Women in French Music: A Chronological Overview

Prevots, Aaron. Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX. July 2010.

Thérésa (Emma Vallandon) (1837-1913). A major star of French “chanson” in the late 1860s, Thérésa was appreciated for her humor and energy. Her career lasted until 1893.

Eugénie Buffet (1866-1934). A singer and champion of public causes (in part through donating street singing money to workers aid groups), involved with café-concerts as of 1890 and founder of a cabaret in 1902, Eugénie Buffet earned herself a Légion d’honneur award in 1933.

Yvette Guilbert (1867-1944). Yvette Guilbert drifted into singing as a way to earn her living, and gradually saw her career blossom, from 1887-1899, as a “diseuse” (cf. Marie Dubas and Esther Lekain) who developed a colorful personality and repertoire and fine-tuned dramatic skills to win over the public of her café-concert shows despite her modest vocal abilities. After a prolonged illness, she began a second phase of her career as a singer of more literary traditional classics, from 1913 to 1939.

Emma Liebel (Aimée Médebielle) (1873-1928). During the period 1910-1926, Emma Liebel was one of the better known interpreters of songs in the then predominant “chanson réaliste” genre.

Mistinguett (Jeanne Bourgeois) (1873-1956). A popular concert headliner in turn-of-the-century Paris, at venues such as the Eldorado, the Bouffes-Parisiens and the Folies-Bergères, appreciated in part for her beauty and sense of humor, Mistinguett further confirmed her star status in the 1920s through successful trips to the USA and to South America and hits such as “La Belote” and “J’suis née dans l’faubourg Saint-Denis” that expanded her repertoire. Her formative years as a singer (1885-1907) led her toward a music hall style that combined singing and drama; her involvement in the creation of “valse chaloupée” and “valse renversante” styles (1909-1914) helped make her a household name; and her ability to put together popular reviews (1919-1926) and maintain ties with her adoring public ensured her place as a legend of French music hall and “chanson” styles.

Gaby Deslys (Gabrielle Caire) (1881-1920). Known in her day for her dancing, costumes, innovative spirit and personal elegance, Gaby Deslys began her career in 1898 and, after travels to England and America, introduced music hall reviews to France in 1910.

Gaby Montbreuse (1885-1943). A cabaret and music hall singer with a burlesque edge, Gaby Montbreuse made a name for herself from 1914 up to the Second World War.

Berthe Sylva (Berthe Faquet) (1886-1941). Berthe Sylva began her career in 1910 and found success as of the late 1920s with the song “Arrêtez les aiguilles.” She was a best-selling artist whose fans purchased her 78s at the rate of over 1,000 per day and wrote her constantly, whether out of identification with her melodramatic songs or her outgoing personality.

Fréhel (Marguerite Boulc’h) (1891-1951). Fréhel began working as a singer around 1910, had many difficult years due to drug and alcohol addictions (perhaps related to her difficult childhood years working as of age five), and reemerged in the 1930s as an actress and successful touring “variétés” artist. As a singer and popular star, she had both a distinctive physical elegance and an unmistakeable toughness and emotional power in her voice.

Damia (Marie-Louise Damien) (1892-1978). Like Fréhel, Emma Liebel, Mistinguett, Berthe Sylva, Marie Dubas and others, a singer associated with the “chanson réaliste” genre popularized by women in the prewar and interwar periods of the early twentieth century. Active on numerous famous stages as well as on screen, Damia was especially expressive in her presentation of herself via lighting, costumes, and an inherent sense of theater including but not limited to tragedy. Her career lasted from 1911 to 1956.

Marie Dubas (1894-1972). Marie Dubas had a wide repertoire and delighted music hall audiences from 1927 to 1958, with the exception of imposed silence and exile during the Occupation (cf. Barbara, Régine, Renée Lebas and Serge Gainsbourg, other French “chanson” artists who went into hiding in this dark period). Critical accolades for her originality, vitality, and comic timing are numerous, not least among them the fact that she directly inspired Édith Piaf.

Yvonne Printemps (Yvonne Wigniolle) (1894-1977). An actress and recording artist, Yvonne Printemps was one of France’s first “chanson” stars, in particular by way of the operettas that perfectly suited her fluid voice.

