In high school, France Joli’s debut album was my coming-of-age soundtrack. I would listen to it over and over with my best friend Todd, his girlfriend Paula, and her younger sister Anna on Todd’s turntable from JCPenney. We marveled at her voice and beauty, and couldn’t believe she was our age. And a generation later, Ms. Joli still symbolizes my favorite elements of disco. Lush production values. Strong, seductive vocals. Glamorous visuals. And an international flair. France Joli is the total package. But it’s hard to believe it’s been thirty-two years since she first dominated the charts with the classic track Come To Me, and her first two albums produced by Tony Green. I guess that’s the advantage of becoming famous at sixteen. You get to be a disco legend, yet decades later, still have chances for new chapters in your career. France has enjoyed recent appearances in the Divas of Disco Live concert, the Fire Island documentary When Oceans Meet Sky, plus an extensive interview in Daeida Magazine. So it was a pleasure talking to France during this period of new momentum, including her much anticipated comeback in 2012.
Kelly Hughes: I read your recent interview in Daeida magazine.
France Joli: I really enjoyed that. It was a lot of fun, and it was real therapeutic.
KH: And the photos were great.
FJ: Oh, thank you! Hallelujah for Photoshop!
FJ: You know what. Yes, those pictures are very beautiful, and I love them. But it’s not very representative of who I am today. But I sort of went along with it because other artists are doing it, and I actually really enjoy looking at myself with the Photoshop work, looking sixteen again.
KH: Which is the age when your first album came out.
FJ: I actually recorded that album when I was fifteen.
KH: Wow, OK. And then it was released in…
FJ: July of ‘79
KH: July of ‘79. And of course, the famous Fire Island debut.
FJ: Oh my God! It was absolutely shocking! I remember it was my first trip to New York, and my first experience with the gay community. But I had this wonderful feeling of acceptance. And I have a tremendous respect of the community because they’re basically responsible for putting me on the map.
KH: How did you luck out and have such great people you worked with? It takes a strong back up to complement your voice since it’s so powerful. The arrangements. Tony Green. And how each of those early albums have a little bit of magic to them.
FJ: Absolutely. And we were quite lucky actually. Well, first of all, we’ll start with Tony Green who was a phenomenal writer and producer, and I think there was a lot of…there is something you can work all of your life to get. Magic. But when magic happens, you’re not solely responsible for that, it’s just…it’s that charisma. I’m looking for a certain word here…You know…
FJ: It’s chemistry. It just happens, and you just have to be grateful for life to hand it to you. That’s what happened with Tony Green. There was this chemistry where he composed….
KH: For you.
FJ: I auditioned for Tony Green. He thought I was very talented. He fell in love with my tone. My artistry basically. And three days later, Come To Me was written.
KH: So, did he write that specifically for you?
KH: And, it’s easy to compare it to Last Dance, or any of the ballad-leading-into-the-disco epics.
KH: So that was very much in the mood of the time.
KH: Yet you distinguished yourself. It was not dismissed as a knock off of Last Dance. It really stood on its own.
FJ: That’s right, because there were so many songs. I Will Survive started as a ballad. It was a trend.
KH: Well it became one of your trademarks.
KH: I think every album except for Attitude had a ballad-opening dance song.
KH: How come you didn’t get one on Attitude? Did you want to break free and reinvent yourself at that point?
FJ: Well, it wasn’t about me reinventing myself. It was about…how would I say? You know, when you’re in a big machine like Sony back then. Epic Records. With Pete Bellotte and George Duke, and these are the two albums that I’ve done with Epic. That really was a totally different vibe. And music itself was changing. My very first album sort of had a trademark, and the music was changing. When I finished the Now! album and I went to Epic, music was almost nowhere, and we took a direction. I think the direction was taken on the music instead of the artist.
KH: Now! I love that album.
FJ: I love it too.
KH: Even though I love the Tony Green material, I liked how you were transitioning to more urban radio. Starting with Gonna Get Over You, then the Now! album in ’82. And if you look at the pop charts at that time, you saw Evelyn King coming back with Love Come Down and a contemporary urban vibe. So some disco divas were making a successful transition into the ‘80s. What did you think when you saw Evelyn King making the Top 10 in the US at that time?
FJ: Oh I thought it was absolutely wonderful!
KH: Were you thinking there were so many cuts on Now! that could have done that?
KH: Why wasn’t Your Good Lovin’ going Top 10?
FJ: You know, it’s still a question that I ask myself. It could be…I don’t know, it could be all sorts of…um, I could have all sorts of answers. But are they really answers?
KH: I think a lot of female singers had to compete with Physical by that point, that new sound. But even someone who had as much success as Olivia, a few years into the ‘80s she was in a slump too. So I don’t think anyone was immune. It was just a very confusing time in music.
FJ: Absolutely! You’re absolutely right. Although I think the transition from the Tony Green albums to the Now! album was a good transition into the more urban sound. But after that it was a very hard decision.
KH: Well, when Attitude came out that was when Flashdance was hitting.
FJ: YES! And you see the music was changing rapidly, but was going in so many directions
KH: Those synthesized aerobic dance beats.
KH: Which was very frenetic, like the Flashdance song Maniac. It seems like a lot of Attitude had that Maniac feel
FJ: Yes, absolutely. But you know, in all honesty, it didn’t fit me.
KH: I’m not one of the people who looks at successful singers and thinks “Oh, what a tragedy that they didn’t have a huge hit every year for the next twenty-five years after that.” The thing is, you have so many more hits and accomplishments than, you know, 99%, to borrow from Occupy Wall Street. You’re like that one percent that has such a substantial legacy of music, even in just a few albums. So I think when people dwell on, “Oh, they didn’t transition into the ‘80s,” well, who cares?
KH: You have such a legacy, and I think that’s what people keep going back to. Its not “Oh what is she going to make now?” It’s “Oh, they finally put out that remastered CD that restores the high quality sound.”
FJ: Right, right.
KH: But if we are going to talk about Attitude, let’s clear something up. People always call that your Giorgio Moroder album. Yet he was pretty hands off on that.
FH That is absolutely correct. It was produced by Pete Bellotte and Richie Zito.
KH: Right. And Richie Zito especially seemed to give it that Maniac sound, that keyboard sound.
FJ: Absolutely. That very mechanical sound for me, and it just is, and this is in no way putting down or knocking Pete Bellotte or Richie Zito’s talent--because they do have tremendous talent--but I think we failed. And I put myself into that too. We failed to concentrate on what possibly sounded best then. We followed the trend of the music instead of following what was best for France Joli.
KH: I’ve always been curious about Pete Bellotte. When he worked with Giorgio, was he more of just the business man, or was he hands on with the music?
FJ: Oh, Pete Bellotte, he was hands on.
KH: OK. So he didn’t just hand it over to Richie Zito on your album?
