French singer Cosette has done it all. From songwriter to sculptress, from novelist to actress, from playwright to painter, her creativity has been expressed in many forms. Sadly, she issued just one EP in the 1960s – but it has become a crowd pleaser with fans of femme pop.
She was born Dominique Cozette in Canteleu, near Rouen, on 14 May 1946. She began performing from a very age. “I started singing at the age of three on the counter of the neighbouring grocer’s, in Joinville-le-Pont,” she told us.
At 15, she bought a guitar and began writing songs. With a school friend, she became a frequent visitor to the studios Salut les copains, where she saw many of the big stars of the day.
It was there that she got to know Eddie Vartan, who suggested that she should join singer Frankie Jordan on a duet, Panne d’essence. She accepted enthusiastically, but because she was underage, she needed her parents’ permission. Her father refused – telling her she should finish her baccalaureate first.
Instead the job went to Vartan’s sister, Sylvie, who used it as a launch pad to become one of France’s most successful singers.
Cosette remains sanguine about the setback. “Sylvie sang it very prettily,” she says. “I wouldn’t have been able to sing it like her – I had a huskier voice.”
After her baccalaureate, she spent her summer holidays in Cadaquès, where she was introduced to Salvador Dali. The artist invited her to parties at his home in Port Lligat and discovered that she sang songs she had written, and he encouraged her to perform them accompanied by her sister, a guitar and a harmonica.
She enrolled to study law, though she later switched to psychology. She continued to pursue a more creative route in her spare time. As a result, in 1967, she appeared in Jacques Tati’s film Play time.
That year, she also landed a contract with Vogue, where she was given the stage name Cosette.
However, things didn’t go quite to plan. Her musical director didn’t share her sense of humour, for one thing. “He had absolutely no faith in me,” she says. “My songs didn’t please him at all. He didn’t know how to appreciate them.”
Cosette wrote all four songs on her EP, which led with Le grand chaperon noir, but is better known for two of its other songs, Les cheveux dans les yeux and Idéalisation. (In 2003, the latter title gained further recognition when it was included on the soundtrack to the US film The yes men.)
The recording session took place in Vogue’s studios, with backing provided by Jacques Dutronc’s musicians. But she hated the arrangement of the song intended as the lead track for the disc and she refused to let it be included on the release.
Sadly, the EP wasn’t given much promotion by Vogue. “There was no launch,” she says. “And when I was invited to appear on live television, my producer didn’t give them my sheet music, so I couldn’t perform.”
With her confidence knocked, she didn’t even dare to ask her friend Daniel Filipacchi – the man behind Salut les copains – to let her take part in his show.
“That was the end of my career as a singer,” she says.
Her disappointment was compounded when her scene in a Philippe Noiret film was cut from the final edit.
She sought security in more stable work, and took a job as a psychologist for handicapped children. She married a jazz musician and moved away from Paris.
Later she moved into the world of advertising, but continued her songwriting as a sideline. In the late 1970s she co-wrote a number of songs for other singers, including Britain’s Petula Clark (Lève-toi Petula) and Italy’s Raffaella Carra (Super français).
She even recorded some demos with friends, one of which prompted a producer at Capitol Records to get her into the studio. “But when he found out my age, he stopped everything,” she says. “I was too old at 34.”
In the 1990s, she found fame as the writer of a clutch of novels, including Mal de mère and Quand je serai jamais grande.
More recently, she co-wrote the play Les trois Jeanne, which has toured France since 2007.
In 2008, she met a musician who liked her songs. In his home studio, she recorded her first album, C’est re-moi, which is available on CD. She co-wrote the album’s 12 songs and, with a limited number of copies made and no promotion, it has become an underground success. “It’s a dream from my youth come true,” she says.
Now in her 60s, she is currently working as a painter and sculptress.
With thanks to Dominique Cozette for her help with this biography and to Fane Jones for additional sound files.
Our pick of the pops
Les cheveux dans les yeux
Buy online now
Femmes de Paris, vol 1
Femmes de Paris, vol 2
Ballade pour un pourquoi