With her gutsy vocal delivery, teenage singer Jocelyne was France’s answer to Brenda Lee. In true yé-yé girl style, she enjoyed successes with covers of international hits and a sprinkling of original compositions.
She was born Jocelyne Journo on 14 August 1951 in Tunisia. Her family moved back to France while she was still a young girl, and settled in Champs-sur-Marne, in the Parisian suburbs.
Her potential was spotted by Mya Simille, the lyricist for French rock star Dick Rivers and she was offered a contract with the Polydor label at the age of just 12. Her vocal delivery drew comparisons – all justified – with that of American star Brenda Lee.
She issued her first EP in February 1964, featuring Il a tout pour lui, a cover of American singer Darlene Love’s Fine, fine boy, as the lead track. The record was promoted on television and in live performances.
But it was her second EP that was to make her name. Interestingly, the release, issued in July 1964, saw the Brenda Lee soundalike cover a Brenda Lee song and take the French record-buying public by storm. Le dimanche et le jeudi, a cover of Little Miss Dynamite’s Lonely, lonely, lonely me, had audiences dancing at Jocelyne’s first concerts at Paris’ prestigious Olympia venue, where she provided support for Trini Lopez. J’ai changé de pays, her version of the Jackie de Shannon-penned Heart in hand, also proved popular.
For her third EP, Jocelyne took at a stab at Paul Anka’s Bad boy, retitled Les garçons. A take on the Stevie Wonder’s La la la la la proved another highlight of the release. Again, she promoted the disc during concerts at Olympia, this time supporting Dalida.
Les garçons proved popular enough to prompt an invitation to appear on American television, in NBC’s popular Hullabaloo programme. Aired in January 1965, the programme saw Jocelyne appear on the same bill as British group The Zombies, amongst others.
Her appearance caused a wave of publicity back in France and her record company was quick to capitalise on her success.
She was dispatched on a further tour and a cracking version of Shirley Ellis’ Nitty gritty was issued on an EP with little delay.
An album soon followed. Entitled simply Jocelyne, it brought together most of her previous releases and a few new songs, including Elle ma l’a volé (originally Darlene Paul’s All cried out) and A la fin tu gagneras (a Mort Shuman-penned track).
With her star in the ascendant, she was whisked off to London to record her follow up. There, her vocals for Chaque fois que je rêve, another Brenda Lee cover, this time of Thanks a lot, drew comparisons with those of British singer Lulu.
Her final release of 1965, Regarde-moi, marked a musical transformation. Gone was the frenetic dance numbers of the past, and in came a mid-tempo ballad that was also an original song. Gone, too, were the bobby socks and satchel of her debut release. Lyrically, the song defined Jocelyne, although still only 14, as a woman.
It is, without question, one of her finest moments.
The EP also included Moi je veux croire à l’amour, a version of Italian star Rita Pavone’s chart topper Lui, plus two further original compositions.
The following spring she switched labels to Barclay.
At the new label, she issued the Chantons plus fort EP. Other highlights of the release include J’ai oublié, an energetic version of Betty Everett’s I can’t hear you no more and Reviendra-t-il encore, her take on The Shirelles’ Will you love me tomorrow.
Perhaps surprisingly, then, within a year she’d moved to Montreal, in Canada’s Quebec. There she would release a couple of singles on the Vedette label.
She returned to France in 1971 to attempt a comeback, with My way, a version of the Claude François hit Comme d’habitude. The song had also proved successful elsewhere in mainland Europe for Britain’s Samantha Jones and has become a standard in the hands of Frank Sinatra and others.
Sadly, however, Jocelyne she was killed in a motorcycle accident on the day of its release, 25 June 1972.
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