FJ: No, no, not at all. It was a collaboration with Bellotte and Zito
KH: Do you think his strengths without Giorgio, that as a team they created that magic, and without Giorgio being hands on, was that what was lacking?
FJ: I believe so, because I think Giorgio Moroder brings that European melodic flavor. The warmth.
KH: I would have thought that back in 1983 that Giorgio Moroder would have been chomping at the bit to personally work with you in the studio.
FJ: Right. And I don’t think that was the case.
KH: Well, how about his work with Madleen Kane just two years before?
KH: You know. You Can, another ballad going into a disco beat? That was very much a France Joli song.
KH: And the one I just can’t help but fantasize, in ‘83, when they were putting Flashdance together. I’m sure they were already in contact with you.
KH: Were you ever invited to do a song on that, and, preferably, with Giorgio? It just seems like What A Feeling was the ultimate France Joli song.
FJ: I totally agree! I believe, if I’m not mistaken, that Flashdance was already done when I started working with Giorgio and Pete Bellotte.
KH: When did you go into the studio for Attitude?
FJ: You know, that’s a good question. I would love to give you a date, but I don’t remember.
KH: The release of Attitude was so close to the release of the movie Flashdance. So it’s kind of like it wasn’t quite the phenomenon when you were in the studio. It hadn’t quite hit. But it seems like by the time your album was about to be released they styled you on the cover very much like Jennifer Beals with the off-the-shoulder sweatshirt.
KH: So they were obviously conscious of Flashdance by at least the time they did the photography.
KH: Well, since we’re talking photography, let’s ease into the Prelude years and talk about those Trudy Schlacter album covers. Your three Prelude covers were taken by the wife of Marvin Schlacter, the head of Prelude.
FJ: That’s right. Yes, Trudy Shlachter.
KH: I have a ‘love-hate’ relationship with those. You look fantastic in them. I mean, the big thing about the first album was, you know, you were this Ann-Margret sex kitten, and everyone finds out you're sixteen. But the thing is they’re so tasteful, they’re just from the neck up.
KH: It’s not like you’re showing anything, there’s just such a sexuality to them.
FJ: Yeah, I believe that, too.
KH: And I think that Trudy obviously helped. With the first one, your face was the whole album cover.
KH: And I think that was a good choice. My biggest disappointment is how they printed them back then. They have the lowest quality printing. Couldn’t they add a glossy coating or something?
FJ: I know. Exactly. Actually, I loved the Come to Me album cover. But the Tonight album was, for me, a big fiasco.
KH: I remember when I first saw that in Tower Records, and I go “Oh My God! France just aged 30 years!”
FJ: Exactly. Right. And these are little secrets that I’m gonna tell you. But, you know, when you do a full photo session, you at some point have to eat, right? And you get started very early in the morning. And I had this make-up man, he was part of the session, and he failed to fix my lips after I had eaten.
KH: Was that Rick Gillette?
FJ: No No No. Rick Gillette was my first album. The second album was another man, and, I mean, the lips were...it shows on the cover…the lips were all smudged. That had to be retouched. And the hairdo. I’m a dirty blonde, and I look like I have dark brown hair. I look sincere. I look sad. I looked everything that I was not.
KH: You look like Sean Young in Blade Runner.
FJ: Oh Really!?
KH: Because she had her hair up. It almost looked Victorian.
KH: But the one thing I did like about it, and I think it’s another one of your trademarks, is having the calm, or the more formal front, then, when you turn the record over, you get that jolt of letting your hair down. So I loved the reaction of when I flipped that over and saw you and went “Wow, she’s still young.”
FJ: Yes. Right, right.
KH: So, I did a little research on Trudy. She’s selling real estate now.
FJ: Oh is she?
KH: Yeah. In New York. High end real estate.
FJ: Well good for her!
KH: It’s funny. With people like that, I like to look in their credits to see if they acknowledge their past. And if you read Trudy’s bio on her website, I think by the 3rd paragraph, she kind of talks about how photography and design helped influence her real estate career. So, I’m glad she at least gave a nod to it. But I thought, why didn’t she put “And I used to be the famous photographer for France Joli.”
FJ: Yeah. It’s weird. Because she was a fine photographer.
KH: Yes. But on the Now! cover, why did she make you pose in a dining room chair?
FJ: A what?
KH: It looks kind of like a throne, but if you look close, it’s almost like a really fancy dining room chair.
FJ: Back then, I was going with the flow. If they had this chair and said “Sit on it,” I said “OK.” I mean, there’s that whole outfit. The whole kind of…
KH: The gold metallic pant suit?
FJ: I guess it worked. But again, some of the pictures that were taken, it seemed like if I look at all of the photo sessions that I’ve had with Trudy, what was picked for me was not the best. It was maybe what was best for them. Or the kind of orientation they wanted to go with. For example, we did a photo session for the Gonna Get Over You 12-inch single.
KH: Oh, with the red sweater!
KH: That was great.
FJ: For me, that’s one of my favorite shots.
KH: Right. And you think, why wasn’t something from that session used for the Now! album?
FJ: Exactly my thought.
KH: You know what’s unique about that photo?
FJ: I look youthful. I look natural.
KH: Very tasteful.
FJ: I looked my age. I looked fresh. I really, really loved that photo, and I would’ve picked something more along those lines for the Now! album because Now! says it all. It represented me back then.
KH: It’s the only time you were seen outdoors, or not against a solid sheet of paper.
FJ: Yes, exactly.
KH: It was the first time I ever really saw you in a setting.
KH: Witch of Love. I have to say, I love that cover.
FJ: Oh! Of all of the covers I’ve done, this is my favorite cover. It’s so artistic, and it’s so beautiful. The hair. The makeup. The…
KH: The eye patch.
FJ: The context behind it. And, having the amazing Matthew Rolston as a photographer.
KH: That was Matthew Rolston? I didn’t realize that.
KH: Because he did, right around that same time, True Colors with Cindy Lauper, didn’t he?
FJ: Yes, and he did a lot of Vogue. Brooke Shields‘ Vogue cover.
KH: And Madonna in the late ‘80s.
FJ: Yes. And I mean, this guy is phenomenal, and I just totally respect his artistry. I think he made me look absolutely gorgeous, and it would be my favorite album cover.
KH: You definitely went for strong hair. You went from dirty blonde to coppery Celtic witch. It was very stylized, and you just went for very strong choices. How did they make your hair stand up like that?
FJ: It was a technique, and, to this day, I don’t know if anyone knows about this technique. You take a piece of hair, twist it, twirl it, and put it on a warmer, some kind of curlers. It was a wire covered curling iron. It was quite a technique. And, once they took these things out, my hair would be lighter than life. It would have just a beautiful effect.
