20 of the Most Famous French Singers of All Time
There are few things more quintessentially French than good music. From the classical greats to modern stars, France has produced some of the most memorable and beloved singers in history.
Let’s take a look at 20 of the most famous French singers of all time. These performers have helped shape the soundscape of popular music and left their mark on the world stage.
1. Edith Piaf
Though she was just 4’8″, Edith Piaf had a voice that was larger than life. Born in Paris in 1915, Piaf grew up in a brothel and had an unfortunate upbringing, to say the least. As a young woman, she began to sing on the streets to make money and was soon discovered by a nightclub owner.
Piaf’s career took off from there, and she quickly became one of the most popular performers in France. She toured internationally and recorded several hit songs, including “La Vie en Rose” and “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.” Piaf’s life was marked by tragedy, and she died at the age of 47. But, her voice and music live on and she remains one of the most iconic French singers of all time.
2. Jean-Jacques Goldman
Jean-Jacques Goldman is a French singer and songwriter who has had a long and successful career in the music industry. Born in 1951, Goldman began his musical career in the 1970s as a member of the rock band Taï Phong. He found success as a solo artist in the 1980s with the release of his single, “Il suffira d’un signe”. Since then, he has released 7 solo studio albums and sold over 10 million records worldwide.
Goldman is known for his emotional and candid lyrics, as well as his versatile musical style which incorporates elements of rock, pop, folk, and world music. He has won numerous awards throughout his career, including a Grammy award for his notable work with Céline Dion. Despite being retired from touring since 2000, Goldman remains one of the most popular French singers of all time.
3. Johnny Hallyday
Johnny Hallyday was a French rock star who rose to fame in the 1960s. He had a string of hits in France and was one of the country’s most popular musicians. He is considered a huge part of the French Cultural Legacy. Hallyday was invited to sing at the Eiffel Tower, Fifa World Cup, and even made a grand entrance at the Stade de France by jumping out of a helicopter!
Hallyday’s career spanned over 50 years, and he continued to record and perform until his death in 2017. He was one of the few French singers to find success outside of his home country, and he remains a legendary figure in the history of popular music.
4. Eddy Mitchell
French singer and actor Eddy Mitchell is best known for his work in the 1960s and 1970s. His best-known hits include “Couleur Menthe à L’eau” and “La dernière séance”. Born in Paris in 1942, Mitchell began his career in the band Les Chaussettes Noires. His distinctive voice soon made him a popular figure on the French music scene.
In addition to his work as a musician, Mitchell has also enjoyed success as an actor, appearing in films such as “La Cité de la peur” and “Promotion canapé “. He remains a popular figure in France and continues to perform to sell-out crowds across the country.
Zaz is a French singer who first rose to fame with her self-titled album in 2010. Since then, she has released four more albums. Her music has been described as a mix of cabaret, jazz, and chanson. It is noteworthy to mention that all her albums are certified Gold, Platinum, or Diamond.
Zaz is a multi-talented artist who has captivated audiences around the world with her unique style of music and her charismatic stage presence. Her latest album was released in 2021 titled “Isa”.
6. Charles Aznavour
Charles Aznavour was one of the most popular and successful French singers of the 20th century. He was born in 1924 in Paris to Armenian immigrants and grew up in poverty. At the age of 9, he began singing in musicals and quickly developed a following. He soon began appearing on radio and television, and his career took off.
Aznavour recorded various songs in French, English, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, Neapolitan, Kabyle, and Armenian. He also appeared in over 60 movies and documentaries. In addition to his successful career as a singer and actor, Aznavour was also a diplomat and humanitarian. He was a true icon who left a lasting legacy.
7. Julien Doré
Julien Doré is a French singer, songwriter, and actor. He first came to prominence after winning the fifth season of the television show Nouvelle Star in 2007. Since then, he has released six studio albums and starred in various films and television series. Doré is widely known for his unique style, which combines elements of pop, rock, and chanson. He has been praised for his distinctive voice and his ability to write catchy melodies.
