Icon Of French Chanson France Gall Passes

Isabelle Geneviève Marie Anne Gall, who was better known by her artist’s name France Gall, died in Paris on Jan. 7 at the age of 70.  

France Gall
AP Photo / Guilio Broglio, File
– France Gall
France Gall singing for Luxembourg in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1965, poses with her award with Serge Gainsbourg, left, and orchestra director Alain Gorauguer, right, in Naples.

Gall was born in Paris Oct. 9, 1947. She landed her first No. 1 in the French charts with her first single “Ne sois pas si bête” (Don’t Be So Stupid) in 1963, when she was only 16. She gained popularity through her work with French singer and songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, who penned a couple of suggestive songs for Gall, seemingly innocent but full of sexual allusions, such as “Les Sucettes” (Lollipops).

With another one of Gainbourg’s songs, “Poupée de cire, poupée de son” (Doll of wax, doll of sound), Gall won the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest, which was then still called Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson, representing Luxembourg.

Her career petered out during the next years, but only in France, and between 1966 and 1972 she recorded songs in Germany and in German. After returning to France, she started working with singer/songwriter Michael Berger, which marked the beginning of her most successful career stretch that lasted until the late 1980s.

Their first song Berger wrote for Gall was called “La déclaration (d’amour)” (The declaration of love). It was the first in a long line of hits, all of them penned by Berger, whom Gall married in 1976.

The marriage lasted until 1992, when Berger unexpectedly died of a heart attack. She continued to play concerts and released her final studio album, “France,” in 1993. She announced her retirement in 1997.

Gall died of the complications of cancer, which she had once fought off successful in 1993. When news of her death broke, France’s president Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “She leaves behind songs known to all French, and the example of a life dedicated to others, those she loved and those she helped,” referring to her philanthropy, which was a big part of her career as well.

The country’s culture minister Francoise Nyssen described Gall as “icon of the French chanson,” adding that she did not speak to any particular generation, but “knew how to address all. She faced personal struggles by giving everything for music. She is leaving us, but obviously we will dance again to the chords we love so much.”

It’s the second time in short succession that France loses a national musical icon. In December, Johnny Hallyday, France’s biggest rock star for more than half a century, died, causing a mass mourning, with up to 1 million people taking to the streets of Paris.