French singer, and actor Jacques Dutronc (1943) is with his nonchalant playboy image and his legendary irony one of the most popular performers in the French-speaking world. He wrote successful songs for his later wife Françoise Hardy in the 1960’s before moving on to pursue a successful solo career. In 1973, he branched out into film acting, and earned a Cesar for Best Actor in 1992 for the leading role in Van Gogh (1992).
French postcard by Publistar, Marseille, no. 1416. Promotion card for Disques Vogue. Photo: Bernard Leloup (Salut Les Copains).
Openly Provocative Style
Jacques Dutronc was born in Paris in 1943. He grew up in a highly musical environment at home as his father, an engineer, was a passionate music fan. Jacques learned to play the piano at an early age and soon progressed to the guitar, which would become the favourite instrument of his teenage years. Between 1963 and 1964, Dutronc played guitar for the yé-yé group El Toro et les Cyclones. During this time he also appeared as backing guitarist for 60’s star Eddy Mitchell, the former lead singer of Les Chaussettes Noires. His teenage music career was cut short, when he was sent off to do his miltary service in Germany. After his return, he landed a job as an assistant of Jacques Wolfsohn at Vogue Records. He arranged songs for several lesser known artists such as Zou Zou and Cleo. Dutronc later wrote a whole string of hits for the popular teenage star Françoise Hardy including Va pas prendre un tambour and C'est le temps de l'amour. He teamed up with writer Jacques Lanzmann, and one of their first commissions was for the pop singer Benjamin. After Benjamin's first EP failed to perform, Vogue Records dismissed the singer. After hearing one of the demos that Dutronc had produced, his boss declared that Jacques should perform the record for release. This single, Et moi, et moi, et moi (1966) turned Dutronc into a star. (In 1973, an English version Alright Alright Alright became an international hit for the group Mungo Jerry.) The French public adored the singer’s nonchalant stage persona and his openly provocative style. In an age where most pop stars were growing hippy beards and dressing in Afghan coats and bell-bottom jeans, Dutronc’s tailored suits and chic silk ties were guaranteed to make him stand out from the crowd. The 10-year collaboration of Lanzmann and Dutronc produced several of Dutronc’s best-known hits. His songs combine American and British musical influences with French lyrical themes. Many of his early songs feature a British garage sound comparable to that of Ray Davies of The Kinks. Dutronc is distinctive for his mocking attitude toward late 1960’s French youth culture. His biggest hit was Il est cinq heures, Paris s'eveille, in which he paints an evocative portrait of the French capital in the early morning hours.
French postcard by PSG, no. 1345. Promotion card for Disques Vogue.
French postcard, no. 3.
French promotion card for Disques Vogue. Photo: Gilbert Moreau.
Hip Retro Clubs
In 1973, Jacques Dutronc began a second career as a film actor. He made his debut in Antoine et Sébastien/ Antoine and Sebastian (1973, Jean-Marie Périer) with François Périer. Next he played Romy Schneider’s husband in L'important c'est d'aimer/That Most Important Thing: Love (1974, Andrzej Żuławski). The film was an international hit. He also appeared with her in Mado (1976, Claude Sautet). Another popular film was Violette & François (1977, Jacques Rouffio) in which he co-starred with Isabelle Adjani. In the 1980’s Dutronc focused on his acting career, and worked sometimes with major directors as Claude Lelouch at A Nous Deux/ An Adventure for Two (1979), Jean-Luc Godard at Sauve qui peut (la vie)/Slow Motion (1980), and Barbet Schroeder at Tricheurs/Cheaters (1984). Most of his films in this period were mediocre though. Then he was awarded the Cesar for his unusual portrayal of Vincent van Gogh in the final 67 days of his life in Van Gogh (1992, Maurice Pialat). He co-starred with Isabelle Huppert in the suspense thriller Merci pour le chocolat/Thanks for the Chocolate (2000, Claude Chabrol). Since then he was seen in C'est la vie/Thats Life (2001, Jean-Pierre Améris) with Sandrine Bonnaire, the comedy Embrassez qui vous voudrez/Summer Things (2002, Michel Blanc) with Charlotte Rampling as his wife, and most recently in the thriller Joseph et la fille'/Joseph and the Girl (2010, Xavier De Choudens). In 2005 he won an honorary César for his whole film career. Jacques Dutronc currently lives in the town of Monticello on the island of Corsica. Since 1967 he lives together with singer Francoise Hardy. They married in 1981 and have a son, Thomas (1973). Dutronc recorded in 1995 the new album called A part ça. He also enjoyed a resurgence of popular interest in his music. Since the early Dutronc songs had a classic late-sixties freakbeat backing, his songs were played in the hip retro clubs of the UK and US in the late 1990’s, a practice which continues to this day. In 2010 Jacques Dutronc went on a successful new tour with more than 80 concerts.
Jacques Dutronc sings Et moi, et moi, et moi (1966). Source: MitchouTipTop (YouTube).
Jacques Dutronc sings Il est 5h Paris s'eveille. Source: DeeJayM62 (YouTube).
Pre-Release Trailer L'important c'est d'aimer/That Most Important Thing: Love (1974). Source: HumungusFromDaHood (YouTube).
Sources: Yuri German (IMDb), RFI Musique, Wikipedia (English and French) and IMDb.