Germaine Sablon (1899-1985). A hit singer during the 1930s, Germaine Sablon also earned respect for her political activities during the French Resistance and for her international tours in which she presented pieces from the “chanson” and traditional repertoire.

Lucienne Boyer (Émilienne Boyer) (1903-1983). An international star thanks to her 1930 hit “Parlez-moi d’amour,” Lucienne Boyer eventually opened a series of cabarets.

Marguerite Monnot (1903-1961). A talented composer from a musical family, Marguerite Monnot is known for collaborations with top names such as Édith Piaf, Georges Moustaki and Henri Contet, as well as for film and musical comedy scores.

Marianne Oswald (Alice Bloch-Colin) (1903-1985). Known especially for her ability to interpret tragic and realist songs during the 1930s, Marianne Oswald is also appreciated in contemporary French music as an artist whose repertoire several popular groups borrowed in the 1990s. Her background is unique in that she fled Germany in 1933, included Brecht-Weill pieces in her repertoire once in France, and won a certain admiration for her intensity, which added to her influence on later Left Bank artists.

Mireille (Mireille Hartuch) (1906-1996). A gifted musician and songwriter involved in musical comedies and director as of 1954 of her own Petit Conservatoire de la chanson, which welcomed rising talents and put them on radio and TV, Mireille is also known for composing the 1932 hit “Couchés dans le foin,” and for duets with Jean Sablon such as “Puisque vous partez en voyage,” “Le Petit bureau de poste” and “Les Pieds dans l’eau” (1932-1935). Mireille worked briefly in the USA as a composer and musician (1928-1931), returned to France to record popular operettas she had helped write, sang on her own, then was obliged to put her career on hold during the war years. Her innovations include composing in a freer, more fluid and jazzy style than had been popular in France and creating the aforementioned Petit Conservatoire, the first of its kind.

Suzy Solidor (1906-1993). Successful first as a cabaret artist, then as the owner of her own nightclubs, Suzy Solidor made her mark in the “chanson” world from 1934-1965 as a singer specializing in portraying life’s sadder, darker sides.

Lys Gauty (Alice Gautier) (1908-1994). An opera, cabaret and music hall singer, Lys Gauty was appreciated for her range and emotion. Compilations of her music are available for the period 1927-1939.

Rina Ketty (Cesarina Picchetto) (1911-1996). A radio star in France before the Second World War, Rina Ketty found favor with the French public for her charm and exoticism but opted to further her career in Quebec as of 1954.

Édith Piaf (Édith Gassion) (1915-1963). This most iconic of French singers surmounted countless difficulties of social class and condition to become, through hard work, determination and all manner of personal and professional encounters, the legend we know her as today. A pioneer within the “chanson” genre both for her interpretations and her encouragement of other artists and songwriters, she developed into a star in the late 1930s and recorded the unforgettable “Non, je ne regrette rien” in 1960.

Danielle Darrieux (1917). An actress and recording artist during the 1930s and 1940s, especially known for a film career spanning eight decades.

Lucienne Delyle (1917-1962). A popular singer from 1939 to 1961.

Renée Lebas (1917). A singer who spoke out against women’s marriage roles (”Tire, tire l’aiguille”) and anti-semitism (”Fontaine de Varsovie,” dedicated to her father and sister who died in the concentration camps). Like Marie Dubas, Renée Lebas had to flee to Switzerland during the Second World War.

Anna Marly (1917-2006). A singer-songwriter especially known for composing the “Chant des partisans” during the Second World War.

Léo Marjane (Thérèse Gérard) (1918). A star of the 1930s and 1940s who also won an Oscar while living and working in the United States, Léo Marjane’s great success through the war years in France as one of its best-known voices made it difficult for her to continue due to political criticisms thereafter.

Patachou (Henriette Ragon) (1918). A famous actress, singer, and Montmartre cabaret owner (Chez Patachou, 1948), with talents as a “diseuse” and an eye for finding the right literary-minded collaborators, Patachou is also known for having helped push a timid George Brassens into the limelight.

Cora Vaucaire (Geneviève Collin) (1921). An eclectic, energetic singer (and owner and director of Parisian cabarets) who can be seen in the 1955 Jean Renoir film French Cancan offering an homage to Montmartre (”La Complainte de la Butte,” 1954).