Doré has a certified Diamond album, “&”, and is one of the most popular French singers of the 21st century. He played the role of himself in the TV Series “Call My Agent !”.
8. Melanie Pain
Melanie Pain is a French singer-songwriter who first came to prominence as the frontwoman of the indie rock band Nouvelle Vague. Since going solo in 2009, she has released three albums to critical acclaim, with her first solo album, “My Name” (2009). Throughout her career, Pain has been known for her evocative lyrics and spine-tingling vocal performances.
Onstage, she is a commanding presence, effortlessly moving between hushed intimacy and raw power. However, it is her ability to connect with her fans that has truly made her one of the most beloved figures in the French music scene.
9. Eddy de Pretto
Eddy de Pretto is a French singer-songwriter who is quickly gaining popularity both in France and abroad. His music is a unique blend of hip-hop, R&B, and electronic music, and his lyrics are often candid and introspective. In 2018, he released his debut album, “Cure”, which received negative feedback due to speculations of homophobia. Despite the backlash, he still managed to find success with the album, and it peaked at number one internationally.
He has also been featured in various films and TV shows like “Rien pour Pehuajo” and “Vivre sa vie”. With his combination of talent, charisma, and honesty, Eddy de Pretto is one of the most exciting young artists in France today.
10. Françoise Hardy
Françoise Hardy is a French singer, actress, and astrologer who rose to prominence in the 1960s. With her striking features and cool demeanor, Hardy became an icon of the Disques Vogue, appearing in films and music videos. Hardy’s music career began to rise with her hit song “Tous les garçons et les filles”. She has released over thirty studio albums in her entire career which spanned over 50 years.
There’s no doubt that Françoise Hardy is one of the most famous French singers of all time. She has been an inspiration to many artists, and her music continues to be loved by fans not just in France, but around the world.
Yodelice is a French singer, songwriter, and musician. His real name is Maxime Rodolphe Nouchy and he was born in Créteil, France, in 1979. His first steps into music came from playing the piano and the guitar. In 1994 he became the youngest teacher in the history of the Paris Music Academy. In 2006 he released his first self-titled album.
Yodelice’s music is a mix of pop, rock, and folk. He has been praised for his lyrics, which are often introspective and thought-provoking. Some of his most popular songs include “Sunday with a Flu”, “Dis à l’amour”, and “Talk to Me”. He received one of the most prestigious awards in the Victoires de la Musique in 2010.
Lomepal is an up-and-coming singer/rapper from France. His music is described as honest and direct, and he often uses clever wordplay. Lomepal’s debut album, “Flip,” was released in 2017 to critical acclaim. He went on to release four more albums, with the latest one coming out in September 2022.
Lomepal has been praised for his lyricism and his ability to tell stories through his music. He has a Youtube channel that has over 100 million views. As a result, Lomepal is one of the most popular French rappers today.
13. Yves Montand
Yves Montand was one of the most popular entertainers in France during the 1940s and 1950s. A charismatic singer and actor, he was equally at home on the stage and screen. Montand was born in Italy in 1921, but his family moved to France when he was a child. He began his career as a music hall singer, but soon found success as a film actor which helped him reach greater heights as a singer too.
In addition to his work in film, Montand was also a successful recording artist, releasing a string of best-selling albums. He continued to perform and record until his death in 1991. Today, Montand is remembered as one of the greatest entertainers of his generation.
14. Carla Bruni
With her captivating beauty and angelic voice, Carla Bruni quickly rose to fame as a model and singer in the 1980s and 1990s. Born in Turin, Italy, in 1967, Bruni moved to Paris to pursue a career in modeling. She quickly became one of the most sought-after models in the fashion industry. She left the fashion industry to pursue her passion for music. In 2003, she released her debut album “Quelqu’un m’a dit” which was an instant success.
