice with a fierce tranquility, Françoise Hardy rocked generations of French people, for whom she will remain anchored in life’s moments,” he wrote. “For me, she is my entire childhood. “Message personnel” [Personal Message], listened to on repeat by my mother in the car. Or “Puisque vouz partez en voyage” [When You Leave on a Trip], which I sang with my sisters: they were Hardy and I [singer Jacques] Dutronc.”

Hardy was born in 1944 in Paris, during an air raid in the Nazi-occupied city, and was raised there by her single mother. Hardy received her first guitar at age 16 as a present from her largely absent father, and immediately began scribbling down songs.

Hardy came to fame when she was still just a teenager; she became France’s It Girl in 1962 at age 18, when she released a song she had written called “Tous les garçons et les filles” [All the Boys and Girls]. Nearly instantaneously, she became one of the most popular figures among France’s so-called “yé-yé” generation – “yé-yé” like the “yeah, yeah,” choruses of anglophone acts such as The Beatles.

The melancholic lyrics of “Tous les garçons et les filles” belied Hardy’s immense appeal. “All the boys and girls my age walk along the street two by two,” she sang mournfully, her blue eyes flickering out from beneath her dark bangs. “But I go alone along the streets, my soul in pain … because nobody loves me.”

Unlike other yé-yé singers, Hardy built a lasting musical career. In distinct contrast to the sunny tunes performed by many of her peers, her songs often kept a pensive edge. She recorded in English, Italian and German as well as French, and employed a mix of her own songs as well as those written by other songwriters.

A fashion icon, she became omnipresent on French magazine covers, and was photographed by the likes of William Klein and Richard Avedon for Vogue and other publications. Bob Dylan refused to go onstage during his first concert in Paris in 1966, until he was sure that she was in the house.

She also appeared in films including Château en Suède (1963), What’s New Pussycat? (1965) and Grand Prix (1966). Later in life, Hardy began writing books, ranging from titles on astrology to fiction. Her autobiography, Le désespoir des singes...et autres bagatelles [The Despair of Monkeys and Other Trifles], was first published in 2008. In 2012, she published her first novel and an album that shared the same title, L'amour fou [Crazy Love].

In 1967, she began a relationship with fellow singer Jacques Dutronc; their son, Thomas, was born in 1973. The couple married in 1981 and separated seven years later, though they remained legally married until Hardy’s death.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Ayana Archie
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.