Jacqueline François (Jacqueline Guillemautot) (1922). A singer best known for her 1948 hit “Mademoiselle de Paris.”

Yvette Giraud (1922). An internationally known artist who attained popularity in the late 1940s and had hits that she sang in numerous languages.

Zizi Jeanmaire (Renée Jeanmaire) (1924). A Parisian dancer and singer who favored the work of poets on the one hand and colorful stage presentations on the other.

Monique Morelli (1924-1993). A cabaret singer with a fondness for lyrics by poets, Monique Morelli had occasional lasting hits and also owned two cabarets of her own.

Colette Renard (Colette Raget) (1924). A recording artist who enjoyed considerable recognition in the early 1960s and late 1970s and favored a populist repertoire (including traditional bawdy favorites), Colette Renard is indelibly tied to the musical comedy Irma la Douce in which she acted the main role from 1956 to 1967. She has also appeared as an actress on TV.

Colette Magny (1926-1997). A blues and jazz singer-songwriter-composer unafraid to speak out on socio-political issues, Colette Magny was a remarkable innovator and stage presence who fearlessly made her own way in the music business (beginning at the age of 36) without concern for those afraid of her radical ideological positions and experimentations (cf. Catherine Ribeiro, Mama Béa).

Juliette Gréco (1927). A major voice of post-1950s France and often associated with the Saint-Germain-des-Prés scene where her career took shape, Juliette Gréco owed her longevity as much to her precise, restrained, yet emotional delivery as to her consistently sharp choice of writers. Her timeless classics include “Si tu t’imagines” (1947).

Annie Cordy (Léonie Cooreman) (1928). A tireless international “variétés” star from Belgium, known for her cheerful song interpretations and comedic roles.

Pauline Julien (1928-1998). A singer and songwriter born in Quebec, Pauline Julien found success both in France and in her native Canada, as much for her flair for adding drama to her material as for her involvement in sociopolitical issues including women’s rights, as for example her show Femmes de parole in 1979.

Hélène Martin (1928). A specialist of “la poésie chantée,” Hélène Martin is a singer-songwriter who pursued her craft from 1956 into the early twentieth century, on records and in smaller venues such as cabarets.

Jeanne Moreau (1928). One of France’s most famous actresses, Jeanne Moreau is also loved by many for her occasional forays into music, which include classics such as “Le Tourbillon de la vie” (1963) and “J’ai la mémoire qui flanche” (1964) as well as the more subdued album Les Chansons de Clarisse (1968) inspired by the Elsa Triolet’s Les Manigances and with texts written by the poet Guillevic.

Line Renaud (Jacqueline Enté) (1928). A singer and actress who rose to stardom in the 1950s and whose charm won over fans in England and America as well as in France, Line Renaud found success through a lighthearted spirit and conscientious work ethic that took her to many venues over a long career.

Régine (Régine Sylberberg) (1929). A singer, songwriter and businesswoman who led a successful career in cabarets and stage shows (and appeared in the 2005 French TV reality show La Ferme Célébrités), Régine focused on music primarily during the period 1967-1977, and otherwise was especially successful as a nightclub owner. In addition to her reknown as a personality, her childhood is remarkable in that she was able to hide and avoid deportation during the war years.

Catherine Sauvage (Janine Saunier) (1929-1998). One of the premier voices of the 1950s and 1960s, Catherine Sauvage made a name for herself in part by devoting her daring interpretive talents to the work of poets such as Léo Ferré, Louis Aragon and Jacques Prévert.

Barbara (Monique Serf) (1930-1997). A remarkable cabaret artist and singer-songwriter. After a difficult childhood during the Second World War (including moving from town to town with her family to avoid deportation) and a busy decade in many venues, Barbara gradually became known internationally for her intense, carefully sung compositions and unique stage presence. After successful albums, world tours and TV appearances during the 1960s and 1970s, she received in 1982 from Minister of Culture Jack Lang the “Grand prix national de la Chanson.” She continued to perform periodically before succumbing to health problems in 1997.

Dalida (Yolanda Gigliotti) (1933-1987). Born in Cairo, Dalida moved to France in the 1950s and soon settled into the top chart positions that she enjoyed throughout her singing career. Elegant, sincere and somewhat understated, as in her smooth delivery of the 1975 international success “Il venait d’avoir 18 ans,” Dalida sold over one hundred million albums worldwide and has legions of admirers to this day.

