Céline / Séverine

A change of name mid-career – from Céline to Séverine – was part of a move that helped propel the French singer to international success. A win at the Eurovision song contest in 1971 gave the singer a career in France and longer success in neighbouring Germany.  


Born on 10 October 1948 in Paris, Josiane Grizeau grew up in unusual circumstances. Her father was a circus clown, though he later took a factory job to provide stability for the family.


After finishing school, the teenager took a job as a secretary, but she yearned to sing. Eventually she was offered a contract with the Vogue label in 1967, and released her first record, under the alias Céline.


The four-track EP contained three covers, including Tu dis September (a version of Try to remember) and Ne réponds pas (an Italian tune by Donatella Moretti, also recorded as Don’t answer me by Britain’s Cilla Black). Perhaps the most interesting track of the release was the Johnny Hallyday-penned Si tu veux vraiment oublier.


However, even his name didn’t help sales, and when the disk flopped, Céline was quietly dropped by the label.


Nevertheless, every weekend she would continue to go to the Golf Drouot, a Paris dive where stars such as yé-yé girl Sheila and rocker Johnny Hallyday had been discovered.


Eventually the tactic paid off and she won a second shot at a singing career. Performing with various bands, under the name Robbie Lorr, she was spotted by Georges Aber, the producer responsible for dozens of hits for the likes of Petula Clark and Claude François.


Aber decided to relaunch the singer, complete with a new name. So she became Séverine.


She was offered a recording contract with Philips and issued three EPs in 1969. The first, Mama dis-moi pourquoi (Edition Six’s Morning dew), also included Rien qu’une fille, a cover of Aretha Franklin’s Natural woman – a brave choice but one she pulled off with panache.


It was followed by the dramatic Pleure sur nous, which included Je suis bien la même, a version of Barbara Ackin’s Am I the same girl. Then came La la mélodie, which included Je ferme les yeux et compte sur dix, a cover of Dusty Springfield’s I close my eyes and count to ten.


In 1970 she released the theme to the film Le passager de la pluie, which topped the Japanese charts, though a second film theme, Du soleil plein les yeux, recorded with Francis Lai and issued in 1970, couldn’t repeat the success of its predecessor.


Meanwhile her entry to the French selection for the 1970 Eurovision song contest, the rousing C'est la vie, failed to make it into the final 16.


However, a year later, Séverine really made a name for herself, when she won the 1971 Eurovision song contest with Un banc, un arbre, une rue for neighbouring Monaco. The song went on to become a hit across Europe, even topping the charts in Sweden and making the top ten in the UK in its original French.


The win opened many doors for Séverine.


Her follow up, Vivre pour moi, was another rousing ballad and an album was issued later in the year. Her friendly, down-to-earth manner endeared her to fans.


Comme un appel, made the top 20 in France in 1972 (though the version released in the UK – Sing me a love song – sank without trace). Various further singles came and went until Mon tendre amour gave Séverine her final French hit.


Sadly, a legal battle with Aber put paid to her chart career at home.


However, a parallel career in Germany lasted longer, with hits such as Ja, der Eiffelturm, Olala l'amour and Der Duft von Paris, and saw her sell six million records in the early 1970s.


It wasn’t until 2002 that she released her next French album, a live recording of a concert she had held in Paris.

Follow the links to hear other singers’ versions of Séverine songs


Ne réponds pas

Donatella Moretti: Ti vedo uscire

Julie Rogers: Don't answer me


Je ferme les yeux, je compte dix

Dusty Springfield: I close my eyes and count to ten

Heidi Brühl: Ich schließe meine Augen

0 Bar small Hear Céline Si tu veux vraiment oublier Hear Séverine Un banc, un arbre, une rue Hear Séverine Rien qu'une fille Hear Séverine Tu ne vois jamais le vent Hear Séverine Je ferme les yeux, je compte dix Hear Céline Ne réponds pas

Our pick of the pops

Si tu veux vraiment oublier


Un banc, un arbre, une rue


Rien qu'une fille


Tu ne vois jamais le vent


Je ferme les yeux, je compte dix


Ne réponds pas


0 Bar small Buy Sixties girls, vol 4 4518007358.jpg

Various artists

Sixties girls, vol 4

Buy online now

0 Bar small

Cover cuts

Hear Séverine Mama dis-moi pourquoi

Mama dis-moi pourquoi


Céline: Tu dis september Séverine: La la mélodie Séverine: Mama dis-moi pourquoi Séverine: Pleure sur nous Séverine: Un banc, un arbre, une rue Céline: Tu dis september Séverine: Mama dis-moi pourquoi