France Gall

Poupée de cire : poupée de son

The news of France Gall’s death this week has hit me badly. She was – and is – my favourite French chanteuse of all time.

Her untrained vocals and girl-next-door sex appeal helped to make her one of France’s biggest stars.

She is the singer that opened my eyes to yé-yé. Her 1965 Eurovision winner, Poupée De Cire, Poupée De Son, left me wanting to hear more of this exotic French sound.

It also set me on the road to becoming one of the English-speaking world’s authorities on Gallic girl pop of the 1960s. (Yes, really.)

“This year, I aim to have published a book I’ve co-written about another very well-known female French singer who started out at the same time as Gall”

France Gall found success in 1963 with Ne Sois Pas Si Bête, a track that received its first radio airplay on her 16th birthday. N’Écoute Pas Les Idoles, Laisse Tomber Les Filles, Baby Pop and Bébé Requin consolidated her success over the following years.

What set her apart from many of her contemporaries was that she had a team of top songwriters penning original material for her. Among them was her godfather, Serge Gainsbourg.

However, having the enfant terrible of the yé-yé generation behind her material brought its own challenges.

Gainsbourg was well known for the erotic subtexts of his songs. His 1966 composition Les Sucettes – ostensibly a song about a girl who enjoyed sucking lollipops – was a masterpiece of double entendre that was clear to everyone.

Everyone except Gall, that is.

She went into hiding when she realised her mistake. The fact that the disc sold by the bucket load only added to her sense of humiliation.

After a few years out of favour, Gall made a triumphant return in 1974 with La Déclaration D’Amour, composed by singer-songwriter Michel Berger. The pair would marry a couple of years later and he would write much of her material over the remainder of her career.

She stayed one of France’s top stars throughout the rest of the 1970s and 1980s. Résiste, Il Jouait Du Piano Debout and Ella, Elle L’a are among her greatest successes of the period.

My personal favourite from this later period is the 1976 single Ce Soir Je Ne Dors Pas, which she sings in her very lightest, most girl-like voice. I could listen to it on a loop.

Berger died suddenly in 1992. France Gall was, of course, devastated and withdrew from the music business after their daughter died 5 years later.

Now, at the age of 70 and after fighting cancer, Gall has left us too. I have been playing her music all week, as a way of keeping her close.

This year, I aim to have published a book I’ve co-written about another very well-known female French singer who started out at the same time as Gall. I’ve worked on the text with a celebrated French music journalist who has a string of successful biographies to his name.

Our manuscript is complete. I won’t say who the singer is, but if we find a UK publisher, trust me, you’ll know.

This entry was published on Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 09:07 and is filed under Film and music. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

11 thoughts on “Poupée de cire : poupée de son

  1. As with all true greats, France Gall will never be forgotten and can never be replaced. Your post is both touching and fascinating. I did not know most of this, having just been someone who loved to listen to her. Poupée is still one of the most smile-making songs of my life. If you would like to contact me privately, I am actually an ex-literary agent and maintain a good contacts. My email is osyth.storyteller@gmail.com (no offense taken if you would rather not 😊)

    Liked by 3 people

  2. What a beautiful post. It is clear that she had a big and lasting impact. Cant wait to read your book.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When my daughter first lived in France in 1999, she brought home the Les annees mystique CD of France Gall. I played it a zillion times especially on a little portable CD player when I was walking. It had the perfect beat. I lost nearly 50 pounds over 2 years! My favorites were resiste, debranche, and really the whole album. I think I need to try again in memory of her.

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  4. Like Osyth, I also knew little of France Gall’s story. As I only settled in France from North America in the early 90s, I missed most of her hey day and only knew of the later songs with Michel Berger after his death. She was certainly a well-loved icon of the French music scene!

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  5. Your post is a beautiful tribute to France Gall. I knew only of her early career which overlapped with Gainsbourg, and the scandals associated with those songs. ‘Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son’ will always be one of my favourites, so catchy and fun to sing along to! Good luck finding a publisher for your book!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ….heart felt me dear… sniff…. and how interesting that a proper book is on its way …
    Ye ,Ye!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Just found your post and had heard of her passing – knew her name but not remembered what she sang. Of course, Poupee de cire, poupee se sang. Thanks for awakening the memory banks. Loved this song, sweet simple & catchy. Being a francophile with a French belle-fille & extended family in France I do enjoy French music ( have done so for many years). Good luck with your book – sounds interesting….

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