Sunday, October 16, 2011

The best French songs of all time

Whenever I meet a new person and talk about my blog, it's always the same reaction. First, the person ask me why so much interest in French music and second they ask me to recommend them something and are always curious to know what my favorite songs are.

To choose your favorite song(s) is a very serious and difficult matter and I just can't help remembering Nick Hornby's character in "High Fidelity".

Running the risk of been cruelly unfair, one day I decided to take the challenge and just choose, once and for all, the top 10 best French songs of all time. But I realized I just couldn't do it. So I decided to split the list in three parts: 1) French Classics, 2) French new scene and 3) The Serge Gainsbourg list (and this one I'm gonna publish later, because he deserves, not only a list, but a post of his own).

1) French Classics:

1. Non, je ne regrette rien - Edith Piaf
2. Douce France - Charles Trenet
3. Le moribond - Jacques Brel*
4. Que reste-t-il de nos amours* - Charles Trenet
5. La Mer* - Charles Trenet
6. Comme d'habitude* - Claude François
7. Quand on n'a que l'amour - Jacques Brel
8. J'ai deux amours - Josephine Baker
9. Avoir un bon copain - Georges Brassens
10. Jolie Mome - Léo Ferré

* All of this songs were translated to English and became a huge success worldwide. In order, the English names are: "Seasons in the sun"; "Beyond the sea" (responsible for making Bobby Darin famous); "I wish you love" (nowadays considered a jazz standard); and "My way" (sang by people like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra).

2) French New Scene:

1. Ton héritage - Benjamin Biolay
2. Sympathique - Pink Martini (I know Pink Martini is an American band, but this song is just so French, I just couldn't leave it out of the list)
3. Fanny Ardant et moi - Vincent Delerm
4. Louise - Thomas Fersen
5. J'suis pas d'ici - Thomas Dutronc
6. Dis-lui oui - Bénabar
7. Bientôt - Coralie Clément
8. Comme des enfants - Coeur de Pirate
9. Soulman - Ben L'Oncle Soul
10. Celle de mes 20 ans - Mélanie Pain

And below you can listen to the first places of both lists:


  1. Nice list :-)

    by the wayt, Avoir un bon copain is not a Brassens' song, its sung by Henri Garat. Brassens covered it indeed. Maybe you wanted to say "les copains d'abord", which is one of the most famous song of Brassens. And in the cover Brassens did of "Avoir un bon copain", he sings a little part of his own "les copains d'abord"!

    In the new french chanson scene, I would recommend Mano Solo, les têtes raides, and Mathieu Boogaerts.

    1. I know the song "Avoir un bon copain" in a German version. The music for "Ein Freund, ein guter Freund" was probably composed by Werner Richard Heymann.

  2. Thank you for the info! I really meant "Avoir un bon copain", which I though it was composed by Brassens.

    Les têtes raides and Mathieu Boogaerts I really like. Mano Solo...not so much.

    Speaking of Boogaerts, did you see he is in concert in Paris? It's a place called La Java, here's the link:

  3. Il y a d'autres chansons. - Le déserteur (Brassens, Hugues Auffray, Boris vian, au choix) - Parlez-moi de lui (Nicole Croisille) - J'attendrais (Rina Ketty) - Le chant des partisans (interprètes divers) - Il existe aussi des chansons comiques mais malheureusement, elles ne peuvent pas se traduire à cause des jeux de mots.

  4. I'm french and I was curious to see if there is some non-french who like and love french song and I see this blog. You may know more about french song than half of the french and maybe more ! :)
    Did you know Celine by Hugues Aufray ? ( ). A song about the Aufray's sister, very beautiful !

    1. I am American and I look at this blog :) When I went to France it felt like I knew more French songs than the people.... they were listening to Rihanna and American stuff. I was quite disappointed! Also, I feel like this blog should include Carla Bruni because she is semi-popular in America and she was how I first began to become interested in French music.

    2. Don't make the amalgam between the mainstream which is largely held by the US and the songs we listen to when we are marrying, dying, loving, partying within our circle. I am french and I always felt kind of alone not knowing all those song all the others knew by heart. Trust me french people know their classic by heart.

