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Claude François

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Claude François
François in 1965
François in 1965
Background information
Birth nameClaude Antoine Marie François
Also known asCloclo
Born(1939-02-01)1 February 1939
Ismailia, Kingdom of Egypt
Died11 March 1978(1978-03-11) (aged 39)
Paris, France
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, editor-in-chief
Instrument(s)Vocals, violin, percussion and drums
Years active1962–1978
LabelsFontana, Phillips, Flèche, Phonogram

Claude Antoine Marie François (French pronunciation: [klod ɑ̃twan maʁi fʁɑ̃swa]; 1 February 1939 – 11 March 1978), also known by the nickname Cloclo, was a French pop singer, composer, songwriter, record producer, drummer and dancer. François co-wrote the lyrics of "Comme d'habitude" (composed by Jacques Revaux), the original version of "My Way" and composed the music of "Parce que je t'aime mon enfant", the original version of "My Boy". Among his other famous songs are "Le Téléphone Pleure", "Le lundi au soleil", "Magnolias for Ever" and "Alexandrie Alexandra". He also enjoyed considerable success with French-language versions of English-language songs, including "Belles! Belles! Belles!" (The Everly Brothers' "Made to Love"), "Cette année là" ("December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)") and "Je vais à Rio" ("I Go to Rio").

Claude François is said to have sold 61,325,000 records between September 27, 1962, and December 31, 2005, including 35 million sold during his lifetime.[1][2][3] Some put forward other sales figures tending towards 30 million, including at least 20 million sold during his career.[4] To date, he is considered one of the biggest posthumous sellers of French records, with Joe Dassin and Dalida.[4] He was about to embark for the United States when he was accidentally electrocuted in March 1978 at age 39.[5] Former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing is quoted as saying Claude François was, to him, "the French equivalent of The Beatles, meaning the great talent of a generation".[6][7]

Early life[edit]

The son of a French father and a Calabrian mother, Claude Antoine Marie François was born in Egypt, in the city of Ismaïlia, where his father, Aimé François (1908–1961), was working as a senior manager in the Anglo-French Suez canal company on the Suez Canal. In 1951, the job took the family to the city of Port Tewfik (now Suez Port). François had an older sister, Josette (born 1934), who wrote her memoirs in 2008.

François' mother, Lucia Mazzeï (1910–1992) was very musical and had her son take piano and violin lessons. On his own, the boy learned to play the drums. As a result of the 1956 Suez Crisis, the family returned to live in Monaco. The family's expulsion from Egypt was traumatic. They struggled financially after François' father fell ill and could not work. François found a job as a bank clerk and at night earned extra money playing drums with an orchestra at the luxury hotels along the French Riviera. With a good singing voice, he was offered a chance to sing at a hotel in the fashionable Mediterranean resort town of Juan-les-Pins. His show was well received, and he began to perform at the nightclubs along the Côte d'Azur, including the Monte-Carlo Sporting, where in 1959, he met Janet Woollacott; they wed in 1960.[8]

Professional career and personal life[edit]

François on stage

François moved to Paris, where there were many more opportunities to pursue his career. At the time, American rock and roll was taking hold in France and he took a job as part of a singing group to make a living. With the goal of eventually making it as a solo act, he paid the cost to record a 45rpm. Trying to capitalise on the American dance craze "The Twist", he recorded a song titled "Nabout Twist" that proved a resounding failure. Undaunted, in 1962 he recorded a cover version in French of an Everly Brothers song, "Made to Love", aka "Girls, Girls, Girls", under the name "Belles! Belles! Belles!".

François' career continued to blossom under a new manager. In 1963 he followed the first success with another French adaptation of an American song, this time recording "If I Had a Hammer" and "Walk Right In" in French as "Si j'avais un marteau" and "Marche Tout Droit". François met Michel Bourdais who was working for the well-known French magazine Salut les Copains ("Hi Buddies") and he asked him to draw his portrait.[9]

At the mill of Dannemois, the famous portrait of Claude François, drawn in 1963 by Michel Bourdais at Claude's request.