Since then, Bruni has released five more albums and has won numerous awards. She is also known for her high-profile relationships, including a brief marriage to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Bruni has also sung for various soundtracks, including “Midnight in Paris,” ” BBC Radio 2: Postcards from Paris,” and “C’est La Vie.”
15. Christophe Miossec
Christophe Miossec is a French singer-songwriter who has been making music since the early 1990s. His work is deeply personal and often candid, exploring themes of love, loss, and longing. While his early work was characterized by a more traditional folk sound, he has since explored a wide range of genres, from acoustica to electronica.
Christophe Miossec is an arresting artist who fearlessly confronts the human condition. His music is both intimate and universal, offering listeners a glimpse into the inner workings of his mind. For those who appreciate honesty in their art, Christophe Miossec is an essential listen.
16. Serge Gainsbourg
Serge Gainsbourg was one of the most influential and controversial figures in French popular music. Born in 1928, he began his career as a jazz singer and pianist before branching out into other genres. He is perhaps best known for his provocatively-themed songs, which often pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable in mainstream music.
He died in 1991, but his legacy continues to resonate with musicians and fans around the world. Serge Gainsbourg was a true original, and his Impact on popular culture is still being felt today.
17. Claude François
Claude François was a highly successful French singer, songwriter, and producer who was known for his catchy, upbeat pop tunes. He achieved international fame with hits such as “Comme d’habitude” and “C’est de l’eau, c’est du vent”, and he went on to sell millions of records worldwide. He was also dubbed as the master of the modern “chanson” and was credited for popularizing the genre.
Claude François died tragically in 1978, but his music continues to live on and entertain audiences of all ages. His legacy as one of the most successful French singers of all time is firmly cemented.
18. Jacques Brel
Jacques Brel was one of the most influential singers of the 20th century. His distinct voice and poetic lyrics were beloved by fans around the world, and his music continues to resonate with audiences today.
Born in Belgium in 1929, Brel began his career as a singer-songwriter in the 1950s. He quickly gained popularity for his emotional ballads and social commentary, which often addressed topics like love, death, and politics. In the 1960s, Brel moved to France, where he became one of the country’s most successful musicians.
He continued to release new music until his untimely death in 1978, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire new generations of artists. Some of his notable tracks include “Le diable (Ça va),” “Quand on n’a que l’amour”, and “Madeleine.”
19. Catherine Ringer
Catherine Ringer is a French singer, songwriter, and dancer who first came to prominence as the frontwoman of the popular new wave band Les Rita Mitsouko. Since then, she has forged a highly successful solo career, releasing a string of acclaimed albums and collaborating with some of the biggest names in music. Ringer is best known for her powerful vocal style and her confrontational stage presence, which often features explicit lyrics.
She has been a major force in the French music scene for over three decades, and her influence can still be felt today. She has sung for various films like “Vagabond” and “Kung Fu Master”.
20. Joséphine Baker
A legend in her own time, Joséphine Baker was an American-born French dancer, singer, and actress who became a national icon in the 1930s. Born in poverty in St. Louis, Missouri, Baker was forced to move to France to find work. It was there that she found success as a performer, first in Folies Bergère and then with her own nightclub act. She was known for her risqué costumes and her sensual dance moves, which often incorporated elements of African culture.
Baker was renowned as the first Black woman to star in a major motion picture, and she was also an outspoken civil rights activist. She died in 1975, but her legacy as one of the most iconic performers of her generation lives on. Her songs “J’ai Deux Amours” and “Paris, Paris, Paris” remain popular to this day.
The French music scene has produced some truly incredible artists over the years. From pop icons to folk legends, these 20 singers have left a lasting mark on the world of music. Their songs and performances continue to entertain and inspire audiences of all ages, proving that the power of French music is timeless.
Jacques Brel Featured Image (Bottom-Left) by: Jack de Nijs for Anefo, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Françoise Hardy Featured Image (Bottom-Right) by: Joost Evers / Anefo – Nationaal Archief, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, Link