    3. Hey, Tallia. Thanks for following the blog, I'm really happy you like it.

      Now, the only reason I don't include Carla Bruni on this blog is plain and simple: I really don't like her songs! They bore me to death! And after she married the former French president, my dislike of her grew bigger and bigger. Don't be offended, it's a matter of taste.

  5. Thanks for the tip, Jeremy, I did not know that song!

  6. J'aime cette liste, de grandes chansons. en particulier edith piaf-je ne regrette rien!

  7. Thank you . Was searching wildly and ran into your list . Know none of these musicians but the music sounds like the best possible music out there . YOu got an ear bro

  8. Hahahaha thanks, Anonymous. I think this was the first time someone ever called me "bro", it made me laugh.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. i am malaysian and just started to learn french and has been listening to some french songs...i had been listening to Benjamin Biolay and Benabar favorite would be Samba De Mon Coeur Qui Bat by Coralie Clement and Les Cerf Volants by Benjamin Biolay...i make full of your list to search the songs as listed...thank you...

  11. What about Céline Dion? The most successful and one of the most gifted singer in history.

  12. I'm French and I think that you should listen Où Je Vais by Amel Bent or Beau Malheur by Emmanuel Moire. I also think that you should look for Beau Malheur's translation !

  13. I took French in 1980 and my instructor had a 45 RPM record for the class to listen to. I fell in love with it and recorded it but, unfortunately, it has since been lost.

    I thought the singer's name was Christian Adam. The instructor said he was known as 'Adamo' in France. I did find someone who went by that name, but his full name was Salvatore Adamo ... and the voice isn't the same. I thought the name of the song was "Je t'aime" but it was a long time ago and I could be wrong.

    I found a Christian Adam on youtube, but it's not the right song and the person I remember had a much sexier voice. Do you have any idea who this person might be? I know it's not much to go on, but it's all I have.

  14. cela m'aide à apprendre le français

  15. Anonymous 1: Is this the song you're looking for?

    1. I should have mentioned that I'm relearning French after thirty years, so if you could write in English for the time being ....

      I'm not sure if that's the song. I thought the singer had a deeper voice, but it has been a long time since I heard it.

      I'll keep the list mentioned below in mind. I find listening to songs does help alot for pronunciation even though they do sometimes take liberties to fit the melody.

    2. By the way, merci beaucoup!

    3. Don't worry, for now, I have no intention of changing the language of this blog!

      You're more than welcome. It's my pleasure, really.

  16. Anonymous 2, you can also check out this link:

  17. just wondering if you would consider adding in "l'Aigle Noir"by Barbara in your classics list, si beau

  18. hi i'm french if you want hearanother french song listen to " un peu d'espoir" of joyce jonathan, i hope you'll love :)

  19. Have you ever listened to Stanislas Renoult?
    I found his music by accident listening to an obscure radio station, and I really love it.
    Its modern, and edgy, but really really good..

  20. "la Bohème" by Charles Aznavour

  21. Hello,
    when you are listening to music it will easily allow you to recognize the song and enjoy knowing the words to the music instead of playing the guessing game as to which song you are actually listening to. Then you can start to sing along to the songs like you used to,Top 5 Jazz Songs of the 20th Century and understand the meaning and feeling that went into producing each one of the songs you are enjoying listening to.

  22. I am looking for a french disco song in the 70's, the only think that i remeber was the name of the song: ve rigua or something similar.
    i hope someone can remeber it and let me know.
    thanks. Henz

  23. Bonjour! While having lunch in a French restaurant I heard a piece of instrumental music that I have been trying to locate ever since. It had a slow tempo, but the melody sounded exactly like a French impressionistic cover of Flowers on the Wall (Statler Brothers). I kid you know. It has been haunting me ever since, but I have not been able to find it. Any help would be appreciated :) Merci!

  24. What I am interested in what are a few of the greatest french women jazz vocal albums. And do you know any particular small group female jazz albums slow kinda bebop acoustic?


See also

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...