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Francoise Hardy, French singing legend and pop icon, dies at 80

French singer and actor Francoise Hardy wears a summer fur dress launched by Chombert of Paris, France, Feb. 11, 1967. (AP Photo, File) French singer and actor Francoise Hardy wears a summer fur dress launched by Chombert of Paris, France, Feb. 11, 1967. (AP Photo, File)
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PARIS -

Francoise Hardy, a French singing legend and pop icon since the 1960s, has died. She was 80.

Her son, musician Thomas Dutronc, announced her death on social media, sharing a poignant photo of himself as a child with his mother. Hardy had lymphatic cancer since 2004 and died Tuesday.

Born on Jan. 17, 1944, in Paris, Hardy's career began in 1962 when she recorded her first single, "Tous les garcons et les filles," at the age of 18. The song, which she wrote and composed, quickly became a hit, marking her rise as a key figure in the ye-ye movement, a French response to rock 'n' roll.

Her lyrics often captured the angst and longing of adolescence, resonating deeply with young audiences. Her melancholic and introspective tone set her apart from the more exuberant pop music of her peers.

Hardy's influence extended far beyond France. In 2023, she was the only French artist named in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 200 greatest singers of all time. Her ethereal voice and distinctive beauty captivated audiences, earning her praise from music legends such as Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and David Bowie.

"I was passionately in love with her. Every male in the world, and a number of females, also were," Bowie once said.

Hardy had a unique approach to songwriting, emphasizing the importance of melody in her creative process. Speaking to the Associated Press in 1996 about writing songs, she explained, "I always put the words on the music. It's always like that. I don't write before, and then, I'm looking for music. First, I get the music and (then) I try to put words on it." That method contributed to the distinctive quality of her music, blending poetic lyrics with evocative melodies.

Hardy was also celebrated as a fashion muse. Her androgynous looks and understated elegance made her a favourite of the fashion world, with a tall, slender frame, angular features, and long, straight hair. This aesthetic aligned with the modern fashion of the 1960s, emphasizing simplicity and a certain boyish charm. She often wore designs from Andre Courreges, Paco Rabanne, and Yves Saint Laurent, in styles that defined the era. Her influence in fashion extended over decades.

Hardy's relationship with fellow musician Jacques Dutronc was a significant part of her life and work. They met in the mid-1960s and had a son, Thomas, in 1973. Although their relationship faced challenges, including Dutronc's infidelities and their eventual separation, it deeply influenced her music. Their lives -- residing on separate floors of the same Parisian building -- mirrored their bittersweet partnership, which was reflected in Hardy's songs.

She also had a keen interest in astrology, authoring several books on the subject and hosting radio shows. Her lyrics and public persona often reflected her introspective nature and fascination with the celestial.

Hardy's battle with cancer was long. She endured numerous treatments, including radiotherapy, which left her deaf in one ear. Despite her health struggles, she continued to produce music, with her final album, "Personne d'autre," released in 2018. This album, marked by its contemplative themes and collaboration with the Finnish indie band Poets of the Fall, confronted issues of mortality.

Tributes have poured in from across the globe. French Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak hailed her as "an eternal legend of French songs," while fellow musicians like Carla Bruni, Michel Polnareff, and Etienne Daho expressed their deep sorrow and admiration. International artists, including Blur's Graham Coxon and Public Enemy's Chuck D, also paid their homage.

Reflecting on her lifelong love for melodies, Hardy once said, "All my life, I've been on the lookout for beautiful melodies. Listening to them puts me in seventh heaven."

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