Brigitte Bardot (1934). Although more at the center of French cinema than popular music, Brigitte Bardot made numerous recordings that lit up the airwaves in the 1960s and early 1970s, a handful of which achieved added immortality through her collaboration with Serge Gainsbourg.

Nana Mouskouri (Joanna Mouschouri) (1934). A traditional, folk, and classical singer admired by record and CD lovers worldwide for her calm, poised voice, wholesome image, and knowledge of several languages including Greek, German, French and English, Nana Mouskouri was also influential politically from 1993-1998 as a Unicef ambassador and an elected deputy to the European Parliament.

Anne Sylvestre (Anne Beugras) (1934). A singer-songwriter who has spent several decades crafting all manner of “chansons à textes” including for children, Anne Sylvestre presented especially sharp feminist social critique songs during the post-1968 period, including “Non, tu n’as pas de nom” (1973), “Une Sorcière comme les autres” (1975) and “Douce Maison” (1978). Regarding women’s rights activism, Catherine Ribeiro (1940), Colette Magny (1926-1977) and Pauline Julien (1928-1998) are likewise noteworthy.

Francesca Solleville (1935). A powerful singer who has often supported left-wing causes.

Isabelle Aubret (Thérèse Coquerelle) (1938). An popular international “chanson française” favorite since the 1960s.

Marie Laforêt (Maïtena Doumenach) (1939). A screen and radio star of the 1960s and 1970s, with songs in many moods such as “Marie douceur, Marie colère” (a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”), Marie Laforêt has also been involved during her life with art, theater and writing.

Brigitte Fontaine (1940). A singer and writer whose acid wit has earned her the admiration of the avant-garde from the 1960s to the present.

Catherine Ribeiro (1940). Known for her strong voice and passion for writing original, lyrical texts, Catherine Ribeiro has found success on stage and in the studio since the early 1970s, if somewhat less so on radio and in other media surrounding show business.

Valérie Lagrange (Danièle Charaudeau) (1942). A filmmaker, actress and singer whose 2003 autobiography “Mémoires d’un temps où l’on s’aimait” tells of her youthful countercultural ideals.

Dani (Dani Graule) (1944). A pop-rock and occasional film star whose career has included collaborations with both mainstream and atypical artists.

Diane Dufresne (1944). A legendary Québécoise singer both adored by her fans in Montréal since the 1970s and admired in Paris, Diane Dufresne has more recently been involved with art and TV documentaries in addition to music. She is noteworthy as much for her uncompromising energy and onstage exravagance as for having presented material that proposed varied images of women.

Françoise Hardy (1944). An internationally admired singer and songwriter, first known for her hit “Tous les garçons et les filles” (1962). Intense and somewhat mysterious yet also prolific and able to sing in several languages, Françoise Hardy has renewed her career many times over through a sharp sense both for crafting her own songs and for forging professional relationships with fellow artists of varying backgrounds and generations.

Sylvie Vartan (1944). Sylvie Vartan is another of those unforgettable names one associates with steady mainstream success and with the progression of French culture from embracing its first youthful pop stars of the early 1960s to celebrating the staying power and authenticity of those who proved able to proudly stay in the game. Her successes include continued sellout shows, an autobiography, admirative media attention and even a museum exhibit in honor of her fashion sense.

Catherine Lara (1945). A conservatory-trained violinist interested in popular music, Catherine Lara found her calling as a composer-singer-musician with a more aggressive rock side in a series of successful albums as of 1979.

Marie-Paule Belle (1946). A singer-songwriter best known for her satiric 1976 hit “La Parisienne.”

Jane Birkin (1946). A popular music and film star inevitably associated with Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin has succeeded in putting her personal, idiosyncratic, somewhat melancholic stamp on a vast body of musical and cinematic work and continues to evolve, whether expanding her career as an artist with distinctly French stylings or incorporating songs in her native English.

Chantal Goya (Chantal Deguerre) (1946). Briefly a yéyé singer, also an actress in Jean-Luc Godard’s seminal film Masculin féminin (1965), Chantal Goya found success in the 1970s and 1980s singing songs for children.

