10 Best French Folk Songs
Folk music is an important part of French heritage and culture, and the 10 best French folk songs epitomize that heritage. These songs which have become cultural standards in French music have been sung by many important French artists and have stood the test of time to be the best French folk songs around.
- "Frere Jacques". "Frere Jacques", meaning “Brother James”, is a traditional French nursery song. It is usually sung by children in a round and is about a boy that is still sleeping though it is morning. The history and familiarity of this light tunes makes it one of the best French folk songs.
- "Vive la Rose". "Vive la Rose" is a French folk song dating back to the 18th century. It’s topic is unrequited love and explains how a man dumped a woman then went on to have a new girlfriend. The of this best French folk song repeats the lyrics “Vive la rose et le lilas” meaning “long live the rose and the lily.”
- "Sur le Pont d’Avignon". "Sur le Pont d’Avignon" meaning “On Avignon Bridge” is one of the best French folk songs. The song dates back to the 15th century and is about dancing on the Avignon Bridge.
- "Au Clair de la Lune". "Au Clair de la Lune", meaning “In the Moonlight” is traditional song is often taught to beginning students learning the glockenspiel because of its simple and recognizable melody.
- "Il Etait un Petit Navire". This traditional French tune meaning, “There was a little ship” is now considered a children’s song although the subject matter is quite dark. The song tells the story of a little sailor who is shipwrecked and is about to be eaten by the other sailors. The song discusses not only the cannibalism but also how to cook and eat the boy.
- "Le Bon Roi Dagobert". Written at the end of the French Revolution the title means “Good King Dagobert.” It makes our list of the best French folk songs due to its satire and ridicule of French royals.
- "Marlbrough s’en va-t-en Guerre". Meaning, “Marlborough has left for the war” this is one of the most popular French folk songs ever written. The melody is the same as the English tune “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” and is sung from the perspective of a wartime widow.
- "Gentil Coquelicot". "Gentil Coquelicot" meaning “Pretty Poppy” is one of the sweetest and best French folk songs for children. The sweet bouncy tune tells a story of a little girl going into her garden to pick poppies and meeting a nightingale that speaks to her.
- "Dame Tartine". A silly tune meaning “bread and butter lady” is one of the most recognizable and best French folk songs. The song is about a lady who lived in a palace of butter, cream, herbs and nuts.
- "Ah! Mon Beau Chateau". This popular French folk song is a bouncy melody, the title of which means, “Oh! My lovely castle.” The song is sung in alternating verses by two groups, the lyrics pit the groups against each other arguing about who’s castle is more beautiful.