On 5 April 1963,[10] he headlined at the Paris Olympia, a sign that he had arrived. In 1964, he dated 17-year-old Eurovision-winning singer, France Gall.[citation needed] At the end of that year, François created original new dance steps, and Michel Bourdais drew them. For the first time, they brought up the idea of setting up a show with female dancers.[9]

In 1967, he and Jacques Revaux wrote and composed a song in French called "Comme d'habitude" ("As Usual"), which became a hit in Francophone countries. Canadian singing star Paul Anka reworked it for the English-speaking public into the now legendary hit most famously sung by Frank Sinatra as "My Way". He sang the original version of "Parce que je t'aime, mon enfant" ("Because I Love You My Child") in 1971; it remained relatively little-known in France but Elvis Presley covered it under the title "My Boy".[citation needed]

Although François continued his successful formula of adapting English and American rock and roll hits for the French market, by the 1970s the market had changed and the disco craze that swept North America took root in France. This was no problem for the versatile François; he simply re-invented himself as the king of French disco, recording "La plus belle chose du monde", a French version of the Bee Gees' hit record, "Massachusetts".[citation needed]

Claude François performing in 1976

Looking for new talent, he came across a singing family of two sisters and their cousins. These women became known as "Les Flêchettes" (named after "Flèche", the production label he owned) and then "Les Clodettes". He produced a couple of albums for them before his death, and they went on to sing for some of the major stars in European music. He worked non-stop, touring across Europe, Africa and at major venues in Quebec in Canada.[citation needed]

However, in 1971, his workload caught up with him when he collapsed on stage from exhaustion. After a brief period off, he returned to the recording studios, releasing several best-selling hits throughout the early 1970s. He expanded from owning his own record company to acquiring a celebrity magazine and a modelling agency.[citation needed]


Although driven to achieve financial success, in 1974 he organised a concert to raise funds for a charity for handicapped children, and the following year he participated in a Paris concert to raise funds for medical research.

Personal life[edit]

In November 1960, he married dancer French-British Janet Woollacott. She left him in 1962, and he was finally divorced from her in 1967. This failed marriage was one of the three big traumas that affected his whole life. The relationship with France Gall ended in July 1967. After this, François had an affair with singer Annie Phillippe, who reportedly refused to marry him.

François soon got consolation when he arranged a date with model Isabelle Forêt, whom he had first met a few years before. Their relationship lasted from 1967 to 1972 and produced two sons, Claude Jr. in July 1968 and Marc in November 1969. He hid the existence from the public of his second son for five years because he thought that being a father of two would destroy his boyish image as "a free man and seducer". His loyal fans knew & had photos taken with him but kept it a secret

By 1972 he was single again, dating several well-known European stars. Finnish model Sofia Kiukkonen 1973–76 and American model Kathalyn (Kathleen) H. Jones-Mann 1976–78 were his most important relationships of this period. He also had an affair with his dresser Sylvie Mathurin from 1974 to 1978.

He continued to perform while overseeing his numerous business interests. In 1975, while in London, he narrowly escaped death when an IRA bomb exploded in the lobby of the Hilton hotel and two years later a fan tried to shoot him while he drove his car.[11]

In 1977–78, more than 15 years after his first hit record, he was still topping the musical charts with multi-million sales from hits such as "Alexandrie Alexandra" (which was released on the day of his burial) and performing to large audiences.

International career[edit]

He performed an international career mostly in Belgium and Switzerland, but also in Italy, Spain, England and Canada. In 1976, his song "Le Telephone Pleure" ("Tears on the Telephone") reached No. 35 in the UK Singles Chart.[12] On 16 January 1978, he performed, for the first time for a French singer, a gala at the Royal Albert Hall in London to an audience of 6000.


After recording a television special for the BBC on 10 March 1978, François returned to his Paris apartment at 46 Boulevard Exelmans. He was due to appear on Les Rendez-vous du Dimanche with [[Michel Drucker]. While preparing for a bath, François attempted to straighten a lightbulb in his bathroom lamp, causing him to receive a severe electric shock. He died in his apartment [13]

His body was buried in the village of Dannemois, in the Essonne department (about 55 km (34 mi) south of Paris), near which Claude François owned a house where he spent his weekends.


