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Hardy grew up in the 9th arrondissement of Paris with her younger sister Michèle. Her parents lived apart when she was young; her father contributed little financially to the family and had little to do with his daughters. He was, however, persuaded by the girls' mother to buy Françoise a guitar for her birthday as a reward for passing her baccalauréat. Her early musical influences were the French chanson stars Charles Trenet and Cora Vaucaire as well as Anglophone singers Paul Anka, the Everly Brothers, Cliff Richard, Connie Francis and Marty Wildewhom she heard on the English-language radio station, Radio Luxembourg. After a year at the Sorbonne she answered a newspaper advertisement looking for young singers. Hardy signed her first contract with the record label Vogue in November 1961. In April 1962, shortly after she left university, her first record "Oh Oh Chéri" appeared, written by Johnny Hallyday's writing duo. Her own flip side of the record, "Tous les garçons et les filles" became a success, riding the wave of Yé-yé music in France. It sold over a million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. The track peaked at #36 in the UK Singles Chart in 1964. She reportedly hated the song claiming it was recorded " in three hours with the worst four musicians in Paris." She was dating photographer Jean-Marie Périer at this time and his shots featured on many of her record sleeves. She first appeared on television in 1962 during an interlude in a programme reporting the results of a presidential referendum.
Hardy sings in French, English, Italian, Spanish and German, and has one interpretation in Portuguese. In 1963 she came fifth for Monaco in the Eurovision Song Contest with "L'amour s'en va". In 1963, she was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque of the Académie Charles Cros.
In 1981, she married her long-time companion Jacques Dutronc, who is the father of her son, Thomas Dutronc, born in 1973. Hardy lives in Paris and Dutronc in Monticello, Corsica, although they remain a couple.
In 1994, she collaborated with the British pop group Blur for their "La Comedie" version of "To The End". In May 2000, she made a comeback with the album Clair Obscur on which her son played guitar and her husband sang the duet"Puisque Vous Partez En Voyage". Iggy Pop and Étienne Daho also took part. She has also recorded a duet with Perry Blake who wrote two songs for her award winning Tant de belles choses album.
Because of her difficult upbringing Hardy became painfully shy — a trait which is still part of her character today. When asked about her shyness in an interview with John Andrew, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2011 she said:
"I thought at first my parents were divorced — at that time it was not a good thing, it was a kind of shame. My father didn't help much financially my mother, and all the other girls, little girls, were dressed differently than I was — their parents had more money...I didn’t enjoy at all everything, the trappings, when all of a sudden you become very famous... [on being taken up by the fashion houses] it was work, things I had to do, a chore - I didn't enjoy it at all...It is quite impossible to stand — to be admired too much — it is not a normal situation...I don't like that at all...I am not comfortable with my professional life really, so the word 'icon'- it's as though you were talking about someone else, it's not me really...I feel happy when I'm on my bed, in my room with a good book."
In a scene from director John G. Avildsen's film Save the Tiger (1973), Jack Lemmon's character Harry Stoner makes a reference to Hardy during a melancholy telephone call to his wife. Her song "Tous les garçons et les filles" played during the British film Metroland (1997) and Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers (2003). The French movie 8 Femmes (2002) features two of her songs, "Message Personnel" and "Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux", sung by the French actresses Isabelle Huppert and Danielle Darrieux respectively. Her recording of "Träume" plays during the end credits of François Ozon's Water Drops on Burning Rocks (Gouttes d'eau sur pierres brûlantes) (2000). Her song "L'Amitié" is played during the end credits of Denys Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions barbares) which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2003. Her recording of the song "Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux", composed by Louis Aragon, is played in the Norwegian film Tatt av Kvinnen (2007). In the award-winning Greek film Attenberg (2010), her song "Tous les garçons et les filles" is played and sung by the two main characters in a lament of adolescent longing and loneliness. The girl character Suzy dances to Hardy's "Le Temps de l'Amour" during a scene in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom (2012).
Hardy's song "Ce Petit Coeur", was featured in the Gilmore Girls episode "French Twist". Her song "Ma Jeunesse Fout Le Camp" was also played in the television series La Femme Nikita's third season episode "Beyond the Pale" when Nikita pulls out an old record and plays the song.
- "Tous les garçons et les filles" (1962) – UK #36
- "J'suis d'accord" (1962)
- "Le temps de l'amour" (1962)
- "Le premier bonheur du jour" (1963)
- "L'amour s'en va" (1963)
- "Only friends / Ton meilleur ami" (1964)
- "Mon amie la rose" (1964)
- "Je n'attends plus personne" (1964)
- "Et même" (1964) – UK #31
- "All Over the World" ("Dans le monde entier") (1965) – UK #16
- "L'Amitié" (1965)
- Je Veux Qu'il Revienne/Only You Can Do It (1965)
- "La maison où j'ai grandi" (1966)
- "Voilà" (1967)
- "Comment te dire adieu?" (1968, lyrics by Serge Gainsbourg)
- "Fleur de lune" (1970)
- "Message personnel" (1973, lyrics by Michel Berger)
- "J'écoute de la musique saoûle" (1978)
- "Puisque vous partez en voyage" (2000)
- "Tant de belles choses" (2004)
- Françoise Hardy (1962); in the USA also released as The Yeh-Yeh Girl from Paris! (1965)
- Françoise Hardy (Vogue FH 1, 1963)
- Françoise Hardy canta per voi in italiano (1963)
- Mon amie la rose (1964)
- Françoise Hardy (Vogue FH 3, 1965)
- Françoise in Germany (1965)
- Françoise Hardy in English (1966)
- La Maison où j'ai grandi (1966)
- Ma jeunesse fout le camp... (1967)
- Comment te dire adieu? (1968)
- Françoise Hardy en Anglais (1969)
- Françoise (1970)
- Soleil (1970)
- One-Nine-Seven-Zero (1970)
- Träume (1970)
- La Question (1971)
- Et si je m'en vais avant toi (1972)
- If You Listen (1972)
- Message Personnel (1973)
- Entr'acte (1974)
- Star (1977)
- J'écoute de la musique saoûle (1978)
- Gin Tonic (1980)
- À Suivre (1981)
- Quelqu'un qui s'en va (1982)
- Décalages (1988)
- Le Danger (1996)
- Clair Obscur (2000)
- Tant de belles choses (2004)
- (Parenthèses...) (2006)
- La Pluie sans parapluie (2010)
- L'amour fou (2012)
- "L'Amitié", in The Barbarian Invasions, Denys Arcand (2003)
- "Des ronds dans l'eau", in Remember Me, My Love, Gabriele Muccino (2003)
- "Tous les garçons et les filles", in The Dreamers, Bernardo Bertolucci (2003)
- "Tous les garçons et les filles", "Le Premier Bonheur du jour", in The Statement, Norman Jewison (2003)
- "All Over The World", in The Boat That Rocked, Richard Curtis (2009)
- "Le Temps de l'Amour", in Moonrise Kingdom Wes Anderson (2012)