16 things you possibly didn’t know about French music

Today is La Fête de la Musique, that wonderful French festival where (often) free music events take place across France. To celebrate this annual noise-fest, let’s take a look at some lesser-known facts about French music.

  1. French people play bagpipes! There are even French varieties of bagpipes which sound just as bad as the Scottish ones.
  2. Johnny Hallyday is France’s biggest-selling musician with  an estimated 80 million record sales to date, 5 million more than Kenny G.
  3. Accordions aren’t even French, they were invented in Germany.
  4. “My Way” may be Frank Sinatra’s biggest hit but it was adapted from a French song, “Comme d’habitude”, which was composed, written and sung entirely by French people.
  5. France is the third most-successful Eurovision country in history with five victories under its belt so far. It is tied in third place with the UK and Luxembourg.
  6. Jean Michel Jarre is the artist with the biggest-ever audience: 3.5 million people came to see him perform in Moscow in 1997, many – presumably – of their own volition.
  7. Edith Piaf’s funeral is the only occasion since WW2 to have completely stopped traffic in Paris.
  8. She was 147 cm tall, which is the maximum height a pony can be before it is technically a horse.
  9. Daft Punk used to be in a group called Darlin’ where they would expose their human faces.
  10. Serge Gainsbourg’s saucy hit, “Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus” was the first non-English-language hit to get to no.1 in the UK and features the second-most famous fake female orgasm in popular culture. (Obvs the first is this.)
  11. Talking of Serge, his Paris home remains exactly as it was when he died in 1991, except for some tins of food which were removed when they exploded.
  12. Quintessentially American gay disco band, Village People, have very French origins. They were formed by two Frenchmen and their trademark hit, “Y.M.C.A.”, was written by one of them, Jacques Morali.
  13. Ottawan, responsible for the disco hit sensation, “D.I.S.C.O”, were French too. Which just goes to show you that the French love to write disco hits that involve spelling.
  14. David Guetta’s brother, Bernard, is a highly respected journalist who was once considered for the position of editor of Le Monde.
  15. Bob Dylan wrote a song about Françoise Hardy and Mick Jagger claimed she was the perfect woman.
  16. ‘La Mer’ by Charles Trenet has been covered 4000 times, including one version by Cliff Richard.


Photo: Eric Fabet / Flickr, CC 2.0

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