Françoise Hardy Moved Bob Dylan To Write Poetry

A look back at their friendship...

The passing of Françoise Hardy has caused the music world to stand still, reflecting upon its loss. A groundbreaking songwriter who helped shape French culture during the tumultuous 60s, she became an iconic figure in music and fashion, an acclaimed actress, and a noted author. Mick Jagger famously fell under her spell, but Hardy perhaps left the deepest impact on Bob Dylan.

The American artist was drawn to Françoise Hardy, entranced by the gentleness of her music, and the alienation found in her lyrics. Notably, his album ‘Another Side Of Bob Dylan’ features ‘some other kinds of songs’ on its sleeve – including a poem dedicated to the French singer.

‘For Françoise Hardy, at the Seine’s edge, a giant shadow of Notre Dame’ is a public sign of adoration, and it seems Dylan’s feelings ran deep. During a later interview, Françoise Hardy explained that Bob Dylan sent her passionate letters – the exact details of which she could never divulge.

“I realise that in the early ’60s, Bob Dylan maybe really had a romantic fixation on me – as only young people can have,” she once said.

“I can say that the two drafts are very moving, but I cannot reveal what they say. Also, I don’t understand everything of what he has written. I do think, from the poem he wrote, which I did not take too seriously at the time, and now these letters, that I had quite a place in his mind at that time and even in his heart. I think maybe I was very serious for him. And, it moves me very much.”

Later speaking to the Guardian’s Sean O’Hagan, she told the interviewer about a meeting in a Paris hotel room in 1966. “It was truly a shock to see him,” she said. Dylan played her a number of new songs, some destined to appear on his groundbreaking double album ‘Blonde On Blonde’.

One impressed her greatly – ‘Just Like A Woman’.

She recalled: “I was too busy listening intently to the songs, which sounded like something entirely different to anything I had heard before. Plus, I was so impressed and petrified to meet him. Maybe if he had sung the songs to me, I would have got it.”

The French artist expanded on this to Pitchfork, commenting: “When he played his songs for me [in a hotel room in 1966] he seemed very shy, and I was very shy too, so we didn’t say anything to each other. At the time, my English was worse than it is today, so I didn’t really understand the words for ‘Just Like a Woman’. I only understood, ‘You make love just like a woman/Then you ache just like a woman/But you break just like a little girl’, which was moving to me, very sentimental.”

Ultimately, the fascination was one-sided – Françoise Hardy married fellow French pop icon Jacques Dutronc, raising a son. She told Pitchfork:

“He was impressed with me, but not by the singer; by the girl, I think. He had a kind of romantic fixation on a photo of me, but I didn’t take it too seriously at that time. Recently, I got two drafts of letters written by him for me, and I finally realised that he was very serious about this fixation when he was very young. It moved me deeply when I read those letters.”

Related: Another Person: Françoise Hardy Interviewed

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