- 100 Essential French songs you must hear – Part 1: The 1930s, 40s & 50s
- 100 Essential French songs you must hear – Part 2: The 1960s
- 100 Essential French songs you must hear – Part 4: The 1980s
- 100 Essential French songs you must hear – Part 5: The 1990s
- 100 Essential French songs you must hear – Part 6: The 2000s
- 100 Essential French songs you must hear – Part 7: 2000-2016
The Hippie wave, which had become particularly powerful after May ’68, affected not only fashion and cinema, but also music. Moreover, Anglo-Saxon music started to exert an increasing influence on France’s culture: rock, disco, and punk would gradually show up.
The music stage of the seventies saw the rising stars of the 60s become consecrated as “vedettes”, but also the advent of new talents with different musical styles: some of them inspired by English music, others who adopted a folk style, as wells as many new artists who modernized the traditional chanson Française. A new trend would found many followers in this period: the duet.
Although the 70s are considered by many the beginning of France’s decline as a culture trend-setter, numerous beautiful songs have emerged during that decade. I actually had a hard time to choose some among the many memorable songs… These are my top picks:
34) Léo Ferré – “Avec le temps” (1970)
Somewhat controversial Léo Ferré wrote, composed and sang this beautifully sad love song, inspired by his own love disenchantment. It became an instant classic and one of the most covered French songs worldwide.
35) Barbara – “L’ aigle noir” (1970)
Singer-songwriter Barbara was known for her meaningful poetry, the beautiful melodies and her voice’s deep emotion. This dark song (means “The black eagle”) is believed to refer to sexual abuse she experienced as a child.
36) Jean-François Michael – “Je pense à toi” (1971)
This so romantic song (in English “I think about you”) is an adaptation of Italian “E penso a te” by Lucio Battisti. It has been sung in many languages.
37) Michel Delpech – “Que Marianne était jolie” (1972)
The title of this song means “Marianne was so beautiful”. Marianne is actually an allegorical name for the French Republic, sang by one the greatest representatives of popular chanson Française, Michel Delpech. It has been recently sung by Renaud (January 2016) in memory of the victims of Charlie Hebdo attack.
38) Maxime Le Forestier – “San Francisco” (1972)
Known for his folksy style, Maxime Le Forestier became influential for a whole baba cool generation. After living in a hippie community, in a blue house in San Francisco, he was inspired to create one of his best known hits: “San Francisco”. The song starts with the line: “It’s a blue house leaning against the hill”. Due to the success of this song, in recent years, the owners of the famous house agreed to repaint it blue (after years of it being painted in green).
39) Michel Fugain – “Une belle histoire” (1972)
After its release in 1972,“Une belle histoire” (A beautiful story) became immediately a huge success, and managed to remain as an all time classic, being still frequently played in certain French radio stations.
40) Vicky Leandros – “Après toi” (1972)
This song (the title means “After you”) was the winning song of the Eurovision Song Contest 1972 performed by Greek singer Vicky Leandros, who was representing Luxembourg. If you follow the Eurovision contest, it’s really worth to see this video: the differences with the present time are quite remarkable…
41) Dalida & Alain Delon – “Paroles, paroles” (1973)
This song was originally performed by Italians Mina and Alberto Lupo, but this version, sung by the timeless diva Dalida together with actor – sex-symbol Alain Delon surpassed it in success, becoming a huge hit not only in France, but also in other countries.
42) Michel Sardou – “La Maladie d’amour” (1973)
Inherently romantic but also with strong social and political convictions, Michel Sardou is considered one of the most popular artists in the Francophone world. “The disease of love” is often cited as one of Sardou’s most successful songs and an essential piece of France’s music heritage. This and several other Sardou’s songs have been included in the beautiful comedy film La famille Bélier.
43) Nino Ferrer – “Le Sud” (1974)
Although famous for his funny songs such as “Le téléfon”, “Les cornichons”, Nino Ferrer changes over time to a more complex and serious style. The result: two of his greatest hits “La maison près de la fontaine” and this beautiful song. Le Sud (French for “The South”) refers to the country where Ferrer spent his childhood, New Caledonia.
44) Nana Mouskouri – “Que je sois un ange” (1974)
Nana Mouskouri is considered to be one of the best-selling music artists in the world: she has released -so far- over 200 albums in 10 different languages! Of her many beautiful songs, this is my favourite; it has been recently sampled by Nym.
45) Joe Dessin – “L’été indien” (1975)
Already famous during the 60s, this prolific artist would become established and well-known worldwide during the 70s. “L’Été indien” (French for “Indian summer”) is Dassin’s biggest hit, but he sang many other great songs: “Et si tu n’existais pas”, “À toi”, among others.
46) Jeane Mason – “Avant de nous dire adieu” (1976)
This was one of American (former Paymate) Jeane Mason’s first and biggest hits. The title means “Before we say goodbye”.
47) Gérard Lenorman – “Michèle” (1976)
Very popular in France and Francophonie during the 1970s and early 1980s, this is one of Lenorman’s best known and beautiful songs, together with “Voici les clés“.
48) Plastic Bertrand – “Ca plane pour moi”(1977)
Punk-rock Belgian singer Plastic Bertrand recorded this song, which became one of the hits of the 70s. Although covered several times, the original is still the most successful. “Ça plane pour moi” is a French idiomatic expression which translates as “everything’s going well for me”; you may have lately heard it in a commercial of a well-known whisky brand.
49) Marie Myriam – “L’oiseau et l’enfant” (1977)
“The Bird and the Child” was the winning song in the Eurovision Song Contest 1977 performed by Marie Myriam; this was the last time a French song won the contest. In 2015, Kids United (a six-children French musical group created to support UNICEF) released a very successful cover of this song.
50) Michel Polnareff – “Lettre à France” (1977)
Provocateur and eccentric, with his signature black glasses and fancy trousers, Polnareff is still to date critically acclaimed during his occasional tours. He wrote nostalgic “Lettre à France” (Letter to France) when he was exiled in the USA due to fiscal and financial problems.
51) Michel Berger et Luc Plamondon – “Le blues du businessman” (1978)
This is one of the songs of rock opera Starmania, which would become a huge success in French-speaking countries; an English version was later created. The song tells about a businessman who, although professionally successful, realizes that he would have preferred to become an artist.
52) Julien Clerc – “Ma préférence” (1978)
Talented singer, songwriter and pianist, Clerc is still a highly respected French artist, with active humanitarian work. From his vast repertoire this is his most beautiful songs, in which he asks his partner to be forgiven for his infidelities and come back to him.
53) Claude Nougaro – “Tu verras” (1978)
The title means “You will see”; it is an adaptation of Brazilian Chico Buarque’s O Que Será? Due to its immediate success, Claude Nougaro wins in 1978 the French Record Academy Award.
54) Francis Cabrel – “Je l’aime a mourir” (1979)
“Je l’aime à mourir” (English: I love her to death) was a hit single for Francis Cabrel not only in France, but also in Canada, Europe and other countries (he also recorded it in Spanish). It has been covered many times and in many languages, one of the latest is that by Shakira.
YouTube playlist here