Over the years, there are certain French musicians who have marked history. From Classical music to RAP and Rock, there are famous names that you might know, now you can discover much more about music from France

Let us go back in history and find out how contemporary French music evolved.

– During the Renaissance period, the priest Guillaume Dufay composed more than a hundred songs, mostly for the Church where he worked. One of the most famous he made is Missa l’Homme Armé.

Jean-Baptiste Lully is a composer of the Baroque period. Extremely skilled, he also was a businessman and a teacher. Under the reign of Le Roi Soleil Louis XIV, Lully‘s music marked the entire Europe and he taught his art to some other future great composers such Henry Desmarest, Marin Marais and Pierre Verdier. Les Folies d’Espagne.

– Still in the same period, Marin Marais first studied in a chorus but when his voice transformed, he was sent to the mysterious Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe to learned the viol bass. Thrown out by Sainte-Colombe as he feared to be exceeded by his student, Marin Marais secretly continued to listen to his master and learnt his art before being discovered and then sent away. Marais‘ life is related in Tous les Matins du Monde by Pascal Quignard and its cinematographic adaptation by Alain Corneau. Tombeau pour Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe.

Jacques Offenbach is a German native composer and cellist of the Romantic period. Very successful, he created his own theater in Paris, Bouffes-Parisiens. Orphée aux Enfers.

Achille-Claude Debussy is an impressionist. Anti conformist, he created his own style in a modernism genre. Debussy is mainly known for his piano works like Valse Romantique or Arabesques.

La Chanson Française ( the French songs genre ) is very popular in France since the 30s. Charles Trenet is considered as the father of this genre.

-The female singer Edith Piaf is probably the most famous French artist. Her life has been recently related in the movie La Môme by Olivier Dehan featuring Marion Cotillard as Edith piaf. Padam Padam.

Léo Ferré in almost 50 years of career, released more than forty albums. His work was influenced by the anarchist movement which he claimed to be part of.  C’est Extra.

Serge Gainsbourg was a singer-songwritter, poet, actor and director. Considered to be one of the world’s most influential artist, his music is almost impossible to categorize ( Rock, Jazz, Reggae,… ). His provocations, ” ugly face ” contributed to his fame. Sorry Angel.

– Claude ” Cloclo ” François is a popular singer of the 60s and 70s who accidentally died of an electrocution in his bathroom. He was considered as the favorite artist of children with songs like Cette Année Là and Alexandrie Alexandra.

The Jazz Manouche ( Gypsy Jazz ), a genre born in France in the 30s, gave birth to some of the greatest virtuoso ( guitar mainly ) like Joseph and David Reinhardt ( family of Django Reinhardt ). Nuages.

Punk music also emerged in France in the 80s with bands like La Souris Déglinguée ( the knackered Mouse ), Bérurier Noir, Les Garçons Bouchers ( Butcher Boys ) and many others.

French Rock’n’Roll was marked with famous artists since the 50s. Baptiste Reilles aka Mac-Kac released in 1956 the first Rock album of France.  In the early 60s, Richard Anthony,  Johnny Hallyday became the first French Rock-stars followed by young bands like Les Vautours ( The Vultures ), Les Pirates ( The Pirates ) or Jocelyne.

In the 90s, Indochine, Noir Désir, Matmatah, Dyonisos became famous rock bands in France.

In the middle of the 80s, a new genre appeared  : the French Rap. The pioneers are IAM, Suprême NTM, Assassin and some others and they were followed in the 90s by La Fouine, Seth Gueko.


You can also read an article about Hard Rock and Heavy Metal that list some French bands and artists.

Here are some other influential actual musicians –> Manu Chao, Diam’s, La Rue Kétanou, David Guetta, Mickey 3D, Pascal Obispo, Florent Pagny, Daft Punk, La Phaze, Manau, Tri Yann.