Famous French Songs

Rachel Hanson
Grooving to the music

French music comes not only from France, but also from other European countries, from Africa, and from North America. While French songs from France are often the most well known, there is also a considerable pop music tradition in other francophone regions of the world.

Famous French Songs

Not all French music is from Europe, but European francophone music is the largest group.

Europe:

The following clips are examples of famous songs in French that hail from Europe:

  1. La Vie en rose: One of Edith Piaf's most well-known songs, recognized the world over
  2. Le Plat pays: Jacques Brel's love song to his native land, Belgium
  3. Je l'aime à mourir: A classic Francis Cabrel song; this video on Youtube is amusing as he teases the audience and eventually gets them to sing the whole first verse without him prompting the words.
  4. Comme ils disent: Charles Aznavour, a classic French singer, performs one of his hits live
  5. Les amoureux des bancs publics: Georges Brassens, another classic French singer
  6. Caroline: MC Solaar is a French rapper bringing the art of French music into the 21st century.
  7. J'ai deux amours: Josephine Baker, born in America, became the toast of Paris in 1925 and stayed in France for an illustrious 50-year performance career.
  8. Un jour viendra: Johnny Hallyday, one of France's great rock-n-roll masters, shares a love song in this clip.
  9. La Mer: Charles Trenet sings his classic song live at the Olympia Theater, with a short statement about the song's origins and evolution before becoming a hit in France
  10. Sous le Ciel de Paris: Yves Montand, another classic French singer of the chansonnier style.

While some of the singers above are not European by birth, they recorded their hit music in Europe.

North America

From Canada, several famous French songs have traveled the world:

  1. Gens du pays: Gilles Vigneault's anthem to his 'country': Québec
  2. Petit papa Noël: Roch Voisine's version of one of the most famous French songs for Christmas
  3. Parle-moi: Isabelle Boulay singing one of her greatest hits live
  4. Le Ziguezon-zinzon: La Bottine Souriante is a well-known group for traditional Québ´cois music
  5. Tu M'manques: La Chicane's hit from the year 2000 paved the road for more famous songs

Africa

Several countries in Africa have French as an official or unofficial spoken language. While these songs may not be as well known as those from Europe and North America, their music and lyrics deserve discovery:

  1. Toi et moi: Sally Nyolo's hit song combines a relentless beat with traditional lyrics
  2. L'Amour a tous les droits: Ismael Lo shares his beautiful song with an African backdrop at the beginning, followed by a world tour celebrating love's ability to conquer all.
  3. Trahison: M'Pongo Love sings a traditional-style French song with African rhythmic influences

French Radio

In France, there is a rule that radio broadcasters ensure at least 40% of the music that they play is in French. This means that radio stations cannot play only American music or other international music as part of their quota (unless it's international music that's in French). The result of this regulation of the French radio is that there is a booming music industry in France.

French Music Culture

Some of the clips seen above are obviously dated; however, there is a lively music culture in France. The French desire to keep their language alive and preserved has served popular culture well and there are new artists coming onto the music scene all the time. While English music is the most common type on the radio in several other European countries, many complain that the local music culture is dying; there seems to be no danger of that happening in France.

Famous French Songs