Catherine Le Forestier (1946). A singer-songwriter-composer who has released albums only intermittently, yet whose Chante Rimbaud CD is exceptionally lush, textured and well-arranged, at the crossroads of rock and North African traditions.

Mireille Mathieu (1946). To her countless international followers since the late 1960s, Mireille Mathieu represents the purity and seemingly eternal strength of “la chanson française,” even when singing in other languages. Her special honors in recognition of her life achievements include the “Légion d’honneur” (1999) and a “disque de rubis” (2005). In France, her neutral voice has however won her only a limited audience.

Guesch Patti (1946). A dancer turned singer, known for her daring 1987 hit “Étienne”.

Sheila (Annie Chancel) (1946). A favorite recording artist during the vogue of youth-oriented “yéyé” music (modeled on British and American pop-rock) in the early 1960s, Sheila continued to participate in the hit-making machine at intervals thereafter according to the reigning tastes of the moment.

Michèle Bernard (1947). A singer-songwriter who began releasing albums in 1978 and has won several prizes, Michèle Bernard has focused on quality and the respect of the “chanson” tradition. In 1993 she collaborated with Anne Sylvestre on a children’s show.

France Gall (1947). A major star as of 1963 already immersed in music at home, France Gall had a successful recording career well into the 1990s. In her teens she collaborated with Serge Gainsbourg, and in the 1970s she met and married the songwriter Michel Berger, with whom she undertook numerous projects before his untimely passing in 1992.

Michèle Torr (1947). A popular “variétés” star since the 1960s, named to the prestigious French honorary position of “Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres” in 1997.

Carole Laure (1948). A Québécoise actress, singer and now film director, first known in music circles for her album Alibi (1978).

Mama Béa (Béatrice Tekielski) (1948). Known for her radical leanings in the manner of her predecessor Colette Magny, Mama Béa first found success as a singer-songwriter in the late 1970s, but also sang material by Édith Piaf in the 1982 film Édith et Marcel. Her body of work includes titles such as La Folle and No Woman’s Land (1990).

Marie-Josée Vilar (1948). One of the more original, subtle voices to emerge in the 1970s.

Véronique Sanson (1949). A remarkable musician whose gift for expressing emotion through melody has earned her a steady place in the spotlight and a core following since the 1960s.

Sapho (1950). Originally from Morocco, Sapho is a multi-faceted artist who blends Arab, Anglo and European cultures in her inventive music, writing and shows and has also addressed women’s rights issues.

Corine Marienneau (1952). Bassist in the mythical French rock quartet Téléphone (1976-1984), then in Bertignac et les Visiteurs (1986-1990).

Marie-Claire Séguin (1952). A Québécoise who began singing professionally in 1967 and has enjoyed a successful career thanks to her strong lyric-writing talents and unusually wide interpretive range as a vocalist, Marie-Claire Séguin is also a recipient of the prestigious Artiste pour la paix award (1995).

Fabienne Thibeault (1952). A major-label singer from Montréal, known in part for her participation in the rock opera Starmania.

Marjo (Marjoléne Morin) (1953). One of Quebec’s best-known rock singing and songwriting talents, Marjo enjoyed great success in the 1980s and 1990s and has turned somewhat toward a bluesy style in more recent years.

Amadou et Mariam (Amadou Bagayoko, 1954; Mariam Dloumbia, 1958). A Malian world music duo, married since 1980, who have been receiving highest praise in France since 1998.

Karen Cheryl (Isabelle Morizet) (1955). Known for her music between 1975 and 2000, the singer Karen Cheryl is also familiar to many as a presenter on French TV.

Elli Medeiros (1956). Founder along with Jacno (1957) of the French punk group Stinky Toys, Elli Medeiros has since then completed solo albums, film work and an autobiography.

Catherine Ringer (1957). One half of the formidably creative, inventive and successful French duo Les Rita Mitsouko (1980-2009), which in its first decade redrew the visual and musical boundaries for French pop, Catherine Ringer also starred in the 2003 musical comedy Concha Bonita.

Jeanne Mas (1958). A singer who briefly struck gold with the album Toute première fois (1984) and related stage and media appearances, Jeanne Mas is known for her carefully constructed songs and colorful post-punk image.

Élisa Point (1958). A singer and writer with a reserved voice and daring, outsider views.

