Sylvie Vartan was just seventeen when she embarked upon a career as a ye-ye singer. Little did she realise that this was the start of a five decade career, where Sylvie would be crowed queen of French pop. By then, she was one of the most successful of the new generation of French singers. This success was set to continue. 

Ye-ye’s popularity didn’t last for ever. Towards the late sixties,  its popularity began to dwindle. That marked the end of many ye-ye singers’ career. However, unlike many of her contemporaries, Sylvie went on to enjoy a long and successful career.

It’s spanned five decades, and during that period, Sylvie released over fifty albums. This resulted in Sylvie becoming one of the biggest names in French music. Her music also found an audience outside of France. Especially, Sylvie’s English language recordings. 

Just like many ye-ye singers, Sylvie recorded in French and English. That was the case throughout the sixties. Nearly all of Sylvie’s English language recordings feature on En Anglais…Et En Americain, which was recently released by Ace International, an imprint of Ace Records. It documents the period between 1962 and 1968, when Sylvie’s star was in the ascendancy and she was one half of France’s golden couple. That was still to come.

Before that Sylvie was born on August the 15th 1944 in Iskretz, Bulgaria. Life was tough for the Vartan family in post war Bulgaria, so they moved back to France in 1952, where her father was born.

In Paris, life was tough for the Vartan family for the first couple of years. The family lived in just one room. Eventually, things began to improve for the Vartan household, where music was omnipresent.

Sylvie’s father George was a composer and pianist. Music was a constant in the Vartan household. Later, Sylvie’s brother who was seven years her senior began to play the French horn. Soon, he switched to the trumpet, and later, joined a jazz group. Meanwhile, Sylvie was struggling to learn French. Soon, though she would master not just French, but English too,

In high school, Sylvie’s language skills improved. She became fluent in French, and later English. Her love of English novels helped her learn English. So did her love of American jazz, which her brother introduced her too. Later, Sylvie started going to the movies and later, discovered jazz and later, rock ’n’ roll. This she preferred to French music. Sylvie’s love of music, movies, art and literature would result in her becoming fluent in English. So much so, that later, she was equally comfortable recording in English and French.

Despite her love of music, Sylvie never contemplated a embarking upon a musical career. That was until her brother Eddie decided to he no longer wanted to study law. Upon leaving university, he got a job working in A&R at Decca Records.

One of the artists Eddie was responsible for was Frankie Jordan. He was going to cover the John D. Loudermilk penned Out Of Gas in French. To make the song work, it needed a female vocalist to provide the counterpoint. Eddie Vartan decided that Sylvie would be perfect for the part. 

First he had to persuade his parents to all seventeen year old Sylvie to sing on the Panne D’essence. They eventually agreed, and Sylvie made her recording debut on Panne D’essence. The single was released in late 1961, and became a hit. 

The success of the single resulted in Sylvie having to appear on French television. This lead to Sylvie being given the nickname collégienne du twist by the press. Soon, the the twisting schoolgirl would leave the Victor Hugo High School and embarked upon a musical career.

This began when Sylvie signed with RCA Victor, and released the E.P. Quand Le Film Est Triste. It featured a cover of another John D. Loudermilk song Sad Movies (Make Me Cry). The E.P. was released in December 1961, and gave Sylvie her first hit single as a solo artist. 

In 1962, the hits kept coming for Sylvie. She enjoyed hits with covers of What’d I Say, The Locomotion and Baby It’s You. There’s an unreleased alternate take of the ballad Baby It’s You. This was one of Sylvie’s earliest English language recordings. It features on En Anglais…Et En Americain, This version of Baby It’s You is a reminder that although Sylvie’s career was in its infancy, she was already a talented vocalist. Her music was about to reach a much wider audience in 1963.

Especially as music began to play an important part in the life of French youths. Pop and rock music grew in popularity. Meanwhile, the ye-ye scene began to explode. So did Sylvie’s popularity. She was well on her way to becoming one of the stars of French music. So much so, that Sylvie travelled to Nashville to an album record with The Jordanaires, A Nashville. 

When Sylvie returned to Paris, having recorded A Nashville, an EP was released. This was Sylvie À Nashville 1, which features Since You Don’t Care. Later in 1963, Paul Anka offered a number of songs to Sylvie. One of these, was one of her first English language recordings, (I’m Watching) Every Little Move You Make. It was released later in 1963, and gave Sylvie a hit single. By then, she was part of French music’s golden couple.

Earlier in 1963, Sylvie had met French singer Johnny Hallyday, and the pair embarked upon a high profile relationship. They would later marry two years later in 1965. During that two year period, Sylvie’s career had blossomed.