KH: What I liked is that it showed that this--your second album for Epic--it showed that they hadn’t lost hope in you. In fact, they put more money in the photography. They gave you a top producer, George Duke. It just seemed that Epic was still putting money into you and still had faith in you.
KH: Did you feel that during that album that you were well supported by Epic?
FJ: Listen. My way of thinking on this is they put all the money toward the photography and production, and they did absolutely nothing for promoting it. I would rather not spend as much money on the cover, and have it more of a simple cover, and work the music more and promote the music.
KH: Right. Well, did they create a music video for Does He Dance?
FJ: We were scheduled to do a video and it was never done. It was cancelled. They called me, I believe two days before I was leaving for Los Angeles, and they said, “It’s not going to happen now, so we’re going to reschedule,” and it was never rescheduled. I asked them questions about it, and they kept on pushing away the issue.
KH: Well, in 1985, a music video would have been your major way of promoting your record.
FJ: Absolutely. Music videos were of great importance to someone’s career.
KH: Well what’s ironic is in ‘85, Epic was really into dance music. They put out a Jellybean remix for the Romantics’ Talking In Your Sleep the year before. They had You Spin Me Round by Dead Or Alive. And Michael Jackson’s Thriller was still selling huge for them. It just seems like you would have been at the top of their roster for dance music artists in 1985.
FJ: Right, but the albums weren’t there.
KH: Other divas were making memorable dance music. Aretha Franklin’s album with Narada Michael Walden. Were you ever approached by him?
KH: I like that they put you with George Duke at that time. Which must have looked good on paper. He had just produced his biggest hit, Let’s Hear It For The Boy, for Deniece Williams. And proved that another diva who’d had a big disco hit in ‘79 could make the transition to the pop charts. [Duke later told me he loves Niecy, but doesn’t like Let’s Hear It For The Boy, but I’ll save that story for another interview.] So why didn’t the album live up to expectations?
FJ: The potential was there for a dance hit with Does He Dance. Even though the single wasn’t that dance, we had a remix that was dance, and ready for clubs. Shep Pettibone did it. I don’t believe that it was promoted the way it should have been.
KH: Party Lights had a Flashdance vibe. That frenetic Maniac feel. And the title song, Witch of Love, you co-wrote that, didn’t you?
FJ: Yes, I did the music, my friend did the lyrics.
KH: Another throwback to your fans with the ballad opening going into a dance beat. My dream would be for you to re-record it with Tony Green with a full orchestra. I think that song, it had your style, but, in 1985, that mechanical sound didn’t suit you as well.
KH: Would you like to revisit some of those songs in that era with your lush Prelude sound?
FJ: Eventually I might. Right now, the age I’m at and where I am in my career, I would really love to let go a little bit of the past and move on with some new ideas and having new material. Witch Of Love was written when I was quite young, and it’s not me anymore. We evolve and we grow as a person, and lyrically, musically.
KH: Where are you at musically now? Are you into ballads?
FJ: No, I’m into…well…you’ll see when my new record comes out! I have a different view. For lyrics, for example…I cannot record a song like “Does he dance? Does he want to have a little romance?” I mean, I’m 48 years old!
KH: So you’re not going to do Nasty Love, Part II?
FJ: I don’t think so!
KH: You debuted in the Disco Era. Sex and disco were in the air, those were the times. And you excelled at that. But I think, primarily, you are a romantic singer.
KH: And no matter what you sing, that comes through. And in the mechanical sounding ‘80’s, they tried to update your sound. But you still had this lush, romantic style.
FJ: Exactly. And that will follow me for the rest of my life because of who I am. I cannot have a whole mechanical sound behind me because it does not fit the texture and the interpretation that I give to a song. Do you understand what all that means?
KH: For your second album, Prelude promoted your ballad This Time. So it seems like they were aware of your potential for more romantic songs.
KH: But what’s ironic is, it’s almost like the lush arrangement from your disco songs should have been there for your ballads.
FJ: Exactly. And it wasn’t.
KH: Take a lush, Tony Green arrangement, and just take away the driving beat, and that would make…
FJ: You’ve got a perfect ballad.
KH: Right. And I think something like the song Witch of Love, I would like to hear you do that as a straight forward ballad without going into the beat.
FJ: Right. Right. Actually, now that you mention that, you just touched a chord in me that you’re absolutely right. At the same time, it was very important to me not to dismiss, while we’re doing a new album at Epic, not to dismiss my background of dance music.
KH: Well, in your new direction, say you wanted to do something radically different and not do any dance music. Do you feel that your fans have such a high expectation that you could never dare to do that?
FJ: That’s a good question.
KH: Some people can do that for one album, but then they’ll go back and they’ll do dance. The person I’d compare you to, also in the ‘80’s, someone who made a huge drastic turn, is Linda Ronstadt. To go from rock…you know…she did the standards all along, rock and pop classics, then, around ‘83, right around your transition on Epic, she got together with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra and did all the great old romantic classics. That would have been perfect for you at that time.
FJ: Yes! You know, it’s not necessarily the direction you take that’s wrong. I think it’s doing it well. Do you understand what I mean?
KH: I think that when you’ve had some success you don’t want to tamper with it. And maybe you’re frightened that your fans wouldn’t accept anything radically different?
FJ: Yes, and I know for a fact, Kelly, that I, I have disappointed some of my fans with the Attitude and Witch Of Love albums, because they were so far away from what I have done previously. It was a cold, mechanical sound that they wanted to use. And we went into the direction of that music instead of going to the direction the artist would sound best at.
FJ: That’s what killed it. It’s not because I don’t want to take any responsibility, because I am 100% responsible for singing these songs and going ahead, but I didn’t put my foot down. What I was thinking back then was these are the professionals and this is a big company. What they suggest is probably what’s best for me.
KH: Do you think starting out going into the studio with Tony Green at fifteen years old...do you think they expected a certain compliance from a fifteen year old girl? You show up, they’ll do all of the adult male things, set it up, she’ll just come in, do her part, be very agreeable, and leave, and we’ll take care of the rest.
FJ: At fifteen, that wasn’t the case.
KH: Did you get to speak up? I mean, did you stand up to Tony and say “No, I want it to sound this way,” or “No, I think we should tweak that?” I mean, how much could you really stand up at fifteen?
FJ: Actually I was standing up a little more at fifteen, sixteen, seventeen than I was in the Epic days.
FJ: Isn’t it? Because, well, first of all, my first album was only four songs, and it was totally dance. I think Tony Green had a really good grasp on who I was as an artist, and what made me sound best. Like I said, they’re all so romantic, they’re erotic, and they showed the vocal capability at the same time. And the formula was kept for the two first albums with Tony Green. The formula was kept as well with the Now! album, because it was very romantic.
KH: Well, the thing about Now! is, even going to a little more of an R&B sound, you still kept the romance. Especially on the track I Need Someone with the great piano solo, and so much musically going on with that whole album, with the arrangements, with the backup singers, with some of those notes you were holding.
