Françoise Hardy Remains France's National Treasure Françoise Hardy is an immediately recognizable face who also possesses a poetic way with words — launching her to European super-stardom in the 1960s. At age 74, Hardy released her 28th album.
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Françoise Hardy Remains France's National Treasure

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Françoise Hardy Remains France's National Treasure

Françoise Hardy Remains France's National Treasure

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Mick Jagger and David Bowie gushed over her. Bob Dylan composed a poem about her. We're talking about 1960s French pop star Francoise Hardy, who, more than 50 years later, is still making music and has just released her 28th album. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley sat down with the musician.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Francoise Hardy has been widely interviewed by the French media this summer, and she graces the August cover of French Vanity Fair.

(SOUNDBITE OF FRANCOISE HARDY SONG, "A CACHE-CACHE")

BEARDSLEY: Her new album, "Personne d'Autre," is her biggest selling yet, coming close to gold status in France.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A CACHE-CACHE")

FRANCOISE HARDY: (Singing in French).

BEARDSLEY: Hardy first burst onto the scene in 1962 with a song she wrote - "Tous Les Garcons Et Les Filles." It sold millions of records in France and even topped the charts in Britain.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOUS LES GARCONS ET LES FILLES")

HARDY: (Singing in French).

BEARDSLEY: All the boys and girls my age walk hand in hand in the streets of Paris, she sang, but not me. I go alone. Hardy was just 19 years old when the song made her a star. Peering out from beneath bangs and long brown hair, she exuded a shy, wholesome innocence. Her face appeared on magazines so frequently that she became the international cover girl of the 1960s.

Bonjour.

HARDY: Bonjour.

BEARDSLEY: Bonjour, Francoise.

At 74, Hardy's angular, handsome features still glow beneath her now white short hair, and she exudes the same elegant style in person as in her music.

HARDY: During my whole life, I've always written about the same subject because songs for me are love songs, sentimental songs. And trying to find another way to write about that - it's difficult after 50 years (laughter).

BEARDSLEY: Fifty years later, Hardy is no longer writing about being alone but looking back with nostalgia on a life she says was happy and full of love.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PERSONNE D'AUTRE")

HARDY: (Singing in French).

BEARDSLEY: Other female singers from Hardy's era known as the Ye-ye generation for yay, yay, yay were a flash in the pan, says Jean-Pierre Pasqualini. He hosts a television show devoted to oldies music. He says Hardy has endured because she was different.

JEAN-PIERRE PASQUALINI: She had very poetic lyrics. It was teenage poetry, not Shakespeare. But it was enough to be different. She translated American songs, Italian songs, and she wrote herself. It was very important because the other Ye-ye girls didn't write anything.

BEARDSLEY: Hardy grew up in post-war Paris and says her love of pop music began with the radio.

HARDY: I listened to an English British radio, Radio Luxembourg, your station of the stars (laughter). And I heard for the first time Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, The Shadows, and I had no interest for anything else than this kind of music.

BEARDSLEY: Hardy had no formal music training, but her father gave her a guitar when she graduated from high school. She began writing songs obsessively with only a few chords. A new generation of fans still connects with her old music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNE MISS S'IMMISCE")

EXOTICA: (Singing in French).

BEARDSLEY: Thirty-five-year-old singer Clara Villegas adapted one of Hardy's songs for her band, Exotica.

CLARA VILLEGAS: I really enjoyed the lyrics, which were so personal with such simple words but in such a nice way.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNE MISS S'IMMISCE")

EXOTICA: (Singing in French).

BEARDSLEY: Francoise Hardy's forte has always been her lyrics. Top songwriters and musicians now send her their best melodies to imbue with meaning, as she did with this haunting tune on her new album, "Sail Away," written by French star La Grande Sophie.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LE LARGE")

HARDY: (Singing in French).

BEARDSLEY: Hardy sings of heading out to sea peacefully for the last time, strong and with no regrets. She nearly died three years ago from lymphoma before making a miraculous recovery. I ask if that's what led to her new album.

HARDY: No, no, no, no. It's only I cannot resist to the temptation of a beautiful melody. It's one of the things which make me really very happy. And if a musician offers me a beautiful melody, I cannot resist.

BEARDSLEY: Francoise Hardy says she's not sure why she's had such long-term success. All she knows is that a beautiful song makes her feel as if she's coming out of herself and touching something divine. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LE LARGE")

HARDY: (Singing in French).

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