French singer Sophie released just six EPs in the 1960s – and in true yé-yé girl style, much of their content included interpretations of international hits. Sadly, however, she lost out time and again in sales wars with other artists.
She was born Arlette Heckett in 1944 and grew up in Dax, in south western France.
In the early 1960s she joined the group Les Champions, with whom she appeared at Paris’ prestigious Olympia venue in December 1962. This performance led to impresario Johnny Stark offering to manage the young singer.
Under his guidance, she adopted the name Sophie and was offered a contract with the Decca label.
Quand un air vous possède, a stab at The Drifters’ When my little girl is smiling, was issued as her debut release in April 1963. Decca had faith in their new signing and assigned Eddie Vartan (the brother of yé-yé star Sylvie Vartan) to lead the orchestral backing. Unfortunately her sales faltered when Johnny Hallyday, the king of French rock, issued a version of the same song.
She went back into the studio, and recorded T’es pas seul au monde, a cover of Paul Anka’s Remember Diana, which was released as the follow up in June 1963. Again, the EP didn’t sell as well as hoped for.
Although Sophie was a decent singer, her voice wasn’t as instantly recognisable as those of some of her less vocally competent contemporaries. Arguably, this held back her career.
In October 1963, she had a sense of déjà vu when her version of The Ronettes’ Be my baby, Reviens vite et oublie, was beaten in a chart battle with Madagascan brother and sister six-some Les Surfs. Il faut se quitter, a version of B Bumble and the Stingers’ Nut rocker, also included on the EP, has since found favour among fans of French femme pop too.
Undeterred, Sophie went on to appear alongside Les Surfs and other stars of the day, including Sylvie Vartan, Frank Alamo and Eddy Mitchell, in the film Cherchez l’idole, a light-hearted tale of a hunt to find a diamond hidden in a guitar.
Sophie’s Je n’y peux rien, a song written by Charles Aznavour and Georges Garvarentz and featured in the film’s soundtrack, was issued on an EP in February 1964.
The release also included a terrific version of The Shirelles’ Don’t say goodnight and mean goodbye, Ton au revoir est un adieu.
That summer, she followed it up with Tente ta chance, a cover of the Bacharach and David-penned Wishin’ and hopin’, which had been a UK hit for The Merseybeats and a US smash for Dusty Springfield. However, the EP is probably just as noteworthy for including Quand ton regard sur moi se pose, which had been co-written by Johnny Hallyday.
When this failed, she took almost a year out before returning with Je ne fais pas d’histoires, a cover of Tom Jones’s It’s not unusual. The EP was, arguably, her most consistent, and included some great covers, including a version of Brian Poole and the Tremeloes’ Someone, someone (Pour toi, pour moi). Catchy as hell, it should have been a huge hit – and indeed it was, but for Tom Jones.
Sophie resurfaced a couple of years later, when, in 1967, she was offered a place on the Epopée du rock tour. Vince Taylor headlined the tour and, sadly, Sophie had to drop out partway through because of ill health. She was replaced by Bernadette Grimm.
By this time, Sophie’s lack of success meant she was without a recording contract. However, she remained in the music business, taking a job working in radio, for Radio-Télé Luxembourg.
She made a comeback attempt in the 1970s, which included representing Monaco at the Eurovision song contest in 1975. However, her Une chanson c’est une lettre failed to recapture the success of Séverine’s Un banc, un arbre, une rue, the tiny principality’s only ever winner, and finished 13th.
Sophie died on 28 October 2012.
Follow the links to hear other singers’ versions of Sophie songs
Reviens vite et oublie
Ann-Cathrine Widlund: Tro mej, älskling!
Grazina: Be my baby
Les Surfs: Tu serás mi baby
Suzanne Doucet: Sei mein Baby
Tente ta chance
Dusty Springfield: Warten und hoffen
Dusty Springfield: Stupido, stupido
Our pick of the pops
Je n'y peux rien
Tente ta chance
Ton au revoir est un adieu
Reviens vite et oublie
Quand un air vous possède
Buy online now
Find Sophie EPs and CDs at GEMM.com
Quand ton regard sur moi se pose
Je ne fais pas d'histoires