Debut – 1956
Current Broadcaster – France 2
Best Result – Winner (1958, 1960, 1962, 1969*, 1977) *Joint winner
Highest Score – 147 points (1976)
Worst Result – 26th (2014 – 2 points)
France are one of the most successful nations in Eurovision history, being joint second in the winner’s table with 5 victories. They are also one of the founding nations from the inaugural 1956 Contest, only being absent on two occasions in 1974 (due to the death of President Georges Pompidou) and 1982 (after their broadcaster TF1 withdrew). They have also never finished last in the contest, although they have finished second-last on a handful of occasions.
Traditionally, they have always sent their entries in French, although in recent years they have begun to send bilingual French/English songs, as well as songs in regional languages such as Breton and Corsican. In 2008, they planned to send their first fully English language entry, but a French verse had to be put in at the last minute after a public outcry, due to the French nation’s famously protective attitude over their language.
France is also one of the “Big Five” nations in Eurovision, meaning that they have an automatic place in the Final every year.
In the very first Contest in 1956, France (as well as the other participating nations) sent two entries, one “Le temps perdu” finished 12th, while the other “Il est là” finished 4th.
For the rest of the decade however, France finished within the top 3, including their first victory in 1958 with “Dors, mon amour” performed by André Claveau.
The ’60s proved to be a very fruitful time for France with 3 victories, and only finishing outside the top 5 once in 1966. They started the decade with their second victory, “Tom Pilibi” performed by Jacqueline Boyer.
Their third came in 1962 with another female performer, this time with Isabelle Aubret with the song “Un premier amour”.
They then finished the decade as they began it with their fourth victory: Frida Boccara, another female singer, with the ballad “Un jour, un enfant”; although they had to share that victory with 3 other countries that year. Of the four songs that won the 1969 Contest, many fans consider France’s song to be the most superior.
France had a mixed bag of results during the ’70s, in the first half of the decade they languished in midtable, however in the latter half of the decade they were back on sparkling form with four consecutive top 3 finishes: in 1976 with “Un, deux, trois” (performed , before scoring their fifth (and last to date) victory in 1977 with Marie Myriam performing “L’oiseau et l’enfant”, an entry now considered a classic.
The host nation then finished 3rd in 1978 with “Il y aura toujours des violons” (performed by Joël Prévost). Their 1979 entry “Je suis l’enfant-soleil” was performed by a former winner, Anne-Marie David who won in 1973 for Luxembourg, where they finished 3rd once again.
The ’80s saw France slump into a bit of a rut of middling results, with only one entry breaking the top 5 in 1981 with “Humanahum” (performed by Jean Gabilou) finishing 3rd. Although they scored five more top 10 results, compared to France’s previously high standards it was a lacklustre decade for them.
It’s fair to say that the first half of the ’90s saw France try out different forms of music, and it seemed to pay off in terms of results. They started the decade with their best result in years in joint 2nd with “White and Black Blues” (performed by Joëlle Ursull), a calypso-tinged pop song. The following year they sent “C’est le dernier qui a parlé qui a raison” (performed by Amina), a North African-influenced ballad, which brought France perilously close to their first victory since 1977. At the end of voting they were tied for the win with Sweden, only to lose out via a countback rule.
In 1993, they sent a song in the regional Corsican language: “Mama Corsica” (performed by Patrick Fiori) which finished 4th; and in 1996 they sent an entry in another regional language, this time Breton, but with far less success.
They ended the decade with a disappointing run of results however, with their 1998 and 1999 entries finishing near the bottom of the table.
France started off the new century with a couple of top 5 results with French-Canadian singers: in 2001 with “Je n’ai que mon âme” (performed by Natasha St-Pier) finishing 4th, and in 2002 with “Il faut du temps” (performed by Sandrine François) finishing 5th.
However, it’s fair to say that since the introduction of televoting, France have endured some very bad and mediocre results, with only one song since 2002 reaching the top 10 in 2009 with established singer Patricia Kaas performing “Et s’il fallait le faire”, finishing 8th. Despite this, some of their more recent entries have been well-received with fans.