Chantal Goya released a string of singles between 1964 and 1967 and starred in Jean-Luc Godard’s classic nouvelle vague film Masculin féminin, before relaunching herself as a singer of children’s songs.
She was born Chantal Deguerre in Saigon, in Indochina (now Vietnam), on 10 June 1942. Her parents moved back to France, settling in Remiremont, in the Vosges region in the north-east of the country, when she was four years old.
She studied in Paris, before heading to Britain, where she would pass her baccalauréat in a French school.
In 1962, she was offered a role as an extra in the Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn film Charade. Despite its success, Chantal saw no future for herself in the film business.
By the time the film was released in 1963, she had met songwriter Jean-Jacques Debout. The pair would soon begin dating. Debout had penned hits for the likes of Sylvie Vartan and her future husband Johnny Hallyday. He was also friends with Daniel Filipacchi, head of A&R at RCA Victor and founder of the magazines Salut les copains! and Mademoiselle âge tendre. The two men convinced Chantal to make a record.
The result was C’est bien Bernard, a poppy affair written by Debout, released in December that year on RCA Victor. The song became a small hit.
The follow up, Une écharpe, une rose, another Debout composition, was issued in May 1965 and was a small success in France – but gave the singer a top three hit in Japan. Her naïve vocals held a certain charm, and Sois gentil, one of the other tracks on the EP, highlighted her child-like timbre, drawing comparisons with star France Gall.
Her third release, Si tu gagnes au flipper, issued in October 1965, kicked off with the sounds of a pinball machine before moving into a Locomotion-styled chorus. During its promotion, Chantal was introduced to film director Jean Luc Godard, who offered her a role in his next movie.
In February 1966, she married Debout, and two months later she issued a further EP, featuring one of her best recordings, the bass-heavy Laisse-moi, as the lead track. The release also included Dans la nuit, a version of British star Twinkle’s Golden lights, and the France Gall-esque Mon ange gardien.
As promised, Chantal took the lead role of Madeleine in Godard’s Masculin féminin, a classic of French nouvelle vague cinema, which was released in 1966. The film featured six tracks sung by Chantal, taken from her first four releases, and an EP was released to coincide with the film’s release.
In March 1967, she issued what was to become her final EP of the decade, the gentle Pense pas trop, written by Pierre Cour and André Popp – the men behind Greek-born, German-based singer Vicky’s L’amour est bleu and songs by France Gall and Dalida, amongst others.
After giving birth to a son, she withdrew from singing, though she continued to act, starring in films such as 1968’s L’amour, c’est gai, l’amour, c’est triste and 1969’s L’échelle blanche.
In the mid-1970s she cashed in her cool points and relaunched herself as a singer of children’s songs. However, the move proved lucrative – and she enjoyed much greater success than she had with her yé-yé material a decade earlier. Indeed, it is for this material that she remains known today.
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