KH: Your voice, even within the slower R&B, you got to soar just as much as you did with the Tony Green disco.
FJ: I agree. And that’s what was kept, was the essence, you know?
FJ: You can change the beat around, but the essence was there. The...the…angelic.
KH: Well there’s a purity.
KH: It was an innocent, romantic love. Yet, you still had a knowingness of a very mature woman. How did you have that sound at fifteen and sixteen? I still don’t understand. Some people spend a lifetime learning how to interpret lyrics, how to approach recording a song as if it’s a story and they’re a character.
KH: And you just turn that on, like it’s a part of you, that sensuality in your voice.
FJ: Right. You know, Kelly, I have to tell you a story that my mom told me. And I do remember a little bit, but I was at a very, very young age. I think I was just four years old. I used to take a skipping rope and make the microphone the end of it. And the cord was obviously the rope part of it. I would look at myself in the mirror, and I would sing the old, romantic French songs. I was actually lip syncing. I would look at myself and I would mimic the song. My mom would look at me through the door, and I would mimic the song with almost too much experience. It’s something in me. It’s not something I worked on. It’s something that I was born with. She said to me “You were singing it. You were mimicking it like a thirty year old and you were only four.”
KH: So you think you’re just a… are you an old soul?
FJ: I believe that! I believe that and I think that the emotions of the singers were penetrating me, and I could feel that and it’s a part of me.
KH: How many takes did it take to do Come To Me?
FJ: Not many. I mean, we did a lot of takes, but we ended up keeping one of the first takes because they were so pure and innocent and healthy.
KH: What was going through your mind when you were singing the lyrics? Did you have a character in mind? An attitude? What was going through your head?
FJ: You know when you comfort somebody that’s in pain or is going through some rough times? That you learn at a very young age with your friends, when tragedy strikes with your friends, or you lose a boyfriend, they say “Oh, so-and-so left me” and they’re crying? I think that the nurturing part of me made me sing Come To Me the way it was sung. And that was something I developed at a very young age.
KH: Wasn’t that recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in New York?
FJ: When I recorded that, I was in Montreal.
KH: OK. Was some other part of that at Sigma, or was that later on?
FJ: Sigma was my Now! album.
KH: OK. Were you just aware of the history of that at the time, of being a part of Sigma Sound Studio.
FJ: I’m sorry. I’m going to retract what I just said. I did my second album, Tonight, in Philly.
KH: Oh, at the Philadelphia Sigma! So you got the original?
FJ: Yes I did.
KH: Because I think they, didn’t Sigma start in Philly? And then they opened the studio in New York?
FJ: That’s correct.
KH: And how appropriate to be at Philly while you are singing with Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson and Yvette Benton.
FJ: Yes. Yes.
KH: They were with you on your first three albums.
FJ: That’s right.
KH: Were you aware of this powerhouse talent that was backing you up?
FJ: It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?
KH: It is! I mean did you even know enough at fifteen to appreciate the quality of the people you were working with?
FJ: I was listening to the quality. But, logically, I didn’t know how popular and how special those girls were. But I could hear how special they were. I didn’t know about background back then.
KH: Did they just come in as session musicians. Or were you there with them? Did you get to talk to them?
FJ: When I started recording with Tony Green at fifteen, I was in the studio every time that something was going on on this album. I was there for the drops of the beats. All the instruments that were recorded, I was present.
KH: And you had another prominent Canadian musician, on the first two albums, doing some arranging.
FJ: Yes, Denis Lepage. [After all these years, I get to hear the name pronounced correctly, and with France’s lovely French accent: deh-NEE loo-PAZH.]
KH: Yes. The guy behind Lime.
KH: And did you meet Joe La Greca at the time?
FJ: Joe La Greca? Oh my god that rings a bell.
KH: Any other Canadians? Did you meet Gino Soccio? How come the two of you never worked together?
FJ: Um..I have no idea, Kelly.
KH: You were the two breakouts in 1979 from Quebec.
FJ: Right. Well, I had a winning situation with Tony Green.
KH: True. But, not even a side project? People like Cerrone would pull in a singer here and there for a project, like Jocelyn Brown. Did Cerrone ever approach you?
FJ: No one would approach me because they were doing their own thing. I was so involved with my own stuff and Tony Green and Prelude records..
KH: Were Tony and Prelude protective of you?
KH: Do you think Tony Green and Prelude were protective of you?
KH: Do you think maybe a few offers from Soccio or Cerrone came through to the office and they never quite made it to you?
FJ: That could be. That could be! I feel at my age I certainly, even to this day, I have a record company behind me. To not tell me what was going on...stuff like that happens all the time.
KH: How about Nile Rodgers? Did he ever approach you?
FJ: No, he never...well maybe he did, but I’m not aware of him approaching me. It’s hard for me to say because around then it was such a tight type of management and protection. There are some times that I was probably approached with things, but never made aware of.
KH: Who at the time would you have liked to have worked with?
FJ: Well, Nile Rodgers was one of the great musicians back then that I really, really loved. Giorgio Moroder was one of the people that I really wanted to work with.
KH: You should’ve sung the theme to Flashdance. That’s all there is to it.
FJ: I agree, Kelly!
KH: I’m so offended he didn’t ask you to!
FJ: I would’ve loved it, but I have to admit that Irene Cara did a fantastic job.
KH: She did. Plus she wrote the lyrics. So it really would not have been the same without her contribution.
FJ: Exactly. I think she’s a fine artist.
KH: You know the one thing I’m surprised that Epic did not do? When you were working with George Duke, he was working with Jeffrey Osborne…
KH: I’m surprised they didn’t have the two of you do a duet.
FJ: Jeffrey did work on my Witch Of Love album.
KH: What did he do?
FJ: He did some of the backgrounds.
KH: Backup vocals?
KH: For which songs?
FJ: I believe Love Always Finds A Way.
KH: One of your romantic songs.
KH: Well, one song on that album, In The Darkness, that was a big one they threw your way because that came from a hot writing team at that time.
KH: That was Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly.
KH: And Taylor Dayne ended up recording that song on her first album.
FJ: That’s right.
KH: Those guys had already written Madonna’s Like A Virgin. And that next year they wrote Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors. And then Alone for Heart. And several other big hits. Is it hard not to look at the songs they wrote for other people and imagine what they could have done for your careeer?
FJ: Oh absolutely. Did you know how many songs Diane Warren sent to me?
KH: Why didn’t you do a Diane Warren song? That would’ve been a perfect match.
FJ: I totally agree. But the songs they sent to me by Diane Warren were not her top songs.
KH: I know what you mean. Even the top writers have lesser songs. It sounds like Epic thought, “Well, we’ll match her with this big team, but we won’t give her the A songs, we’ll give her the B song.”
