Danish actress, director, model, and writer Anna Karina had two big hit songs in the '60s by Serge Gainsbourg: "Sous le Soleil Exactement" and "Roller Girl." Both songs were from the 1967 TV musical comedy Anna, which features seven songs by the Danish beauty. In addition to her film and music career, Anna's written four novels.
French singer France Gall's first single "Ne Sois pas si Bête" ("Don't Be So Stupid") hit the airways on her 16th birthday, and she was only 18 when she recorded one of her biggest hits, "Les Sucettes" ("Lollipops"). The risqué song was written by Serge Gainsbourg and was full of sexual innuendos that France claims she didn't realize until much later, causing her to split from her professional relationship with Serge. France also had a successful career in Germany, and one of her popular songs "Der Computer Nr. 3" (1968) was way ahead of its time — it's about using a computer to find love!
Anna Maria Quaini, known as Mina, is an Italian pop star who was known as the "bad girl" of the yé-yés thanks to her scandalous relationship (and pregnancy!) with a married actor in the early '60s. Her sex appeal poured over into her lyrics, like in her song "Ta-Ra-Ta-Ta": "The way you smoke, you are irresistible to me, you look like a real man."
French yé-yé Françoise Hardy is a singer, actress, astrologer, and fashion icon. She signed her first contract before graduating university in 1961, and the record "Oh Oh Chéri" came out the following year. One of her most popular songs from the '60s is "Tous les Garçons et les Filles" ("All the Boys and Girls"), and it portrays the innocent side of the yé-yé movement, with its lyrics like: "All the guys and girls my age know how it feels to be happy, but I am lonely. When will I know how it feels to have someone?"
One of the lesser-known yé-yé girls is French singer Chantal Kelly, who had a short-lived music career, but made her mark during the movement nonetheless. She debuted in 1965 with "Caribou," a song with a world music vibe. While many of the pop singers of the '60s sang covers of UK and US hits, Chantal had an upperhand with her personal songwriter Cris Carol, a known singer-songwriter. But she retired from the music industry after five EPs and a full-length album.
The most popular yé-yé girl in France was French pop star Sheila (born Annie Chancel), who had numerous hits in the '60s and '70s and was the "good girl" of the yé-yés. Her career began at 16, and her first hit was "L'École Est Finie" ("School Is Over"). Her stage name came from her first release, "Sheila," a French cover of the American 1962 hit by Tommy Roe.
The toughest of the yé-yé girls was Sylvie Vartan, who married a rock star and had the nickname "la collégienne du twist" (the "twisting schoolgirl"), thanks to her swingin' dance moves.
French singer-songwriter Jacqueline Taïeb was born in Tunis, Tunisia, and moved to France with her family when she was eight. An early starter, she began composing songs with her guitar by 12, and was discovered in 1966 when she was just singing with friends. Her first song and ultimately biggest hit was 1967's "7 Heures du Matin," which is about a teen girl fantasizing about Paul McCartney.
Rita Pavone is an Italian yé-yé girl and actress who became a famous pop star at 17. Her hit song "Coeur" ("Heart") sold a million copies in 1963 and spent nine weeks at No. 1 in Italy. In the song she sings of the suffering of love.
Another lesser-known yé-yé girl is Evelyne Courtois, known as Pussy Cat. She was a member of the five-piece girl group Les Petites Souris, and once the group broke up in 1964, her solo career mostly consisted of covering popular UK and US hits.
Vietnamese Tiny Yong was born Thien Juong Ton Hu Thi in Cambodia before her family moved to France when she was in her teens. She began her career by acting in local theater productions and performing cabaret before she hit her break in the 1961 film Marco Polo and later Le Jeu de la Verité. French star Henri Salvador signed her to his music label in 1963 and Thien became Tiny Yong, the next big yé-yé girl. One of her first hits was "Tais-Toi Petite Folle" — a cover of The Shirelles's "Foolish Little Girl."
French model, actress, singer, and sex symbol of the '60s, Brigitte Bardot recorded pop songs as a part of the yé-yé movement in collaboration with Serge Gainsbourg. Some of her hits from the '60s included "Harley Davidson," "Je me Donne a Qui me Plaît," and "Bubble Gum." Brigitte asked Serge to not release the French duet he sang with her, "Je t'aime . . . Moi non Plus" ("I Love You . . . Me Neither"), so he rerecorded it with model and girlfriend Jane Birkin in 1969. But in 1986, the version with Brigitte was released and was the third most downloaded song when Universal Records put its back catalog online in 2006.