Just Like a Woman: Françoise Hardy as a Muse

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Just Like a Woman: Françoise Hardy as a Muse
“She takes just like a woman, yes she does She makes love just like a woman, yes she does And she aches just like a woman But she breaks just like a little girl.” Bob Dylan sang his song to the French chanteuse, Françoise Hardy backstage at the Paris Olympia in 1966. It made her obviously uncomfortable. Dylan’s show had not been up to his usual standards. It was his 25th birthday and he said he would not return to the stage unless Françoise Hardy came to see him behind the scenes. She was at the concert, having requested time away from filming John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix in order to see the ‘60s icon. But she found him gaunt and sickly looking as vintage video will attest to. In 1964 Dylan included a poem to her on the sleeve of Another Side of Bob Dylan; it read, “for Françoise Hardy/at the Seine’s edge/a giant shadow/of Notre-Dame/seeks t’grab my foot/ Sorbonne students/whirl by on thin bicycles.” He was a huge admirer but she seemed oblivious to this. She wasn’t aware of how far his admiration went until the night of the concert. Swept up in his entourage, she was at Dylan’s party suite later that evening at the George V hotel. Dylan cracked open his bedroom door and separated her from the partiers, reeling her into his inner sanctum for some more stilted talk. He sang to her again. “I Want You,” he crooned. Hardy admits she was bad at reading between the lines. Françoise loved Dylan’s songs, but not the man. She later stated that, “the thought that he was giving me a message with his songs did not cross my mind.” They never met again. So who is Françoise Hardy that she would have such a hold on Dylan and others? Françoise Hardy was born in 1944, in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, to an unwed mother – a married man’s mistress. Separated from her father, they lived in a little flat at 24 rue d’Aumale.  She grew up listening to Anglo-American music like Paul Anka, Elvis and the Everly Brothers, and Brill Building pop, via Radio Luxembourg. Her father bought her a guitar for passing her high school baccalaureate, and she rejected university after one year in favor of a music career. She went to Mireille’s Petit Conservatoire for singing lessons, and was quickly signed to a record label. She recorded her big hit, “Tous les Garcons & Les Filles,” in 1962. It sold thousands of copies per day until her sales reached the stratosphere. She sold millions. Her rise to fame with Disques Vogue was meteoric to say the least. Françoise Hardy was the “singer of sad songs.” Her songs had a fine, dreamlike quality, which reflected her cool and calm demeanor. Young and casually chic she naturally possessed the Je ne sais quoi that so many women strived for, but the shyness and insecurity of her teens never really left her. “If it weren’t for the way I dress,” she said, “no one would notice me.” When Vogue magazine first introduced the Yé-Yé (French pop) idol to its readers in 1963, she became a fashion phenomenon. “She looks like a gazelle in miniskirts,” one American reporter put it in 1966. She didn’t wear rouge or much lipstick, but she was not adverse to a well-defined cat’s-eye. Hardy’s slightly androgynous charm rendered the exaggerated pin-up style of femininity old-fashioned. For a Sixties icon, she was very much the opposite of the reckless abandon found in those tumultuous years. In her impressionable late teens, she was plunged into a world of sex, drugs, and alcohol, but she steered clear. “Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name: But what’s puzzling you is the nature of my game.” In her memoirs, The Despair of Monkey’s and Other Trifles (2018), Françoise remembers being invited to the Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones’ flat in London. When she found Anita Pallenberg there too, this time she was able to read between the lines. Sure that she was to be the third in a threesome, she refused their marijuana cigarettes and she split the scene as soon as possible. Apparently, Brian Jones would dress up in drag as Françoise Hardy to the titillation of Pallenberg. Hmm… Mick Jagger claimed Hardy was his perfect woman. Hardy told The Guardian in 2005 that Jagger was someone she could have really fallen for but, “he was with Chrissie Shrimpton at the time.” David Bowie mimed that his radio was on fire whenever she came on the dial. Kinder, gentler Paul McCartney wrote Michele at the time the British students and artists were inspired by all things French, including Françoise Hardy. She recorded in German, Italian, and English. She also had a short movie career, appearing in eight feature films. Apart from Grand Prix with James Garner and Yves Montand, she had a cameo in What’s New Pussy Cat in 1965. She worked with famous directors such as Vadim, Frankenheimer and Godard. Her first boyfriend, the French photographer Jean-Marie Périer, captured her image for many fashion magazines. Richard Avedon also photographed her for Vogue. Her face appeared on Paris Match so many times that she was their cover girl for the 1960s. In the second half of the 60s she became the muse of fashion designers. Being tall and androgynously thin, fashion designers such as Paco Rabanne,…

Lead photo credit : Actress Francoise Hardy in Amsterdam, 16 December 1969. Taken by Evers, Joost / Anefo. Image © Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

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A freelance writer and amateur historian, Hazel knew she wanted to focus on the lives of French artists and femme fatales after an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay. A life-long learner, she is a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Toronto. Now she is searching for a real-life art history mystery to solve.


  • Madhumati Dutta
    2019-08-03 02:08:30
    Madhumati Dutta
    Loved the piece , and the personality


  • Marilyn Brouwer
    2019-08-02 14:16:30
    Marilyn Brouwer
    Francoise Hardy still retains her iconic status; her style and beauty continuing through her seventies. However I can never forgive her for stealing Jacques ',I'll est cinq heures Paris s'eveille' Dutronc, with blatant disregard for my enormous crush on him. Ah, such is life! Thank you for reminding me of St Germain in the late sixties, Hazel.