The singing sixties French girls like Francoise Hardy, France Gall and Sylvie Vartan became known as the yé-yé girls of which Vartan was arguably the most glamorous having married French superstar singer Johnny Hallyday in 1964. Like France Gall, to an English speaking public, Sylvie Vartan is one of the lesser known of the famous French Sixties singers. Vartan was actually born in Bulgaria and moved to Paris with her family when she was eight years old and with her brother Eddie becoming a record producer, found music.
Eddie gave her the opportunity to record with another French rocker Frankie Jordan, uncredited she sang the female part on the record, Pannes d’essence – the song was a hit and she made her first appearance on French television and became known as the “Twisting Schoolgirl. At first early crappy English/French cover versions followed – Le Locomotion/ Twist Et Chante, (Twist And Shout), Est-ce que Tu Le Sais? (What’d I Say), Quand Le Film Est Triste (Sad Movies Make Me Cry), this unlikely Sue Thompson in French, was a hit in 1961. Hits began to flow – Tous Mes Copains 1962, Si, Je Chante 1963, La Plus Belle A Danser in 1965 and the Mick Jones from Foreigner co-write (yes it’s true) with drummer Tommy Brown, Cette lettre-là in 1965 and Par Amour, Par Pitié in 1967 with its classic sixties plucked bass and organ (sounds like Air). It’s easy to pick out single after single, hit after hit especially from her sixties yé-yé period but after a car accident in 1968 it all changed.
Whether she just grew up after this accident and another serious car accident in 1970, into the seventies she became a singing, dancing cabaret act then disco and then – well it was the eighties and well that’s the end of the story except that she sold millions of records, finally becoming the yé-yé Diva. She has done residencies in Las Vegas, she tours, she sings, she dances, she’s as famous as famous French singers get and yet she remains unknown in England – just 21 miles away.
Best remember her for her dark breathy voice and her exotic Eastern European roots and the middle yé-yé period songs when along with Johnny Hallyday she was the melba toast of Paris.