Tuesday, 9 January 2018

France Gall tribute

If the closing weeks of 2017 were dominated by the death of Johnny Hallyday, it's sad that 2018 begins with news of the death of another legend of French music.

France Gall lost her battle with cancer at the weekend at the age of 70.

France Gall began her career as the icon of 60s yéyé style, but unlike many of her contemporaries she went on to have a career that lasted for decades.

Gall was, like many female singers in both France and elsewhere, measured according to the men who collaborated with her. Whether Serge Gainsbourg or Michel Berger it was presumed that she was acting on behalf of the greater - male - talent. The music industry has always had this kind of sexism, and it was if anything more prevalent during France Gall's early career.

But perhaps without France Gall, Gainsbourg would not have reached the creative peaks he did in the late 60s, the Eurovision win with Poupée de cire, poupée de son establishing the international reputation of Gainsbourg as a composer every bit as much as it established France Gall as a singer. It's worth remembering that it was France Gall herself who chose the song from a shortlist presented to her.

It's easy to see why she remains best known for her work in the 60s, as she pretty much established the template for generations of French female stars. Her songs were sweet, but also subversive and smarter than they first seemed. And she wasn't afraid of new or controversial ideas.

Her work in the 1970s with her husband Michel Berger, which whom she worked until his death in 1992, established her as a more mature artist. While perhaps her work wasn't as edgy as some of her earlier songs, many of her songs from this period have gone on to be standards in France.

Her involvement in Berger's musical Starmania would give her even greater acclaim in France. The rock opera was a huge success in the French speaking world, and later singles like Résiste and Ella elle l'a proving that she was an artist that wasn't tied to one particular decade.

While she essentially retired in the late 90s, France Gall remained visible with high profile albums of cover versions and the musical theatre show Résiste featuring her songs.

She was a unique artist whose talent helped give French music its unique style.

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