1964 was a huge year for Sylvie. She shared the bill with The Beatles in Paris. This was a huge step, considering her career only began in 1961. Now she was rubbing shoulders with musical royalty. She was also a prolific artist.

During 1964, Sylvie release her eponymous album Sylvie Vartan. It featured He Understands Me, which Sylvie would release again in 1995. She also released her Sha La La EP, which featured the Paul Anka penned USA. However, one of Sylvie’s most-anticipated releases of 1964 was her A Nashville album in 1964. 

Most of the songs on A Nashville had been recorded in French. That is apart from Love Has Laid His Hands On Me, Since You Don’t Care and I Wish You Well. They’re part of an album that features Sylvie maturing as a singer, on an album where she flitted between different styles. Already Sylvie was a versatile and hugely popular singer with an international fan-base. This would continue to grow in 1965. 

In March 1965, Sylvie released I Made My Choice as a single, with One More Day as the B-Side. This was a high profile release, with the might of RCA Victor getting behind the single. This includes a round of television and radio appearances, including an appearance on Shindig and the Tonight Show in America. RCA Victor were trying to launch Sylvie’s career the lucrative American and Canadian market. 

To help do this, Sylvia released the LP Gift Wrapped From Paris in 1965. Some of its highlights were I Can’t Make Him Look At Me, My Boyfriend’s Back, Alley Oop and It’s Not A Game, One More Time and Encore Une Fois. Gift Wrapped From Paris introduced Sylvie to an even wider audience internationally.

Back home, Sylvia continued to release singles and EP’s throughout 1965. This included the Quand Tu Es Là, which featured an emotive reading of It’s Not A Game. The Dans Tes Bras EP featured Sylvie’s heartfelt cover of Gonna Cry. Sylvie was a prolific and popular artist. She also recorded the ballad Another Heart and delivers a needy vocal Thinking About You. These two tracks from 1965 are welcome additions to En Anglais…Et En Americain compilation. 1965 had been another successful year for Sylvie. 

As 1965 drew to a close, was crowned France’s top female pop singer for the third consecutive year. Sylvie now an international star, whose music had made inroads into the European and Japanese markets. However, the biggest change in her life was she had married Johnny Hallyday. The pair were regarded as French music’s golden couple. Soon, two would become three.

Before that, Sylvie’s brother became her manager in March 1966. By then, Sylvie was pregnant and expecting her first child. Still, she continued to release singles and her album Sylvie. Later in 1966, Sylvie gave birth to her son David Hallyday on August 14th 1966. Then as 1966 gave way to 1967, Sylvie’s successful career continued.

Still Sylvie continued to enjoy hit singles in 1967. She also released a new album, Ballade Pour Un Sourire. This was quite different to her earlier ye-ye sound. Sylvie who was still just twenty-three was maturing as a singer, and reinventing herself.

That’s one of the reasons why she has enjoyed such longevity. The success that she had enjoyed since 1961 continued. Sylvie’s singles were hits, and early seven years after her career began, she returned with a new album, Sylvie Vartan. This was the eighth album of her career. However, this was just the start for Sylvie.

Eventually, Sylvie would release around fifty studio and live albums. Her career has spanned five decades. The Ace International compilation En Anglais…Et En Americain features Sylvie’s English language recordings the period between 1962 and 1968. As well as featuring singles and tracks from EP’s and albums, En Anglais…Et En Americain includes a number of previously unreleased bonus tracks.

This includes You Please Me So, Stupid Cupid, Baby It’s You, Whirlpool and Friends In Need Are Friends Indeed. These tracks show different sides to Sylvie. They also document how she evolves and matures as a singer. Especially by 1965

That’s when Sylvie released her single I Made My Choice. This is a beautiful song that’s bristling with emotion. However, two of the best of the previously unreleased tracks are I Heard Somebody Say and Gonna Cry. They were recorded during the sessions for Sylvie’s 1965 album Gift Wrapped From Paris. Both tracks are welcome additions to En Anglais…Et En Americain, which was recently released by Ace International, an imprint of Ace Records. 

For the newcomer of Sylvie, then En Anglais…Et En Americain is the perfect introduction to her music. It features twenty-five ylvie’s English language recordings the period between 1962 and 1968. They range from singles, tracks from from EP’s and albums and a number of unreleased tracks. These songs document the first six years of the Sylvie’s long and illustrious career.

During this period, Sylvie was one of French music’s most successful artists. She won the title of the best French pop singer on serval occasions. Sylvie’s music became popular across Europe and as far afield as Japan and North America. Already she was an international artist, who enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. That’s no surprise.

Sylvie was a hugely talented and versatile vocalist, who was capable of breathing emotion and meaning into a song. This does throughout the twenty-five songs on En Anglais…Et En Americain. It charts and charts the rise and rise of the Queen of French Pop, Sylvie.










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