15 Of The Greatest And Most Famous French Male Singers Of All Time

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

France is known for many things: its wine, cheese, croissants, and baguettes, to name a few. But France is also famous for its singers, thanks in part to the beautiful French language which is well-known for its romance and elegance.

In this post, we’re going to be taking a brief look at 15 of the greatest and most famous french male singers. Read on to learn about these memorable artists, and their legendary, sometimes tragic, careers.

1. Serge Gainsbourg

Up first, we have Serge Gainsbourg, who is one of the most famous French singers of all time.

Gainsbourg was born in Paris and survived Nazi Germany’s invasion during World War II. This tumultuous childhood bloomed into a spectacular life.

Throughout his career, Gainsbourg was known for experimenting with a variety of music forms, like reggae, pop, and jazz. He mastered all of them with his popular lyrics referencing provocative subjects and using witty wordplay. 

One of his most famous songs is “Bonnie and Clyde” but he was also a prolific songwriter penning over 500 songs.

Gainsbourg was not only an accomplished singer but also a novelist and actor. 

His Hollywood life is probably best known for his famous marriage to Jane Birkin, the inspiration for one of the most expensive handbags in the world, the Birkin bag.

2. Jean-Jacques Goldman

Born in Paris in 1951, Jean-Jacques Goldman is a french singer and songwriter who crossed over to international pop superstardom in the 1990s, earning a Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1997.

Over his career, Goldman has achieved one of the highest-grossing careers in French music history.

Besides his works, he’s produced, written, and composed famous songs for international pop icons like Celine Dion.

In particular, he wrote and produced 11 songs for her album “D’eux,” which is the best-selling French album of all time. 

Related: For more like this, check out our famous French female singers post here.

3. Johnny Hallyday

Next up, we have the legendary Johnny Hallyday, who was France’s first rock star.

Born Jean-Philippe Leo Smet in Paris, Hallyday forged a successful and tumultuous musical career that spanned over 60 years, 80 albums, and 110 million records globally.

Hallyday turned heads for his albums as much as his personal life. He earned five diamond, 22 platinum, and 40 golden records. 

Away from his career, Hallyday was married five times and was noted for countless headline-making romances. His other great love was car racing, which he once passionately pursued as a rally driver.

4. Thomas Bangalter

For 28 years, Thomas Bangalter performed under a completely opaque helmet. But after the high-profile breakup of the electronic music group Daft Punk, Bangalter was revealed. 

Although he was born in Mexico, the disc jockey, guitarist, producer, singer, and composer is considered to be a French singer.

Some of his most famous songs with Daft Punk include “Get Lucky” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” which was famously sampled by Kanye West in his rap song, “Stronger.”

Now that Daft Punk is no more, Bangalter’s next steps are unknown. However, he has achieved success as a director, screenwriter, and composer of film scores, so his future is as bright as his shiny signature helmet.

5. M. Pokora

Often compared to pop superstars like Justin Timberlake, M. Pokora has dominated the French music charts in the 2000s and 2010s.

M. Pokora, born Matthieu Tota in Strasbourg, France, originally shot to fame in 2003 after winning the televised talent contest, Popstars.

His most famous single is “Tombé,” which has more than 70 million views since it was posted on YouTube in 2019.

Pokora continues to coach young pop stars via the medium that made him famous, on TV talent shows like The Voice.

6. Maurice Chevalier

Most remembered for his starring role in the musical “Gigi,” Maurice Chevalier had an extraordinary life.

Born in 1888’s Paris, he fought in World War I, during which he was injured and imprisoned after enduring the horrors of trench warfare. 

Starting his entertainment career as an acrobat, Chevalier went on to record several famous songs like, “Valentine,” “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” and the title song of the Disney animated movie “Aristocats.”

By the time world war II broke out, he was already a household name. And impressively, despite being scarred from his personal experience during the first world war, Chevalier agreed to perform during the German occupation of France in a reluctant exchange to help French prisoners go free.

7. Fab Morvan

Born in Paris in 1966 and known for a live television disaster as much as his R&B music, Fab Morvan is one-half of the 1990s musical duo Milli Vanilli.

Milli Vanilli rose to international fame in the early 1990s with songs like “Blame it on the Rain” and “Girl You Know It’s True.” Their catchy and romantic hits gained fans around the globe and led to a 1990 Grammy nomination.

However, that Grammy nomination exposed Morvan, and his Milli Vanilli partner Rob Pilatus, for lip-syncing. As it turned out, they had been chosen for their handsome, model looks and not their vocal skills.

The scandal continues to affect the duo, with comeback attempts failing.

8. Bilal Hassani

One of the youngest members of this list, Bilal Hassani is a YouTuber, songwriter, and pop singer from Paris, France.