Robert (Myriam Roulet) (1958). An enigmatic, rule-bending figure, who like her occasional co-conspirator Amélie Nothomb is unafraid to question the status quo.

Diane Tell (Diane Sophie Fortin) (1959). A radio favorite in her native Montréal in the late 1970s, Diane Tell eventually moved to France, where she has participated in musical shows and continues to write songs.

Enzo Enzo (Körin Ternovtzeff) (1960). First known as the bassist in the trio Lili Drop from 1981-1985, Enzo Enzo found greater success through solo albums and touring that led to national recognition as of 1995. Her accomplishments include astutely incorporating various musical styles, working collaboratively with other name artists, appreciating cultural trends of the past without veering too far into sentimentality, and keeping her voice and interpretations fresh and warmly inviting.

Viktor Lazlo (1960). A singer, actress and TV presenter who first made a name for herself in the mid-1980s.

Maurane (Claudine Luypaerts) (1960). A singer’s singer, at ease exploring her jazz roots (she hails from Brussels), impressing her fans live and interpreting studio songs that top-shelf hitmakers have developed for her, Maurane is frequently referred to as one of today’s reigning francophone voices and an inspiration to fellow musicians and audience members alike.

Véronique Pestel (1960). A singer-songwriter-pianist who favors honest, direct stylings.

Mylène Farmer (Mylène Jeanne Gautier) (1961). Remarkable both for her consistently high placing music and for her savvy promotional use of video and film, Mylène Farmer has had legions of diehard fans since the mid-1980s.

Liane Foly (1962). A singer specially known for her soulful, sensual, jazzy vocal stylings.

Juliette (Juliette Nourredine) (1962). A specialist of superbly crafted pieces that draw on the “chanson” tradition and often feature a comic twist, Juliette is a pianist, singer and songwriter who has won awards in France as a best female artist. She has been active since 1985, and has gradually became an all-around artist who puts together both the words and the music for her songs.

Lio (Wanda Ribeiro de Vasconcelos) (1962). A multi-talented and at times provocative artist, Lio first found success as a teenager with pop hits and has since then made appearances of many kinds on stage, screen and TV. She is also the older sister of Helena Noguerra (1969).

Billy Ze Kick (Nathalie) (1963). The creator with minimal means of an alternative, do-it-yourself pop universe, alternatively with her group Les Gamins en Folie and solo.

Muriel Moreno (Muriel Laporte) (1963). A singer-songwriter-composer who first enjoyed rousing success from 1985-1995 as a founding member of the group Niagara, and whose career has continued to expand since then through solo projects in many styles as well as best-selling collaborations. She is also known for her production work in her home studio, her talents as a DJ, and film clips she has directed.

Princess Erika (Erika Dobong’na) (1964). A pop artist with strong soul, African and reggae influences, Princess Erika mixes into her music both humor and sincerity. She has also appeared on stage in Eve Ensler’s Les Monologues du vagin.

Rachel des Bois (1964). Rachel des Bois enjoyed accolades for her first album Au coeur des foyers in 1993, including for her ability to make fun of men.

Zazie (Isabelle de Truchis de Varennes) (1964). A singer-songwriter who has enjoyed great success both solo and contributing to the albums of major recording artists.

Femmouzes T. (Rita Macedo, 1965; Françoise Chapuis, 1967). A duo that favors politicized lyrics and danceable beats.

Marie-Jo Thério (Marie-Josée Thériault) (1965). An Acadian singer-songwriter and naturally gifted musician.

Patricia Kaas (1966). A born singer with much experience already behind her as a teenager, Patricia Kaas became a major French and international artist in the late 1980s, when she began gathering prizes in France, Canada and Germany and touring broadly to support numerous best-selling records. Kaas is an iconic stage presence and a favorite concert performer worldwide, one who exudes star quality and has a remarkable interpretive range.

Lynda Lemay (1966). A sharp, witty, unpretentious singer-songwriter from Quebec who achieved international success in the mid-1990s and has also written the folk opera Un éternel hiver (2005).

Paris Combo (with vocals by Bénédicte Grimault, known as Belle du Berry, 1966). Specialists of fun, nostalgic, slightly exotic jazz stylings, with fans worldwide.

