Bang Envy - Sylvie Vartan

For our next installment in the Bang Envy series we have the fun and fabulous Bulgarian-French singer, Sylvie Vartan. Blonde and bubbly, Vartan was one of the original yé-yé girls of French pop, making a name for herself in the early 1960s as a teen pop sensation called la collégienne du twist - the twisting schoolgirl.

Born in Bulgaria to a French-Armenian father and a Hungarian mother, Sylvie Vartanian emigrated to Paris with her family in 1952, when they shortened the family name to Vartan. Both her brother, Eddie Vartan (father of actor Michael Vartan), and the strict nature of her French high school spurred her interest in American rock-n-roll; her early favorites included Bill Hayley and Elvis Presley.

After finishing high school, Vartan signed with Decca Records and began recording an EP "Quand le film est triste" which went on sale in December of 1961. In 1962, she had recorded a French version of "The Loco-Motion", as well as "Tous mes copains" - both of which went on to become major hits. In the same season, she released her first album entitled "Sylvie".

In total, six of her thirty-one songs released in 1962-1963 went on to the European top 20.

In 1962 during a performance at the Olympia, Vartan met the famous Johnny Hallyday. In the winter of 1963, the pair went on tour together and were then married in the spring of 1965. The Hallyday-Vartan marriage made the duo the "golden couple" of France in the 1960s and 1970s. Their son, David Hallyday is also a singer-songwriter, continuing the family tradition.

With The Beatles in 1964.

I would die to have this bouffant bob.

With husband Johnny Hallyday.

In 1964, Vartan appeared again at the Olympia, headlining a concert with The Beatles and Trini Lopez. At this concert she played the hits from her new album Sylvie à Nashville, which included "Si je chante", "La plus belle pour aller danser", and new songs in English written by Paul Anka.

Because of her performances, Vartan created a "rocker-girl" style that had never been seen before, thus cementing her reputation as a yé-yé girl. Where others sang while standing in front of a microphone, Vartan sang, danced and moved around on the stage, keeping her act dynamic. Later on, she created complete, choreographed numbers with scores of costumes and backup dancers.

With Francoise Hardy in 1967.

Vartan continued to perform throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, both as a pop star and as a jazz singer. She and Johnny Hallyday divorced in 1980. Today, she is married to producer Tony Scotti with whom she adopted a Bulgarian daughter named Darina. Vartan has been honored by the French government as a Chevalier of the Ordre national du Mérite in 1987, and as a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur in 1998. (She became an Officer of both these orders in 2006 and 2009 respectively.) In 2005, Vartan was appointed by the World Health Organization as a Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal and Child health in the European Region.

Sylvie Vartan in 2011 - from PurePeople.com

Bang Envy - Linda Ronstadt

I owe this entire Bang Envy post to the soundtrack that plays at my job... Every so often "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" comes on the stereo and everyone sings along to Linda Ronstadt. This made me dig a little deeper. After all, if everyone knows this song there must have been a time when La Ronstadt was on constant rotation. When was said idyll of pop music? Probably in the 1980s sometime on a soft-rock station, but why judge? The fact remains that Linda Ronstadt is a bona fide legend in her own time, and one who continues to bring the talent well into her sixties. According to her Wikipedia page:

"In total, she has released over 30 solo albums, more than 15 compilations or greatest hits albums. Ronstadt has charted thirty-eight Billboard Hot 100 singles, twenty-one of which have reached the top 40, ten of which have reached the top 10, three peaking at No. 2, the No. 1 hit, "You're No Good". In the UK, her single "Blue Bayou" reached the UK Top 40and the duet with Aaron Neville, "Don't Know Much", peaked at #2 in December 1989. In addition, she has charted thirty-six albums, ten Top 10 albums, and three No. 1 albums on the Billboard Pop Album Charts."

Doing research on early Ronstadt I found some amazing pictures of her which show her as a fresh young singer capitalizing on the sweetspot between country, pop, and rock, and bringing the style to match. In her early days, Ronstadt seems to play up the look of an innocent young flower child, but within all of her cuteness there's an incredible amount of sex appeal. It's the best combination of the All-American Girl.

Born in Tucson, AZ of Mexican and German parents, Ronstadt began singing at 14 with her brother Pete and sister Suzy. At 17, she dropped out of college after just one semester and moved to Los Angeles where she met up with Bob Kimmel - a friend from home. Together they started a band called the Stone Poneys with Kenny Edwards in 1966. But just a few years later, in 1969, Ronstadt went out on her own.

The cover of Evergreen, Volume 2 by the Stone Poneys from 1967.

In 1968.

On the Johnny Cash Show in 1969. At 22, Ronstadt was invited for her first appearance on the Johnny Cash Show; during the rehearsal, June Carter Cash noted that the singer wasn't wearing any panties. Ronstadt's tart reply? "I sing better bare-butted."

Maria Muldaur, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, and Jim Beam in 1974.

Blazing a trail for "girl singers" in the 1970s, Ronstadt experienced the pressures and difficulties of relating to men musicians on a professional level. In a 1969 interview in Fusion magazine, she said it was difficult being a "chick singer" with an all-male backup band. But, finding her stride, she went on to become the most successful female singer of the 1970s with such albums as Heart Like a Wheel, Prisoner in Disguise, Hasten Down the Wind, and Simple Dreams.

All of her albums offer solid pop tunes that crossover easily into Country. Her mix of genres shows her complete vocal and stylistic versatility which was furthered later on in her career when Ronstadt recorded a number of albums of traditional Mexican folk and Ranchera music.

Also notable for her public romances, Ronstadt dated then California governor Jerry Brown, and was also engaged to George Lucas in the mid-1980s. Ultimately though, she adopted two children in the 1990s by herself and has never married. She remains a steadfast supporter of women's rights, gay rights, and is a vocal advocate of national arts programs. Most recently, Ronstadt spoke out against her home state of Arizona's controversial SB1070 illegal-immigration law, participating in a National Day of Action in January 2010.

On a trip to Africa with Jerry Brown in 1979.

The famous Rolling Stone cover from December, 1976. Image by Annie Leibovitz.

And what about "Poor Poor Pitiful Me"? Well, I ended up downloading Ronstadt's Simple Dreams album and have been listening to it on constant rotation. It is indeed a classic album for the ages, and if you don't have it, you should get it. To offer you another quote from Wikipedia:

At the end of 1977 Ronstadt surpassed the success of Heart Like A Wheel with her album Simple Dreams, which held the #1 position for five consecutive weeks on the Billboard Album Chart. It also knocked Elvis Presley out of #1 on Billboard's Country Albums chart. It sold over 3½ million copies in less than a year in the US alone. The album was released in September 1977, and by December, it had replaced Fleetwood Mac's long running #1 album Rumours in the top spot. Simple Dreams spawned a string of hit singles on numerous charts. Among them were the RIAA platinum-certified single "Blue Bayou", a Country Rock interpretation of a Roy Orbison song, "It's So Easy" – previously sung by Buddy Holly – and "Poor Poor Pitiful Me", a song written by Warren Zevon. The album, garnered several Grammy Award nominations – including Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance/Female for "Blue Bayou" – and won its art director, Kosh, a Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, the first of three Grammy Awards he would win for designing Ronstadt album covers.

Simple Dreams became one of the singer's most successful international selling albums as well, reaching #1 on the Australian and Canadian Pop and Country Albums charts.Simple Dreams also made Ronstadt the most successful international female touring artist as well. The same year, she completed a highly successful concert tour around Europe. As, Country Music Magazine, wrote in October 1978, Simple Dreams solidified Ronstadt's role as "easily the most successful female rock and roll and country star at this time."