To talk about the 10 best old French songs, we need to first understand the importance of French culture throughout history. Considered as one of the world’s main cultural spots, France has always been the place for some of the most important artistic expressions. Music is no exception, and here are some examples:
- "Hymne à l'amour," Édith Piaf, Margerite Monnot. This is one of Piaf’s most memorable songs, being regarded constantly as a major reference on French music. More than a love song, it’s a real inspiring composition, a beautiful musical piece, interpreted by one of the best French singers of all time (if not the best).
- "Clair de Lune," Claude Debussy. Inspired by Paul Verlaine’s eponymous poem, this piano-only piece is the most famous movement from Debussy’s "Suite Bergamasque," and one of his most notable compositions. It has been performed by many artists and adapted into different versions throughout time. Undoubtedly, one of the best old French songs.
- "Ne me quitte pas," Jacques Brel. Definitely, this seductive French song is a classic. It has been interpreted by many singers from all over the world, and in many languages. However, the original version from Jacques Brel (who is also the author) is regarded as his masterpiece; both in performance and composition.
- "Comme d’habitude," Claude François, Jacques Revaux, Gilles Thibaut. Have you ever listened to “My Way” by Frank Sinatra? Well, perhaps you didn’t know that “Comme d’ habitude” is the original version of that song. Literally meaning “As usual”, this song is famous not only for its melody and its lyrics, but also for being one of the most covered songs in contemporary music.
- "Parlez-moi d'amour," Jean Lenoir. French singer Luciente Boyer made this love song popular in France and the rest of the world during the 1930’s decade. This song also belongs to the musical genre Chanson, or popular French music, known for its passionate singing and strong feelings within lyrics. A must-listen old French song.
- "La Mer," Charles Trenet. This song depicts the beauty of contemplating the sea, and has a quiet and tender melody. Trenet wrote the song in 1943 and recorded it in 1946. Then, it became such a great hit that still remains as a classic song and is featured in many other media. His author is also widely regarded as a main influence in French music.
- "Le Temps des Cerises," Jean-Baptiste Clement, Antoine Renard. This old French song is such a melancholic and sad one. It’s thought to be written after the "Semaine Sanglante," or “bloody week”, when military troops took over Parisian streets to overthrow the Paris Commune. The most popular version of this song was interpreted by Yves Montand, many years after it was written.
- "La vie en rose," Édith Piaf, Louis Gugliemi. This song is such popular that there’s almost anyone that hasn’t listened to it; there’s even a movie about it. Certainly, Édith Piaf wrote and interpreted one of the most beautiful songs that have been ever written. Personally, this is my favorite song from Piaf, and the one that I recommend the most.
- "Le Plat Pays," Jacques Brel. Another one of Brel’s notable musical pieces, this one was written after Brel’s place of origin, in Belgium. It’s a very popular old French song, and it’s constantly referenced and featured in many other media. There’s also version in Dutch language, also interpreted by Brel.
- "Au Clair de Lune." To finish this list, we have to mention probably the most popular song in France. Actually, this folk song has lyrics for a lullaby, and is thought to children at a very early age. One curious fact about this song is that the earliest recording ever contains this song.
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