Clarika (Claire Keszei) (1967). A playful singer-songwriter with highly developed, often lightly comic texts and a distinctive, compelling overall musical vision.

Valérie Leuillot (1967). Songstress and leader of restrained French pop sensation Autour de Lucie (1994-2004) and since then a solo artist.

Carla Bruni (1968). A former top model with a penchant for understated, intimate folk-pop, Carla Bruni has released CDs fairly steadily since her 2002 debut (and found added renown by marrying French president Nicolas Sarkozy). She is also the younger sister of Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, an actress and filmmaker.

Céline Dion (1968). This “chanteuse à voix” from Quebec has been hitting the highest notes and sales quotas since the 1980s, when even as a teenager she was belting her way to international stardom. A singer of great power and precision who has perfected her craft in English as well as French, she has won countless awards and appeared at all manner of prestigious venues, making her one of the twenty-first century’s definitive Francophone icons.

Sandrine Kiberlain (1968). A French actress and singer-songwriter who favors mellow, catchy tunes.

Axelle Red (Fabienne Demal) (1968). Axelle Red’s specialty as a singer-songwriter is smooth pop-soul, with French texts but, frequently, influences from Memphis and Nashville that make her relatively unique among France’s award-winning artists. She is originally from Belgium.

Helena (Helena Noguerra) (1969). A gifted multilingual media talent involved in numerous TV, radio, film, literary and musical projects over the years.

La Grande Sophie (Sophie Huriaux) (1969). An accomplished, eclectic singer-songwriter and figurehead for open-minded contemporary young women.

Françoiz Breut (1970). A specialist of a smoky, calm, almost nostalgic sound, with infrequent but distinctive albums that place her in an atypical, non-slick pop universe.

Claire Diterzi (1970). An alternative rocker gone solo, unafraid to take chances in her music and texts.

Lara Fabian (Lara Crokaert) (1970). A Brussels-born “chanteuse à voix” who moved to Quebec and became a name in the Francophone world in the mid-1990s.

Teri Moïse (1970). A singer-songwriter who enjoyed success in the late 1990s with two soulful, tender, honest, well produced albums.

Sonia Dersion (1971). A specialist of the zouk style popular in the French Antilles.

Hélène Segara (1971). A familiar name and face since the late 1990s, through CDs, impressive duets and a stint as Esmérelda in the musical show Notre-Dame de Paris.

Marie-Chantal Toupin (1971). A much admired “rockeuse” from Quebec since about 2000. See http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/ regarding Quebec pop rock.

Isabelle Boulay (1972). This Québécoise singer has seen the top of the French and Canadian charts since the late 1990s, with help from some of today’s best songwriting talents and fellow stars of “la chanson.”

Lady Laistee (1972). A hip-hop and soul innovator, originally from Guadeloupe, whose lyrics include mention of obstacles faced as a woman and immigrant in France.

Vanessa Paradis (1972). A singer famous for being on the French and English hit parades while still in her teens, as well as for being in the news periodically through high-profile personal and professional relationships.

Elsa (Elsa Lunghini) (1973). An actress and singer who has drifted gracefully from the hit parade to sophisticated pop-folk.

Nâdiya (Nâdiya Zighem) (1973). A hip-hop/R’n'B star and radio favorite since 2004.

Keren Ann (Keren Ann Zeidel) (1974). A cross between Leonard Cohen, Françoise Hardy and Suzanne Vega, Keren Ann is a singer-songwriter who has gained a cult following through reserved delivery of dark, complex texts.

Anggun (Anggun Cipta Sasmi) (1974). A singer with a Midas touch for hits even during her adolescence in Indonesia, Anggun is known for Top 50 tunes such as “Neige au Sahara” (1997) and “Être une femme” (2005).

Agnès Bihl (1975). An outspoken singer-songwriter who claims Anne Sylvestre as an early influence, Agnès Bihl released her first CD, Merci maman merci papa, in 2005 after many years of solo touring.

Emily Loizeau (1975). A Franco-British singer-songwriter who studied classical music for many years, Emily Loizeau has made her way in the commercial world since about 2005 with CDs and soundtracks as well as important prizes.

Anaïs (Anaïs Croze) (1976). A rising authentic talent since her self-produced 2005 debut The Cheap Show, Anaïs is known in part for her bold lyrics.

