Wednesday, June 13, 2012

La Question + Other Transcendental Francoise Hardy Experiences

Francoise Hardy's La Question album cover
I haven't drawn as much attention to Francoise Hardy and her music on this blog as my heart may have intended –– because she has been so omnipresent (residing over everything) from its conception. In a monk-like way, I felt like my silence was the best way to express the deep respect and admiration I have for her and her work. I love certain people and things more that I can even express, so silence speaks louder for me on those occasions.
Francoise Hardy, Alone
I wasn't conscious about Francoise Hardy's presence while growing up here in the U.S. in the 80's/90's. I'd seen her brief appearance in 'What's New, Pussycat' on TV, but didn't know about her at the time. 
Francoise Hardy's brief appearance in 'What's New Pussycat'
Later, near the turn of the millennium, I found her on my own when I came across a photo of her in a book in an NYC bookstore. Until then, I had imagined a person like her only in my mind, but did not realize someone like Francoise Hardy truly existed. So I was in a little bit of shock when I actually saw her. Her style was the elevated version of my late 60's preference –– if I could have had any wardrobe of my choice. With my bangs and coloring, her simple hairstyle was what I wanted mine to be once I grew it out much longer. If I wore eye makeup, by that time, I'd already discovered that the only way I could wear liner was on my eyelids, 60's-style, for it to look good. (Lucky for me, the makeup style that works best on me has always been my favorite look, too.) And she had that same look from top to bottom. Right away, I felt a spiritual connection with Francoise Hardy because she was also how I pictured my 'higher self'. If you're spiritual, in the same way that I am, you may know what I mean. And since I'm generally a very mellow, calm, sensitive, idealistic, lone wolf sort of person, her demeanor was also in prefect cahoots with mine.
Francoise Hardy – someone once thought this was a photo of me, so flattering
Her music became my soundtrack for the next few years. This was before internet dominance and Google searches.  She had become such an important presence in my life, that I consequently introduced her to those immediately around me. If they actually processed who this French 60's singer was I was referring to, that is –– since the music people were generally exposed to at that time could not have been more different. As much as her presence is everywhere these days, it was exactly the opposite at that time. Even when I'd mention how much I loved her to anyone French, they seemed surprised (while nodding their approval) that an American from my generation could even care about her. Discovering Francoise Hardy was very special, and in many ways life-changing, for me. A couple of years after I became enamored of her, someone I was dating at the time who was British brought back some original Francoise Hardy album singles for me from his parents' collection, when he went home for a visit, which was a very nice thing to do. 
One of the original Francoise Hardy albums given to me
I played them over and over and still have them. My favorite song was the very chill 'C'est A L'Amour Au Quel Je Pense', because with its relaxed surf guitar it always made me feel like I was at a beach campfire after a long day of catching waves.
Incidentally, before I met my husband, I was enchanted by how Francoise Hardy is a Capricorn. Because I loved her energy, I decided I might want to become romantically involved with a Capricorn. Sure enough, the next person I became involved with was my now husband, a Capricorn. In fact, their birthdays are only two days apart. Even more amazingly, my being incredibly interested and influenced by astrology is itself yet another connection to Francoise Hardy, herself. Because aside from being one of my favorite musicians, by trade, Francoise Hardy also happens to be –– an avid astrologer. Later when I met my husband, who's German, it turned out that his mother was a fan of Francoise Hardy's in the 1960's –– and back then, people also thought she strongly resembled her. So when I first met his mom, now my mother-in-law, she and I talked about Francoise Hardy within the limits of our language barrier. 
Francoise Hardy, musician and astrologer 
Returning to the actual sequence of events, in terms of her music... I started buying her CD's and soon I knew every one of her songs from her earliest until those she recorded by end of the 1960's. Some of my favorites, at that point, were 'La Maison Ou J'ai Grandi' from 1966, the incredible 'Voila' from 1967, 'Comment Te Dire Adieu' from 1968, 'Ou Va La Chance' also from 1968, and 'Soleil' from 1970. 'Comment Te Dire Adieu', the entire album, became my favorite and it was on constant rotation. I also loved the unique 'Comment Te Dire Adieu' album cover, and still do.
Francoise Hardy, Voila

Francoise Hardy's Comment Te Dire Adieu album cover
Francoise Hardy, Soleil
I'd play her songs in my room in Brooklyn and sing along, realizing... in addition to all the Francoise Hardy wonders I'd unveiled for myself, even my 'pure soprano' vocal ability (as it was once dubbed by a singing instructor) fit with her own singing style. To add to it all, listening to her songs allowed all of my years of French study to become more solidified and I found myself communicating the language better than before. So Francoise Hardy gave me a lot to be thankful for. She became my dearest friend during a time that otherwise could have felt lonelier. The following videos are of 'La Maison Ou J'ai Grandi', 'Comment Te Dire Adieu', and 'Soleil'. 'Voila' had some beautiful promo videos I'd have shared, but they aren't available on YouTube at this time.

In the prime of her career, and even today as people around the world have begun to discover her through various media outlets (and it's taken this long for a contemporary filmmaker like Wes Anderson to include a little of her and her music in his 60's-centric 'Moonrise Kingdom'), Francoise Hardy tends to be associated primarily with her iconic style and incredible beauty, as well as with her being tagged as one of the original ye-ye girls. I personally think of her as an incredibly talented singer, songwriter and musician, first and foremost. And then as one of the greatest beauties and style icons of all time. Then I think about her stint as an actress in movies like 'Grand Prix' (1966). 
Francoise Hardy, circa 'Grand Prix'
Only after that, I might think about her beginning as a ye-ye girl, since in the span of her entire career, I don't think of that being an especially significant thing. And I wouldn't expect she herself does, either. Yet somehow, what people tend to focus on with Francoise Hardy are her style and her earlier music in that limited way. 
Francoise Hardy, another great photo from the La Question album
Which leads me to her amazing album 'La Question' from 1971. This album was a true revelation. My thought when I heard the first bars of the first song on the album, 'Viens', was: "Who produced this?" You know a song or album is exceptional when you wonder who was involved in creating that particular sound. It still stuns me.
In the case of 'La Question', that sound is beautifully sparse –– and at times incredibly lush with strings –– simple and powerful. Francoise Hardy, who at the point when (at least in Europe) could have recorded anything and worked with anyone, teamed up with obscure Brazilian artist Tuca to create most of the songs on the album. The arrangements are elegant and they moved my soul the first time I listened to the album, and still do. Because of the album 'La Question', I consider Francoise Hardy to be one of the most gifted musicians in the world.
The inner lining of Francoise Hardy's La Question album
In summary, Francoise Hardy is one of the most astounding musicians I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. I'm continually amazed by 'La Question' and do believe it to be the most beautiful album I've heard. I should also post a photo of our sweet kitty, Francoise Johan Micoud, who was named after Francoise Hardy. She also has a very calm and thoughtful demeanor, like her namesake.
Our sweet kitty, Francoise Johan Micoud
Her twin sister, Mary Jane Goodnight, has had her photo posted on my blog before and she's been mentioned on more than one occasion, and it's only fair. 
Francoise Hardy was, and still is, an absolutely brilliant musician. That is why her presence, even in my respectful silence, has always been here on my blog.