Brigitte Bardot, who celebrates her 80th birthday tomorrow, was in her heyday a fine popular singer. She made some good records between 1962 and 1970, and was offered songs by top writers. She had been a screen actress for several years before she first recorded at the age of 28. Her acting experience ensured that lip-synching on camera and making good pop videos was no problem for her, and she could fully match Sylvie Vartan and France Gall when she wanted.
A good example of this talent is BB doing the twist with ‘L’Appareil à sous’ (1963):
Bardot’s greatest collaboration was with the writing duo Jean-Max Rivière and Gérard Bourgeois, who later gave Françoise Hardy two of her best-loved sixties songs, ‘Rendez-vous d’automne’ and ‘L’Amitié’. Here is BB performing their ‘C’est rigolo’, carefully-choreographed for TV
In 1967, for the film ‘A Coeur joie’ in which she starred, she recorded the beautiful ‘A la fin de l’été’, (also written by Rivière and Bourgeois) played against an autumn beach scene in the film.
Serge Gainsbourg, taken with the film ‘Bonny and Clyde’ wrote a French song about the story for himself and BB and produced this stylish video in 1968.
If that today looks very much of its time, BB’s recording of Marcel Zanini’s ‘Tu veux ou tu veux pas’ is as refreshing today as when it came out in 1970.
And it has taken until today to be matched, by the modern pop seductress Elodie Frégé in 2013.
But of all her songs, Brigitte Bardot deserves to be remembered forever for ‘La Madrague’. Une madrague is a fishing net used in the Mediterranean to catch tuna, and she bought her famous seaside house at Saint-Tropez of that name in 1958. This perfect light song was written for her and her house by Jean-Max Rivière and Gérard Bourgeois in 1963. Here is BB on TV in the 60s, and in a video filmed at ‘La Madrague’ in 1968.
The English translation here (over a somewhat distorted photo of BB) shows how ‘La Madrague’ succeeds as a classic by its simplicity.
And ‘La Madrague’ perhaps more than any other Bardot song gave us something else. When she first came to our attention in 2009, and was asked what past singers she had learned from, Béatrice Martin (Coeur de Pirate) said that she was influenced by Brigitte Bardot and Françoise Hardy; and interestingly more by BB than by Françoise. This puzzled those who did not know of BB’s recordings. But listening to ‘La Madrague’ it all becomes clear. The light, high voice of Bardot seems a prototype of Béatrice’s, and one can imagine how she realised that she could do what BB had done, and take it so much further because she could add her own writing and piano skills to her unique voice. ‘La Madrague’ is Coeur de Pirate in embryo.
God created woman, as the 1956 film that made Bardot’s name tells us, but Brigitte Bardot’s own voice and singing style was a major inspiration to Béatrice Martin. BB created CdP. Now that is a legacy.