FJ: Exactly. So I basically ended up having the leftovers. And Diane Warren is, still to this day, one of the greatest writers out there, I wasn’t as fortunate. Actually, on my Now! album, I did the song from Michael Bolton.
KH: Which one?
FJ: It’s called, um… I’m Thinking of You.
KH: Oh Yeah! “I’m still thinking of you..da da da...”
FJ: Yes, Michael Bolton.
KH: Are you saying that Michael Bolton wrote that?
FJ: Michael Bolton co-wrote that and they made a mistake on the spelling of his name.
KH: Oh my…
FJ: That was right before I got together with Ron Weisner and Freddie DeMann.
KH: The ones who represented both Michael Jackson and Madonna?
FJ: Yes, Absolutely!
KH: What did they do? I…I’m speechless. You had a mega-successful management team, but what did they do for you?
FJ: Not much!
KH: Do you think it’s because they had such big clients you got pushed back?
FJ: Yeah I think so. I remember going into the Freddie DeMann and Ron Weisner office, and when I had just been signed to them, they put on a video, Madonna’s Like a Virgin, raving about how great it is, and I’m going “Ok, what about me now?” I think I fell into the cracks.
KH: Another Billy Steinberg/Tom Kelly hit for someone else.
KH: You would have sounded great on their song Alone. I could imagine you doing a big rock ballad. Or something like Celine Dion’s It’s All Coming Back To Me Now. A big voice needs big material. And if you’re not challenging yourself musically, maybe you’re not as successful.
FJ: It’s hard for me to say, but my mom was always with me, and my mom was not an experienced woman in the field of music and show biz. And some of the decision making lacked experience.
KH: Sure. Well don’t you think it must have been hard for a parent? At fifteen, she must have felt so protective of you.
FJ: Yes, and you know she did the best she could with what she had. And there’s also one major, major thing that in my career I believe was a big blocker, and when, when you’re mom is next to you, people don’t like working with family. When I look back and I analyze…I look back and I go “OHHHH.”
KH: Well, at the time, in the late 70s, Brooke Shields mother, Teri Shields, she was very famous for being a stage mother. Do you think some of that reputation got unfairly put on you and your mother because that was “in the air” at that time?
FJ: Yes, I believe that. That was said about my mom. I...I would be uncomfortable giving her that title, that label on her, but it was perceived.
KH: It’s unfair too because, you could be nice and cooperative, but just the fact that you show up and you’re the mother of a star or performer, people have a preconceived notion.
FJ: Right, absolutely and I think it was, it was, not an easy task for the people around me to work freely when the mother is there, right?
KH: What was it like for your mother when you signed up with Weisner and DeMann? Was it hard for her to give up that control of your career?
FJ: She never did! She wanted to stay in, and so the contract was fine with them, her being my manager and my mom as well.
KH: How did your mom and Freddy and Ron get along?
FJ: Well, back then, Freddy and Ron were on the verge of breaking up, so Freddie got Madonna’s career, and Ron stayed with Michael. We weren’t a unit anymore.
KH: If you’re handling Madonna, don’t you pretty much have to manage her full time and no one else?
FJ: He kept only Madonna, and he became her exclusive management.
KH: So by default did your management just go back to your mother?
FJ: It was my mom and Ron Weisner
FJ: And Ron had Michael Jackson.
KH: Wow. So you’re on the back burner because if you have someone like Michael Jackson that has to be your number one priority.
KH: So did Weisner get along with your mom?
FJ: He had a lot of issues with Joe Jackson.
KH: Talk about a stage parent.
FJ: And Ron had to deal with my mom as well because my mom was part of management. And I believe that when I look back at my whole career there were a lot of things that were right and a lot of things that were wrong.
KH: I think you symbolize what many successful disco artists had to go through.
FJ: Yes. I agree.
KH: And it’s too bad that it can’t always be about your music, but that’s part of your story, and you stand for something bigger than yourself. But let’s move on to a question I don’t think anyone else has ever asked you about, OK? I’m hoping this is a zinger. Around 1980, I was reading the latest issue of Variety, and I saw an announcement: Coming Soon…France Joli in Beverly Hills, A new musical comedy for the ‘80s. Music direction by Tony Green. Or something to that effect.
FJ: [Laughs] Good for you honey!
FJ: You’ve done your detective work very well!
KH: Well, you know what I did at the time. This was at the library, and I actually ripped out that little ad and kept it!
FJ: [Laughing] I love it!
KH: And I still have that little scrap of newsprint 30 years later.
FJ: Oh my goodness!
KH: So it sounded like a big movie musical. With Tony composing the music. Was this really in the works?
FJ: It was. It was in the works, and I went to Los Angeles, and I remember celebrating my 17th birthday, when I was in LA doing a screen test. I did several scenes and uh, this was supposed to be THE movie of the 1980s right?
FJ: And uh, it never materialized.
KH: So it sounds like this was probably inspired by the success of Grease. When musicals were suddenly hot again. Grease made so much money. And it was right before Flashdance and Footloose. But Fame was a big hit that year too, in 1980. So what I want to know is, what studio was going to do it?
FJ: I…that’s a good question, I have no idea.
KH: Is there any footage of your screen test that still exists?
FJ: I would love to put my hands on it. I would LOVE to! The only thing that I have is a little part of the screen test that was filmed through a company called Big Blue Marble back then. They did a documentary on it. The film, in the Big Blue Marble documentary, they film me watching myself on the screen. So that’s the only part of it that I have. I do not have the actual screen test.
KH: Do you have a copy of this documentary?
FJ: Yes, I do.
KH: Well, how come I can’t find it on YouTube?
FJ: Because it’s never been on YouTube
KH: How long was it?
FJ: The documentary was, oh I would say about 8-10 minutes. It was very small. It was part of a children’s show.
KH: Oh. This must have been that TV show called Big Blue Marble.
FJ: Yes! They came to Montreal, and they came to New York when I was performing, and they followed me, I think, for two weeks.
KH: Wow. Was it because of your age that they followed you? To profile young people?
FJ: Yes, exactly. It was so much fun to do. I was sixteen, so they even filmed me going for my driver’s license test. It’s not part of the show, but they DID film that.
KH: At the time were you still living in Quebec?
FJ: Yes, I was living with my parents in Montreal.
KH: At any point did you move to the U.S.?
FJ: No! I never moved to the U.S. I always kept to my home here in Montreal. It’s my heritage, right in my town. I live here.
KH: Do you feel that affected your career?
FJ: I was traveling the world back then.
KH: Was there pressure for you to move to New York or LA?
FJ: At one point there was a lot of people saying maybe you should be moving to the states to be closer to the industry, but I never did. I never did move.
KH: Back to the Beverly Hills movie. Did Tony Green write any songs for it?
FJ: Not that I know of.
KH: Were they going to use any of your existing songs from your first two albums in the movie?
