When I saw the topic for this week, I instantly thought, oh great, music, so many things to say! Then I looked at my iTunes library… almost no French music in it! Well, maybe not that much to say then… Fortunately, so many tunes came to my mind and I started humming without even noticing.
French music is extremely diverse and is a great component of French culture. It is so varied that I chose to present music through a timeline, from past to present and by theme.
French music is said to be born during the Middle Ages and was mainly religious and was mostly confined to churches and sacred processions. During the same period, troubadours or minstrels created their own music tradition with songs dealing with chivalry and courtly love, close to poetry and satires. Renaissance and then Baroque music developed around ballet at the time of the court of France and it was then used as an element of ballets but also comedies such as Molière’s ones.
There also many classic and romantic compositors, my favorite one being Georges Bizet with its world-know opera Carmen. Here is the most famous song of the opera interpreted by Maria Callas with French subtitles:
The traditional and folkloric music is equally diverse and changes according to the different French regions. These songs, which are also called popular songs, have been transmitted orally from a generation to another.
“La Chanson française” is one of the most important elements within French music and culture and includes as many artists as variety among them. Charles Trenet is considered as the father of “la Chanson française” in the 1930s with its unique style, rhythm and lyrics. “Douce France” is probably the most well-known one but I have a penchant for “Que reste-t-il de nos amours ?” (What’s left from our love?)
Many other artists belongs to this category such as Edith Piaf, whom the famous biopic movie “La Môme”, or “La vie en rose” abroad, found a great audience throughout the world and won many prizes, outstandingly three Academic Awards.
Jacques Brel was Belgian and he was particularly praised for his intense scenic interpretation. Here’s his most famous song “Ne me quitte pas” (Don’t leave me).
Charles Aznavour is probably one of the most well-known French singer in the world. Born in 1924, his songs are often acclaimed as jovial and enthusiastic. He’s often called as “France’s Frank Sinatra”. Here are some of these famous tunes:
Je m’voyais déjà !
Dalida, even though she was originally Italian, is an important figure among “la Chanson française”. Her songs are considered classic and her unique accent made her completely inimitable. Her duo with Alain Salon “Parole, Parole” is her most famous song:
Serge Gainsbourg was well-known for his talent as a singer, songwriter and composition as well as his edgy, provocative and scandalous actions. His style was hardly definable, but all of his songs are truly unique. His duo with Brigitte Bardot and then wife Jane Birkin “Je t’aime” is widely known:
During the 1970s, many other artists renewed “la Chanson française” such as the mythic Claude François which had an impressive repertory and was famously know for his “Claudettes”, his female dancers who danced in very sexy outfits. Here are some of these most famous songs:
“Comme d’habitud”e, (As usual) later translated to English under the title My way and interpreted by Frank Sinatra.
In the 1990s a subcategory of “la Chanson française” appeared under the name of “Variété française” (French variety) which is a more popular and commercial style with artists such as Francis Cabrel, Jean-Jacques Goldman.
At the same time, another music movement led by electronic beats and house music emerged famously known as “The French Touch” with world-famous artists and DJs such as Laurent Garnier and Daft Punk and more recently David Guetta. These artists, probably willing to spread their popularity as much as possible, chose English instead of French for their lyrics which was probably a very wise decision regarding their sales throughout the world.
“Around the world” Daft Punk
“Love is gone” David Guetta
I hope you enjoyed this journey across French music and that you’d be curious to know more about it and listen more French music!