From the release of her very first single, "Tous les Garçons et les Filles" (1962), teenage singer Françoise Hardy became the face of yé-yé, the uniquely French answer to rock and roll. An iconic figure of Paris in the 1960s, Hardy's striking looks and diffident, slightly melancholy air became as important to her fellow teens as her music. Where most of her contemporaries were resigned to the cabaret circuit as the hits dried up, Hardy continued to be a vital force in French pop.
Françoise Hardy was born in Paris during the waning years of World War II. The daughter of an absent father, Hardy grew up a shy and socially awkward girl who preferred to stay in and listen to the radio, absorbing both the French chanson singers of the era and the first wave of British and American rock and roll stars that she discovered via the influential pop station Radio Luxembourg. While attending the Sorbonne at the dawn of the 1960s, the guitar-playing 17-year-old answered a newspaper ad placed by France's leading pop label, Vogue Records, which was scouting for new talent that fit the new, cool, youth-oriented pop culture moment. Her first single, released in 1962, was "Oh Oh, Chéri," a bouncy tune written by the songwriting team behind the French Elvis, Johnny Hallyday. But the single's flip side, a Hardy original called "Tous le Garçons et les Filles" that was a better fit for her low-key persona, turned out to be the hit: the song not only sold over one million copies in France, it reached the Top 40 in the United Kingdom in the original French, an uncommon feat.
The following year, Hardy sang for Monaco in the Eurovision Song Contest: her self-penned entry, "L'Amour S'En Va" ("Love Goes Away"), placed fifth in the contest but was another enormous hit for Hardy, awarded France's top musical honor, the Grand Prix du Disque. In the pan-European style of the day, Hardy often re-recorded her hits in other languages, including English, Italian, German and Spanish, but her Francophone originals remained the best known, with the notable exception of 1965's "All Over The World," an English-language remake of her French single "Dans le Monde Entier" that reached #16 on the British singles chart. Her self-titled 1962 debut album received a belated American release with the new title The Yeh-Yeh Girl From Paris (1965) at a time when superstar contemporaries like France Gall remained all but unknown across the Atlantic.
As tastes in pop music matured in the latter half of the 1960s, Hardy's stylish tunes and cool delivery retained a cultural cachet that some of her more overtly bouncy peers lacked. Ma Jeunesse Fout le Camp... (1967) featured future Led Zeppelin star John Paul Jones on several tracks, while Comment te Dire Adieu? included Francophone remakes of Phil Ochs' "There But For Fortune" and Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne." During this era, Hardy flirted with acting, appearing in small roles in hip films including Clive Donner's "What's New Pussycat?" (1965) and Jean-Luc Godard's "Masculin Féminin" (1966). Her only role of any substance came in John Frankenheimer's thrilling racing drama "Grand Prix" (1966), in which she played a girl who falls for a reckless auto racer played by Antonio Sabàto.
Although Hardy stopped garnering international hits as the 1970s progressed, she remained a major star in her native France, maintaining a steady release schedule through the late 1980s. After a period of semi-retirement, during which her highest-profile recording was a 1995 single with Britpop stars Blur called "To The End (La Comedie)," Hardy returned to the spotlight in the early 2000s with a series of new albums. Many featured Hardy's son Thomas Dutronc (whose father was Hardy's longtime partner, French rock superstar Jacques Dutronc), himself a noted jazz guitarist. In 2012, Françoise Hardy received a new burst of international interest when her sultry 1962 single "Le Temps de l'Amour" soundtracked a key scene in director Wes Anderson's '60s-set comedy "Moonrise Kingdom."