KH: So it was going to be a whole new score written by Tony.
FJ: That’s right.
KH: Do you know if he has anything that maybe he’s written, but hasn’t done? Or do you think maybe he wrote some songs for it that some other artists eventually recorded?
FJ: I…Not that I’m aware of. I think maybe that Tony Green himself can answer these questions. I really don’t know. [KH: A few days after this interview I did contact Tony Green and ask him, but I’ll save that for another interview.]
KH: Do you stay in touch with Tony?
FJ: No. I did work with him again in 1997/1998. We did an album together called If You Love Me.
KH: Oh. I’m very familiar with it.
FJ: Oh you are?
KH: Well yeah! [laughs] It’s not as if it wasn’t released!
FJ: I thought Touch and Breakaway were the popular records released back then.
KH: I thought it was an incredible comeback.
FJ: Yeah. What happened with this was in the middle of promoting this new album, Popular Records went under.
KH: That’s no good.
FJ: No, that’s not good!
KH: Well, going back in the studio now, I mean, since 1998, things have changed in the music industry.
KH: So, approaching it now, what’s most intimidating for you?
FJ: The new technology, which I’m not intimidated by anymore, but, the whole process of recording now is so different. I was used to the three and a half, three and a quarter inch tape. Now everything is Pro-Tools and Logic, and it’s so much easier to record.
KH: It’s easier in some ways, but it’s more expensive if you want real musicians.
FJ: Yes, it is more expensive.
KH: Would you ever imagine yourself having a string and horn section like back in the old days?
FJ: Oh my goodness, no! I mean, I could imagine it, but it’s so rare these days to have musicians and everything given to us.
KH: But without that, well, what we were talking about earlier: Can today’s technology match your voice and your style?
FJ: Well, I believe so.
KH: I want to hear a full orchestra with you, and a really good rhythm section.
FJ: Right, but it can be recreated in the studio pretty easily.
KH: Your manager said you have done some recording recently.
FJ: Yes, and I’m very, very proud of this. I haven’t been in the studio in almost thirteen years. And you know, Kelly, it was kind of my biggest fear for a long time because I didn’t know…I kept on performing, that was not a problem. And I still maintained a good healthy life performing. But the fear of: Am I going to fail? Am I going to do this? And rejection. This is what’s going through my mind. And I can’t continue living in fear like this. And I believe I’m still not over the hill. Vocally, I’m pretty much at my peak right now. I can’t let that go to waste. I took my courage. I took everything I have inside me, and I cried, and I was fearful, but I conquered it when I decided to do this project. And we did a version of a song that’s very, very, very popular, that was never done to dance, and I turned it into a dance song.
FJ: The vision that I had, Kelly, I had it for three years, but I wasn’t going to act on it because of my fear. Because of being judged, being…doing something new and considered…am I going to miss the boat? Am I going to be…are people going to think I’m past that age? And I said, “To hell with it. I’m going to do it.” What I did with my mind was, “You, France, are doing this for you. If anyone else wants to embark on your journey, they’re more than welcome.” And, I went in the studio, I took this song, turned it around, reinvented it, and it is now produced by France Joli.
KH: So, you have the producer credit on this?
FJ: Yes, I do.
KH: Well, that’s pretty major.
FJ: I produced it. I envisioned it. I…Every breath of this song, I lived it. I cried it. I laughed it. It is so neat, and so beautiful, and I’m not just selling it to you, I really mean it, and it’s got every part of me. I’m very proud of myself because this alone just…going to action with it and producing it and finishing it. It is now a finished item. I finished it last week…
KH: That recently?
FJ: I went to New York. I mixed it for three days, and now the product is coming out, hopefully the end of February to early March. Did it very, very carefully to not have it leak anywhere because I want this to be a surprise for everybody, and I want to come out with a big bang.
KH: Sure. So, as a producer, did you gain a lot from say Tony Green? Your time with George Duke? What style of a producer are you? What did you fall back on for that?
FJ: I couldn’t tell you because this is my first production that I’ve done alone. I’ve done demos before. But this was my first production. I was inspired by the music today. I was inspired by the music I’ve done in the past, or written.
KH: Did you do arrangements yourself?
FJ: Yes I did.
KH: What was that like? Arranging is the hard part.
FJ: Yes, absolutely it’s the hard part. But, I almost cannot take credit for it because it was a vision that I had, and the whole album was produced already in my head.
KH: What sparked this? Did you hear the original on the radio and it just clicked?
FJ: It’s a story that I will probably tell when the song comes out. My story, I will divulge what the song is, and I can’t do that at this time. But, I promise I’ll let you in.
KH: France, you’ll actually share the details with me?
FJ: I will. I promise!
KH: [laughing] OK! Well, I won’t pressure you for them now because I know it’s your baby.
FJ: Yes, it’s my baby. It’s so dear to my heart and I cannot wait. It’s so hard for me to speak about it while hiding the main thing.
FJ: It’s hard, but I really have to be patient and do it right.
KH: Are you planning a venue to debut singing it when it comes out?
FJ: No, the venue is not decided on, but the video is being filmed in January.
KH: Oh, you’re making a video! Finally!
FJ: Absolutely! I’m coming out in a big way. Doing it the right way this time. It’s going to be my way, the way I see it. And, of course, I’m going to get a lot of help from a lot of people. And there’s going to be an album following this single.
FJ: And it’ll take whatever time it takes, but hopefully it will be the 2012 fall premiere.
KH: I hope so too. So you recorded the one song; will you be recording the rest of the album over the next few months?
KH: OK. And when the song comes out, will this be the first official music video you’ve ever done for one of your songs?
FJ: No! My first video was Come To Me, believe it or not.
KH: There’s a video to that?
FJ: Yes, yes! I don’t have a copy. I’ve been trying to track it down for years, and it was without success. It was done by Dreyfus, the European company…
KH: Right, the record label.
FJ: They released Come To Me in Europe. I remember doing part of the video in France, and coming out of a Mercedes with the leg and the high heels and everything…I still remember doing the video, but I’ve never seen the whole video.
KH: Was it only shown in Europe?
KH: So, does Tony Green appear singing his part in the video?
FJ: Yes, he does, in a trench coat, with a hat on, and a cigarette in his mouth!
KH: Oh my goodness.
JF: Oh yes! [laughing] I remember this like it was yesterday filming it.
KH: And you’ve never seen the full video yourself?
FJ: I couldn’t put my hands on it.
KH: You’ve never seen the total video?
FJ: Never, but I know it was completed. I know it was played in front of the stations in Europe. I never saw it. Can you believe that I just got my Bob Hope Special that I did in 1979? I just got it. I bought it online.
KH: That is hilarious.
FJ: Isn’t it? Because Tony Green had a lot of these videos, like the Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, American shows like Mike Douglas, the specials…The Bob Hope Special is now on YouTube.
