The Greatest French Chanson Songs – Part 2

The French Chanson song or as we found out The French Song in part one of this blog is not just a style of French music. It is part of the total French culture, and if you can understand French Chanson then you have got a chance of understanding how the people of France tick. We already heard the greatest French Chanson song ever, which is La Vie En Rose which told of life looking through rose-colored glasses. This self-reflexive way of looking at life is one of the integral parts of chanson, along with loss of love and romantic ideas of France. Part two starts with a hit song of the late 60’s by Serge Gainsbourgh and Jane Birkin

Je T’aime, Moi Non-Plus – 1969

Firstly, only the French could have thought of this song as a popular hit record, and secondly got away with making it. Translated as I Love You…. Me Neither, is one of the most controversial records ever released. The song is basically the conversation that takes place whilst two lovers are having sex, along with graphical moaning and groaning. It was requested of Gainsbourg to be written by his girlfriend at the time film actress Brigitte Bardot, but when Gainsbourg started dating British actress Jane Birkin it was her that performed the duet. According to the composer the song is to portray the desperation and the impossibilities of making love, and it was so provocative it was banned in Europe from being played on the airways.

Tous Les Garçons et Les Filles – 1962

The song was recorded by a well-known French singer, astrologer and actress, Francoise Hardy. Hardy became a well-known figure both music and fashion and her rendition of All the boys and girls, was her first hit, paving the way for future superstar fame. Francoise actually wrote the song and it tells the story of the envy of watching all the boys and girls falling in love around you, but there is no love for you. The song has been covered by a number of artists including the Eurythmics and the Dresden Dolls. It has also featured in hit movies such as The Dreamers and Moonrise Kingdom.

La Java Bleue – 1939

The artist who recorded this song, Frehel, was basically left to fend for herself on the streets of Paris as a kid. And she began performing at a young age in Paris cafes and music halls, it was a desperate time for her and at 19 she tried to kill herself. After seeking a sort of asylum in Russia from her drug and alcohol addiction she returned to Paris a much-changed woman in 1923. Her return astonished the people of Paris when a year later she appeared at the Olympia, and in 1939 she recorded her most famous song. Utilizing the pipes and accordion as the perfect backing to the controversial java dance, the song is all about erotic seductiveness. We end this part of the greatest French Chanson songs with Frehel and in our concluding blog we catch up with songs from Lucienne Boyer and Joe Dassin.