AFTER WWII, the French tried to combat the British and US musical invasion with fun, and some times pure silliness –the yéyé wave endured and it’s here to stay.
Still active today, rocker Johnny Hallyday formed a trendy couple with the glamorous Sylvie Vartan. The French Elvis has since completed over 180 tours and sold 110 million records. With a pure pop porn voice, Michel Polnareff wrote legendary melodies including ‘La Poupee Qui Fait Non’ (his first single) and the powerfully romantic ‘Love Me Please Love Me’.
Influenced by Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, Italian-French composer Nino Ferrer created a mix of a jazz and R&B with caustic lyrics, and in 1966, he wrote some of the greatest yeye hits including: ‘Mirza’, ‘Les Cornichons’ and ‘Oh ! Hé ! Hein ! Bon.’
Jacques Dutronc developed a nonchalant playboy image and was married to Francoise Hardy. The singer had a massive hit with ‘Il est cinq heures, Paris s’éveille’ (voted the best French song of the last 50 years), and then pursued a successful film career (Steven Spielberg considers him to be the best actor of his generation).
One of the most popular yéyé singers was Claude Francois, fondly known as Cloclo. Born in Egypt, he became famous in 1963 with ‘Si J’avais Un Marteau’, a French adaptation of Trini Lopez’s ‘If I Had a Hammer’, followed by ‘Belles Belles Belles.’ Cloclo also co-wrote the 1967 hit ‘Comme D’Habitude’ that later became a worldwide sensation when Frank Sinatra made the song his own as ‘My Way.’
Francois would eventually reinvent himself as the King of the French disco with the massively popular ‘Alexandrie Alexandra’ before dying from electrocution in his bathtub in 1978, at only aged 39.
By the end of the 1970’s, the yéyé wave influenced a new generation of alternative artists such as Plastic Bertrand, Lio, Eli et Jacno, Stereo Total, and Les Wampas and their style of Yéyé punk.
Beyond France and Belgium, yéyé has influenced indie pop and continues to inspire many musical artists. Perhaps the best example is number one recycler Quentin Tarantino with the inclusion of ‘Laisse Tomber Les Filles’ in his 2007’s movie Death Proof.