KH: On that special, do you sing anything besides Come To Me?
FJ: No, that’s the only song I was singing.
KH: You know, whenever I go on Wikipedia or see a site that has your biography, they always list, at the height of your fame in 1979, that you were on Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, and Mike Douglas. And it just stops there, as if the peak of your life was being on a few American talk shows.
KH: I think that’s substantial, but that takes up about one quarter of your biography, and I think, come on! There’s so much more to her than just appearing on a few talk shows.
FJ: Yes, you’re right.
KH: And how come they never list the Canadian talk shows you were on?
KH: Why does American success only count?
FJ: Exactly! [laughing] Exactly. I went to Japan in 1980...
FJ: ‘85. I won the grand prize at the Yamaha Song Festival in Tokyo. It was a wonderful personal accomplishment!
KH: Right! That was pretty big.
FJ: It’s never really mentioned, and I was competing with fifty-eight countries.
KH: Which also shows an artist can have very segmented popularity throughout the world.
KH: You can be tanking in the US, yet have a huge hit in South America that we don’t know of. Or heavy rotation in Sweden.
FJ: Exactly! That’s what’s so funny…You can’t keep track of everything, right? A friend of mine went to Puerto Rico, and said every radio station…well, not EVERY Radio station, but a LOT of the radio stations had me on heavy rotation with the song Now from the Now! album.
KH: Wow, who would’ve thought? [laughing]
FJ: Can you believe that? It blows me away! It’s like Now? The Now song? Wow. That never had any airplay in the States or in Europe.
KH: And that wasn’t officially released by the record company as a single.
KH: So it sounds to me like some DJ took it upon himself to put it into rotation.
KH: Are there any other really weird little pockets around the world where you’re really famous? Like Japan, of course.
FJ: Japan was one. Um…
KH: Which is a good market to be popular in.
JF: Oh yeah! No kidding! With Facebook and computers today, you can basically hit all around the world in a matter of minutes. And, I’ve never been to Australia, and, with Facebook, there’s these people in Australia saying, “When are you going to come?”
FJ: And I’m going, “Oh my god! I’ve never been to Australia!”
KH: They would love you in Sydney.
FJ: I want to go!
KH: When your new song hits in February, you’ve got to get it in those Sydney clubs. They’re going to propel you.
FJ: Oh, I would love that! You kidding me? I would like to travel around the world! It’s just, I feel like it’s just beginning for me.
KH: I predict you’re going to be on a float in the Sydney Parade next year.
FJ: Oh! That’d be awesome, wouldn’t it?
KH: One thing. When you mentioned the big award in Japan in that contest, it makes me think of Eurovision, or maybe an equivalent. Have you ever been approached to sing for France or Belgium for Eurovision?
KH: I promised I wouldn’t bring her name up, but Celine Dion really got her big push when she…I think she represented Switzerland in Eurovision. Like in the late '80s? And she sang in French, of course.
KH: And I read, also, that when you first started, there was a chance that you were going to record in French.
FJ: Well, I’ve always pretty much sang English, and my career picked up when I was so young and it was in English. I never recorded a French album. Ever.
KH: How come?
FJ: There’s always room for that! It’s never too late, right?
KH: Well, Celine Dion, people in the U.S. don’t realize that along with every American album she records, she’s also doing totally original ones in French that are released in French speaking markets.
FJ: I respect Celine Dion tremendously, and she has so much talent, and I think she’s had a brilliant career, very well managed, and I tip my hat with respect with what she’s done with her life. She’s absolutely amazing.
KH: Well, there are some parallels. You both started when you were very young.
KH: You were both from Quebec.
KH: And you both have big, beautiful voices.
FJ: Well thank you.
KH: Have you met Celine Dion?
FJ: Yes, I’ve met her several times, but she wasn’t at the height of her career. We used to, I used to do telethons here in Montreal, and I’d had my success with Come To Me, and she was just starting her career. And after that, she started her career…
KH: And then reached the stratosphere. By the way, Canada seems to do a good job of promoting their artists.
KH: They give lots of airplay to Canadian artists. But, beyond that, it just seems like they have more grants for filmmakers, and money for the arts.
FJ: Yes, yes.
KH: So during the late 70s, early 80s, did you get to go to events where you met other Canadian singers?
FJ: Not a lot. The only events that I went to when I was sixteen were the Juno Awards. So I met Canadian artists there. But I was mostly an American artist, even though I was Canadian.
KH: Right. Did you meet Bryan Adams at the time?
FJ: Actually, do you want to hear a funny story?
KH: Of course.
FJ: You sure? OK. Bryan Adams opened for me in a club in Vancouver.
KH: I love it. He was doing Let Me Take You Dancing at the time?
FJ: He was doing, yeah, [singing] “Let me take you dancing, Let me steal your heart tonight.”
KH: I love it. You know, because of that song, I considered Bryan Adams a disco artist for a long time. I was pretty shocked when I went up to Vancouver and saw his rock albums in the record store windows in the early ‘80s.
FJ: I remember meeting him, and when he came out with his rock song, I thought “Oh my god, what a different orientation.” And he found his niche, right?
KH: Right. He did!
FJ: He was very successful.
KH: He even went on to record a big power ballad from that Robin Hood movie.
FJ: It was huge! Still, for me, it was one of his best recordings.
KH: Right. Now let’s talk Karen Silver. She was another Canadian diva. And with Gino Soccio.
FJ: Yeah. Right.
KH: Did you ever meet her during that time?
FJ: No, I don’t believe so. Remind me again, what were the songs that she came out with?
KH: Well, she actually had several. She sang with Star City on I’m a Man. And then her first full album was Hold On, I’m Comin'. She did a disco version of that. And had a big hit produced by Gino, Nobody Else.
FJ: Ain’t nobody else? Ohh yeah!
KH: And Set Me Free. Those were the biggies. I think they were on Quality Records.
FJ: Right, right!
KH: So she started in Disco, like you, and went into the more urban R&B dance sound. I just loved her stuff, in part because she was with Gino, and he gave her a very distinct sound on those records.
KH: But I just pictured you in some unity. I mean, how rare was it to have this handful of Canadian singers that just broke through internationally with Disco? So I always put you at the top, and Gino, of course, Karen Silver, Lime, Denis LePage.
FJ: Freddy James.
KH: Oh, I was going to ask you, did Tony Green offer you any of Freddy James’ songs first?
KH: I think you should’ve done Hollywood.
FJ: [singing] “I’m going to Hollywood! Hollywood! Hollywood to be a star!” Yes.
KH: Could you do that in concert?
FJ: They were all written by Tony, so…
KH: I know! And the arrangement was almost identical to your first two albums! I was so happy when it came out. It was like getting a France Joli fix without France!
FJ: You know Geraldine Hunt?
KH: Freddie’s mom. Can’t Fake The Feeling.