Camille (Camille Dalmais) (1978). A smart, playful songwriter who enjoys stylistic experimentation, Camille has garnered further fans and accolades through her enthusiastic live shows.

Jeanne Cherhal (1978). A singer-songwriter-pianist appreciated for her craft and fearlessness, and whose concentrated talent has won her nominations for several awards.

Coralie Clément (1978). An alternative pop-rock artist with several CDs to her name and a real spirit of innovation.

Rose (Keren Meloul) (1978). A major-label singer-songwriter whose albums of the late 2000s emphasize an intimate style and favor acoustic arrangements that foreground guitar and voice.

Pauline Croze (1979). A mellow French pop artist.

Ariane Moffatt (1979). An award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter with numerous top CDs and DVDs.

Émilie Simon (1979). A multi-instrumentalist and composer who with her first album in 2002 seemed turned toward pop and electronica, Émilie Simon has since proven to be, somewhat like Björk, a lover of music of all periods and a specialist in creating unique moods.

Diam’s (Mélanie Georgiades) (1980). One of France’s most respected rappers and songwriters since her debut in 2003.

Olivia Ruiz (Olivia Blanc) (1980). A singer with a preference for rock and close familiarity with fellow contemporary alternative voices.

Natasha St. Pier (1981). A gifted singer hailing from New Brunswick who was already winning TV prizes as a teenager, Natasha St. Pier saw her 2006 CD Longueur d’ondes take her to number one in France.

Superbus (led by Jennifer Ayache, 1983). Pop-rock with a sense of humor and strong production.

Julie Zenatti (1981). A singer since childhood whose solo career as a smooth French pop / chanson sensation took shape in 2000.

Jenifer (Jenifer Bartoli) (1982). A former Star Academy winner subsequently applauded for her own work.

Claire Denamur (1984). A favorite mellow French talent of the 2000s.

Little (Aurélie Nguyen) (1987). A radio-friendly popster, active since 2007.

Coeur de Pirate (Béatrice Martin) (1990). A pianist and singer-songwriter from Quebec who has enjoyed media renown with her first meticulously arranged, acoustically oriented pop CD Coeur de pirate.

Castafiore Bazooka. A popular all-female group listed on MySpace as specializing in Acoustic / A’cappella / Alternative, “chansons françaises déjantées,” founded by Élisabeth Wiener in 1992 and also featuring Luna Mosner, Geneviève Cabannes and Sabine Perron.

Les Elles. An original, creative and very productive independent group founded in 1992 in Caen and led by Pascaline Hervéet.

Adrénaline. Adrénaline is a Brussels-based a cappella group formed in 1994 that also performs occasionally with fellow musicians. Its core members are Nathalie Stas, Véronique Sonneville and Anouk Ganzevoort.

Célina Ramsauer. A singer-songwriter-instrumentalist from Switzerland (Valais) who enriches the “chanson” genre while also incorporating world music, in part through collaborative projects, Célina Ramsauer has been recording albums steadily since 1994 and is especially known for the care she takes to make each live show a special event as she tours in countries around the globe.

Manu (Emmanuelle Monet). A solo artist in the late 2000s initially known as the singer-songwriter-guitarist of Dolly, a French rock group that enjoyed radio and stage popularity from 1997-2005.

Sandra Le Couteur. A powerful, impassioned singer from Acadia in French Canada, whose 2006 CD La demoiselle du traversier earned high praise.


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Bourgues, Florence de. Femmes des années 80 : Musique, ciné, télé, livre, pub, vie quotidienne, mode, politique. Paris: Fetjaine, 2008.

Calvet, Louis-Jean. 100 ans de chanson française (1907-2007). Préface de Philippe Meyer. Paris: l’Archipel, 2006.

Pessin, Catherine Dutheil. La chanson réaliste: Sociologie d’un genre. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2004.

Saka, Pierre. La chanson française à travers ses succès. Paris: Larousse, 2002.

Saka, Pierre, ed. Y’a d’la France en chansons. Préface de Charles Aznavour. Paris: Larousse, 2001.

Saka, Pierre, and Yann Plougastel, eds. La Chanson française et francophone. Paris: Larousse, 1999.

Verlant, Gilles, ed. L’Odyssée de la chanson française. Paris: Hors Collection, 2006.