On 11 March 2000, the 22nd anniversary of his death, Place Claude-François in Paris was named in his memory; it is located right in front of the building where he died.

The 2003 jukebox musical Belles belles belles is based on François' songs.[14]

A biographical film called Cloclo (My Way internationally) was released in March 2012 to coincide with the anniversary of his death. It runs two and a half hours long and stars Jérémie Renier.

Claude François's sons, Claude Jr and Marc, have assumed the management of their father's artistic heritage over the years.


A woman named Julie Bocquet maintains that François is her father.[15] Fabienne, her mother, was 15 when she got pregnant.[16] Others have recently come forward as well.[17]



  • 2012: Génération Cloclo
  • 2012: 30 ans – Édition aniversaire (Compilation album)


English songs[edit]

  • "Go Where the Sun Is Brighter" ("Viens à la maison", English lyrics by Norman Newell)
  • "Monday Morning Again" ("Le lundi au soleil", English lyrics by Norman Newell)
  • "Love Will Call the Tune" ("Chanson populaire", English lyrics by Norman Newell)
  • "Hello Happiness" (original song by The Drifters, lyrics by Les Reed and Roger Greenaway)
  • "Tears on the Telephone" ("Le Téléphone Pleure")
  • "I Know" ("Je sais", English lyrics by Norman Newell)
  • "You Are" ("Une chanson française", English lyrics by Norman Newell)
  • "My Boy" ("Parce que je t'aime, mon enfant", English lyrics by Phil Coulter & Bill Martin)
  • "My World of Music" ("Un monde de musique", English lyrics by Norman Newell)
  • "Crying in His Heart" ("Avec le cœur, avec la tête", English lyrics by Norman Newell)
  • "My Way" ("Comme d'habitude", English lyrics by Paul Anka)
  • "I Believe in Father Christmas" (original song by Greg Lake)
  • "Stop, Stop, Stop"
  • "Keep on Driving"


  1. ^ "Claude François en chiffres". 11 March 2008.
  2. ^ "Claude François toujours rentable, 30 ans après sa mort". November 2011.
  3. ^ ""Cloclo", trente ans de succès posthume". 11 March 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Ça s'en va et ça revient". 15 March 2012.
  5. ^ French film festival City of Lights, City of Angels kicks off Monday, latimes.com, 3 February 2012.
  6. ^ France Remembers Claude François, TheArtsdesk.com, 13 February 2012
  7. ^ Pierre Pernez, Claude François en souvenirs, City Editions, 2013 (French)
  8. ^ "Janette Woollacott, grand amour et seule femme de Claude François, est morte" [Janette Woollacott, great love and only wife of Claude François, is dead]. purepeople.com (in French). 16 November 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2023.
  9. ^ a b Richard Anthony, Quand on choisit la liberté..., éditions Florent Massot, octobre 2010 (French)
  10. ^ "Claude François". www.ClaudeFrancois-LeSite.fr. Archived from the original on 6 April 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  11. ^ "Bonhams : Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 berline 1976". Bonhams.com.
  12. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 212. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  13. ^ "Leading French Popular Singer, Claude Francois, in Home Mishap". The New York Times. 12 March 1978. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  14. ^ "Belles Belles Belles". regardencoulisse.com (in French). 21 November 2003. Archived from the original on 9 December 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
  15. ^ "La fille cachée de Claude François se confie pour la première fois : Femme Actuelle Le MAG". Femmeactuelle.fr. 2 February 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  16. ^ "Fabienne, la mère de la fille cachée de Claude François, brise le silence: "À l'époque, c'est vrai que j'étais jeune..." (Vidéo)". Archived from the original on 18 September 2020. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  17. ^ "Claude François: Julie Bocquet ne serait pas sa seule enfant cachée : Femme Actuelle Le MAG". Femmeactuelle.fr. 11 February 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  18. ^ "Claude François – Vénus en blue-jeans". Ultratop.

External links[edit]