Hassani is known for contemporary costuming that pushes the boundaries of fashion and gender identity.

Although born male, in 2017 Hassani came out as a trans woman and has sadly had a lot of transphobic attacks online.

Despite the awful bullying, Hassani burst onto the scene in 2019 after reaching the Eurovision Song Contest final, finishing the competition in 16th place. The Eurovision song “Roi” has nearly 20 million views on YouTube.

9. Charles Aznavour

Parisian-born singer-songwriter Charles Aznavour was an acclaimed singer and lyricist, but also an actor and respected diplomat who was known for his signature low, gravelly voice.

To put his fame into perspective, Aznavour is commonly considered to have been the Frank Sinatra of France. 

After his passing, Aznavour was honored by the New Yorker in 2018. This famous magazine called Aznavour the last and greatest troubadour and one of the enduring faces of France.

Over his lifetime, he sold more than 200 million records and earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1998, CNN named Aznavour the Entertainer of the Century. 

10. Gilbert Becaud

Before his death in 2001, Gilbert Becaud was known for his signature quirks as much as his unforgettable singles. His frenetic, high-energy performances led to his nickname of the “Man of 10,000 Volts.”

Born in Toulon in 1927, Becaud was fluent in six languages and regularly displayed a vibrant musical versatility while often wearing a distinctive polka-dotted necktie.

Becaud’s 1961 hit song “Et Maintenant,” translated to “What Now My Love,” is one of the most successful singles in French music history.

Since its release, legendary singers like Sonny & Cher, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and Andy Williams have covered the song.

11. Sacha Distel

Sacha Distel, a Parisian who rose to fame as a singer-songwriter, recorded an astonishing 200 songs in his career.

Besides music, Distel found fame as an actor in movies and French television. One of his most famous songs is the 1964 hit, “La Bella Vie.”

Distel received several major honors during his nearly 50-year career and was invited to perform for Queen Elizabeth II on three occasions.

In 1997, Distel received France’s highest award granted to a civilian: The Legion of Honor.

12. Roberto Alagna

The first opera star on our list, Roberto Alagna, truly represents the best of French classical vocal performance.

Born in Clichy-sous-Bois, he has graced stages all over the world, including the Royal Opera House, La Scala, and the Metropolitan Opera.

Alagna’s most famous performance is his 1994 portrayal of Romeo in the classic story of Romeo and Juliet. His Romeo, depicted masterfully at the Royal Opera House, gained him an international following.

In 2008, he received the Chevalier Legion of Honor.

13. Mika

If you’re looking for irresistible pop music performed then Mika is a great choice to get you dancing.

Despite being born in Lebanon and now holding British citizenship, Mika’s family moved to France when he was only one year old. He then went to school in London.

Mika’s music has been described as contagiously happy with the bohemian spirit of popular music from the 1970s.

His hit singles “Grace Kelly,” “We Are Golden,” and “Big Girl, You are Beautiful” are fun, empowering, and will definitely get stuck in your head for hours.

Mika has collaborated with iconic musical artists like Ariana Grande and Pharrell Williams, with his most recent album debuting in 2015. 

14. Claude François

Despite his passing, many of Claude Francois’s songs on YouTube continue to garner millions of views. Tragically, Francois’s career was cut short at the young age of 39 due to accidental electrocution.

Egyptian-born French singer, Claude François proved to be a versatile performer who often adapted American rock and roll and disco songs into French hits.

He deftly produced hits reflecting the crooning style of the 1960s and made a successful transition to French disco king in the 1970s.

One of his most famous songs is “Comme d’Habitude,” which is translated as “As Usual.” If you start to listen to this track, the tune will be instantly recognizable. Frank Sinatra borrowed the music for his legendary ballad “My Way.”

15. Michel Berger

And finally, norn in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Michel Berger was a pop singer who achieved significant fame in the early 1970s.

He wrote hit music for Eurovision-winning French female pop icon France Gall, as well as Johnny Hallyday—another entry on this list. He regularly collaborated with France Gall and married her in 1976.

Besides his success as a singer-songwriter, Berger composed a musical called “Starmania,” which was popular in France. 

Sadly, he unexpectedly passed away at the relatively young age of 44 due to a heart attack. Google celebrated his 72nd birthday in 2019 with a Google Doodle.

Summing Up Our List Of Great Male French Singers

This is only a short list of the many influential male artists whose French songs have been enjoyed by millions.

Some of the entries on this list may be a surprise, like one-half of the members of Daft Punk or Milli Vanilli. Still, there’s no question that the French language has inspired music for generations. 

French artists have been making waves in pop culture for a long time, with icons like Maurice Chevalier and Serge Gainsbourg establishing their place in early 20th century musical history.

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.