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French pop icon and singer Françoise Hardy dies aged 80

French pop icon and actress Françoise Hardy dies aged 80
French pop icon and actress Françoise Hardy dies aged 80 Copyright Getty Images
Copyright Getty Images
By David Mouriquand
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Françoise Hardy's career spanned six decades, and many of her songs have become classics of the French repertoire. Beyond her celebrated brand of melancholic pop, she was a style icon and an actress, one of France’s biggest stars.

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French singer-songwriter, model and actress Françoise Hardy has died at the age of 80.

Her death was announced by her son and musician Thomas Dutronc on social media. Dutronc wrote, captioning a photo of himself as a baby with his mother: “Maman est partie” (“Mum is gone”).

Hardy revealed in June 2021 that she had been diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in 2018, following a lymphoma diagnosis in 2004.

Born in 1944 in Paris, Hardy signed a contract with a record label as a teenager.

Hardy had her first music hit with 'Tous les Garçons et les Filles' ('All the Boys and Girls') in 1962, when she was just 18. The ballad sold more than 2.5 million copies and topped the French charts. Other singles like 'Je Suis D’Accord' and 'Le Temps de L’Amour' were also massive hits.

Her rise to prominence continued in the 60s and her melancholy brand of pop catapulted her to the front of the European yé-yé movement – the generation of post-war French pop singers – named after the Beatles’ “yeah yeah yeah”.  

Hardy recorded her work in English, German, and Italian. Her biggest hit in the English language was her 1968 song 'It Hurts to Say Goodbye' - written by Serge Gainsbourg. It went to No. 1 in both France and the UK.  

She quickly became a pop icon and fashion muse, and soon started a parallel career as a cover girl. The singer’s sculpted cheekbones and bohemian style came to define a sort of effortlessly elegant French chic, as well as her early-adoption of the mini-skirt. She became a model for designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Paco Rabanne, and also dabbled in acting.  

Francoise Hardy strolls through the Embankment Gardens in London - April 1968
Francoise Hardy strolls through the Embankment Gardens in London - April 1968HARRIS/1968 AP

She starred in John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix in 1966; other acting roles included A Bullet in the Heart, Château en Suède, and a cameo in What’s New, Pussycat?

Throughout her six-decade carreer, she had a great many admirers, including Mick Jagger, who called her his “ideal woman”; David Bowie, who admitted he was “passionately in love” with her; and Bob Dylan, who addressed her with a poem on the back cover of his early album 'Another Side of Bob Dylan'.

However, she only had eyes for French musician Jacques Dutronc. She met him in 1967 and they married in 1981. They had a son Thomas, who also became a very famous musician. While they separated in 1987, they remained married and kept in close contact.

Hardy recorded nearly thirty albums in her career, the last one being 2018’s ‘Personne d’autre’, and was the only French artist to appear in a 2023 ranking of the 200 greatest singers of all time published by Rolling Stone magazine. Will Hermes wrote that Hardy “epitomized French cool and Gallic heat simultaneously, with a breathy, deadpan alto that wafted like Gauloises smoke. Her words enhanced her tone: Writing her own material, unusual in the early mid-Sixties, especially for women, she also recorded work by masters like Serge Gainsbourg, and her take on Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’ may be the most evocative ever recorded, his included.”

Hardy had been suffering from cancer of the lymphatic system and pharynx for several years. “I'm in a truly nightmarish state of suffering most of the time,” she confided on RTL in March 2021, pleading for the right to die with dignity.

She is survived by Jacques Dutronc and her son Thomas Dutronc.  

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