PARIS — “Rarity is important,” says French pop icon Françoise Hardy, now in her 60s and indeed living her life by that decree. Something of a recluse now, Hardy quit touring in 1968 and stopped recording for seven years during the Eighties and Nineties. Her comeback album, “Le Danger” in 1996, threw her back into the spotlight and her latest release, “Parenthèses,” recently hit American shelves.
The new album includes 12 duets of her own songs, such as “Partir quand même,” along with Charles Trenet’s “Que reste-t-il de nos amours?” At first, the songstress wasn’t pleased by her label’s idea of recording duets, but “it quickly became very clear the project was worthwhile,” says Hardy, whose fulfilled a fantasy with her sing-a-long with none other than Julio Iglesias on “Partir quand même.” “His music is not very far from mine,” she explains. “He sings sentimental songs, just like me. I only like sentimental songs.”
In the end, longtime friends Alain Bashung and Alain Souchon, as well as pianist Hélène Grimaud, French actor Alain Delon, Ben Christophers, Maurane, Rodolphe Burger, Benjamin Biolay and Hardy’s husband Jacques Dutronc and their son, Thomas Dutronc, recorded with her. “There had to be a musical complicity,” says Hardy of her choice of artists, for each of whom she had a specific song in mind.
Outside of the studio, Hardy likes to keep up with the younger generation, raving about songwriter Keren Ann and French chanteuse Camille. “They are so much more mature than we were,” she says. “We were very candid and spontaneous.”
Hardy made her name in the States by starring in John Frankenheimer’s 1966 film “Grand Prix” alongside Yves Montand, Eva Marie Saint and James Garner. She later became a fashion icon after she was shot for magazine covers wearing Courrèges and Paco Rabanne. These days, however, she generally shuns photographers, makeup and fashion, preferring to hole up in her 16th arrondissement apartment.
Four years ago, Hardy published a book about astrology, her second love after music, and has started work on her autiobiography. “Writing is very difficult,” she says. “It’s even harder for me to get out of my four walls when I write.”