The Greatest French Chanson Songs – Part 3

In part two of the greatest ever French Chanson songs we learned how passion, sex, love and seductiveness are such key elements in Chanson. Chanson is not all about romantic tales of the good times, it can also be graphic and outspoken. Our first song in this blog is called Speak to me of Love, and it returns to the themes of romantic attraction, whispering sweet affectionate little words in your lover’s ears.

Parlez-Moi d’Amour – 1930

This song was the most famous that Lucienne Boyer sang in her long and prolific career. Boyer had a fabulous voice that had allowed her to sing at a very young age in the cabarets of Montparnasse. She was recognized early as somebody special, and in the theater, she worked in as a secretary her talent was obvious and she was given her own show. Columbia records signed her and she moved to America where she recorded Parlez-Moi d’Amour which was written by Jean Lenoir. The song has everything a chanson song should have, terrific melodies, typically French orchestration and romantic lyrics. It has featured in films as great as Casablanca and Midnight in Paris.

Les Champs-Elysées – 1970

One of the great iconic landmarks of Paris is the Champs Elysees, it depicts everything that Paris stands for and is uniquely French, therefore it is fitting that it should be the main topic of a chanson song. The artist, Joe Dassin, is an American and a prolific singer / songwriter most famous for his work in French. Dassin traveled extensively around Europe after problems in his home country and he fell in love with Paris. In 1964 he moved permanently to France and signed a recording contract with CBS. Five years later Dassin was a huge success not just in his new adopted country but worldwide. Regularly his song charted high in hit parades and the most famous one was Les Champs Elysees in 1970.

Comme d’habitude – 1968

Our final song in this exhaustive blog of the best French Chanson songs ever is Comme d’habitude from 1968. The song was written for Claude Francois by Jacques Revaux and was originally sung by Herve Vilard. But it was Francois who had the better success with the song, he requested that the composers add the theme of a hostile breakup of two lovers to the original lyrics. This was to mirror his own personal relationship at the time, and his acrimonious split with girlfriend France Gall. The great American songwriter Paul Anka, after hearing the song in Paris purchased all the rights to the music and lyrics he was so impressed. After translating the lyrics into English, he contacted Frank Sinatra and gave My Way to him, the rest is history and it became one of the most popular songs that has ever been recorded. It is said that even David Bowie has been inspired by Comme d’habitude, and in 1971 it was the inspiration behind the hit Life on Mars.

Comme d’habitude ends the blog on French Chanson and looking at the songs individually gives us the ideas and themes behind this unique genre which could only be French.