FJ: Right, Can’t Fake the Feeling.
KH: And wasn’t she related to one of the women in Cheri? Murphy’s Law?
FJ: Freddie James’ sister.
KH: That’s right. Rosalind Hunt. Powerhouse family. But I especially love the Freddie James album.
FJ: Oh yeah!
KH: It’s a classic. I think if you ever get a chance to do this in concert, get the backing track to Hollywood and sing it. I would get a kick out of that.
FJ: [laughs] I think that’d be funny. Or, what’s his name? What’s the other song that he did?
KH: Get Up And Boogie was the big hit.
FJ: [sings] "Get up and boogie…"
KH: That’s right. The roller disco crowd really liked it.
FJ: He was cute. And he’s performed lately. I went to a local bar here in Montreal where he was performing. Bourbon Street.
FJ: And oh my god! Does he put on a great show!
KH: Has his voice gotten a little bit deeper?
FJ: Oh a lot deeper! But he’s a cover artist right now. He performs other people’s songs. He puts on a really good show. He’s got a great act.
KH: Well, to be represented by just one album. It’s incredible, thirty-two years later, he will always have that first album.
FJ: I know, I know!
KH: And it was so much like yours: four songs, Tony Green, same line-up of musicians. There’s just magic at that time.
FJ: Oh yeah, oh yeah.
KH: Speaking of…now you can clear something up. On Don’t Let Go, who sings the really deep “Let go, let go, you got to let go?”
FJ: Tony Green.
KH: How’d he get his voice so low?
FJ: He just did that, and we all said, "Oh yeah, that sounds really good!" [in a low voice] “Let go, let go, you got to let go.”
KH: [Laughing] If you do Don’t Let Go in concert again, will you promise me that at least one time you’ll do the low “Let Go” part?
FJ: Oh, I’ll try to include it. I’ll try to include it! [Laughing]
KH: And since you mentioned Denis LePage, how come you guys didn’t work together? How come he didn’t produce a song for you?
FJ: I don’t think his sound was for me. Even though I think he was a genius, Denis has his own tune, and it was not me at all.
KH: Do you think he prefers higher pitched female voices?
FJ: Well, I don’t know what he prefers. I really don’t. I know he approached me a while ago because he had written a while ago. I’m talking about fifteen, maybe twenty years ago. He had written a song, and he sang the song to me over the phone, and it wasn’t what I was looking for, but he did approach me. I don’t think we would’ve gelled, Kelly. We had such different styles, but I have to say that he’s a musical genius.
KH: Sure. Because he embraced that new sound and made it work for what it was.
FJ: Exactly! But not so romantic.
KH: Right. But I loved Babe, We’re Gonna Love Tonight. I thought it was just perfect.
KH: So on your second album, Tonight, Prelude wanted to promote your ballad, This Time. What did you think of that song?
FJ: I liked it. I thought it was complementing the album very, very well. It was not a creation of Tony Green. But, we all thought that the song would be very nice to put on the album.
KH: I remember one reviewer compared it to the Commodores’ Easy. Did you feel it was similar to that?
FJ: Oh! I’ve never heard that!
KH: Which, by the way, you’ve opened for them?
FJ: Yes, and almost sang Endless Love with, what’s his name? Lionel?
KH: Lionel Ritchie?
KH: He asked you to sing Endless Love with him?
KH: What happened? Diana Ross butted you out of the way?
FJ: No, No, No. Me singing it live with him at the Radio City Music Hall.
KH: Oh! So, not to record it initially.
FJ: No no no no no no. But, he had to sing it live, and because I was a female vocalist, and I was opening for them, he asked me to sing it. And the reason I didn’t is because one of his backup vocalists insisted, and sang it instead.
KH: France, this breaks my heart to hear this.
FJ: Yeah, it broke my heart so bad. But you know what? We just have to accept it, you know? There’s so many things, Kelly, that happened in my career. Like acting. How I could have been a neighbor on Three’s Company.
KH: Oh my goodness.
FJ: The things that were offered to me were unbelievable! I was supposed to do Grease 2.
KH: Instead of Michelle Pfeiffer?
KH: Why didn’t you?
FJ: I guess the decision from management. They were afraid I was going to be compared to Olivia Newton-John. I mean, Allen Carr approached me for this.
KH: What other things did you turn down, or did you almost get? Did you ever meet any other film directors?
FJ: I know I was asked to do plays. I sang in front of, not the Phantom of the Opera…the….
KH: Andrew Lloyd Webber?
FJ: Yes. For Aspects of Love.
KH: So you auditioned for that?
KH: And did you meet Andrew Lloyd Webber?
FJ: I sang in front of him. I auditioned right in front of him.
KH: Did you talk to him at all?
FJ: Yes. He came to me after my song. And I picked such a long song to sing in front of him. He loved my voice. But back then they [France’s management] didn’t want to commit to theatre that long. It was going to open in London, and I didn’t want to commit that long.
KH: Did he offer you the part?
FJ: Yes, he did.
KH: Oh my goodness. You turned down Andrew Lloyd Webber?
FJ: Andrew Lloyd Webber chose his wife, his ex-wife, to go to London and do the part. Yeah, I’ve been places, baby! I’ve been places, and I’m proud of it. I mean this company was absolutely amazing.
KH: Was it to replace Sarah, or did he pick you before Sarah?
FJ: No, that was the audition to choose the main character, and Sarah wasn’t even in the ballgame at that time.
KH: So, you would’ve been picked before Sarah Brightman? Wow.
FJ: I was not interested in committing to theatre. I’ve never been attracted to that.
KH: Well it seems with your French Canadian background you would’ve been a natural for Les Miserables.
FJ: True! Again, it would’ve been fun for a small period of time. I don’t think I would’ve liked to commit that long to theatre. It’s not me.
FJ: I was offered to do the revival of West Side Story on Broadway.
KH: Well this is a whole new side I’m learning about you, France. You obviously have the voice for Broadway. It seems like a natural fit.
FJ: Aw, thank you. But it’s not something…if we were talking about something like “Oh wow, it’s just been a dream of mine.” No, that’s not true. I’m more of a…I want to perform for my fans, and record. I’m more of a recording artist.
KH: Right. Do you enjoy touring?
FJ: Are you kidding me? I love it! I love touring.
KH: Well, how come you never stop in Seattle?
KH: [Laughs] I’m putting you on the spot.
FJ: [Laughs] Kelly, I’ve so enjoyed talking to you. You are really impressing me with your knowledge of not only my career, but of music in general. You are very, very knowledgeable and you’ve done your homework unbelievably well. I want to thank you for taking such a long period of time on this interview to speak with me. It means a lot to me. It’s people like you that put us artists out there so our fans get to know us a little better, and I want to thank you for being a part of that.
KH: Well, you’re very welcome. It’s not every day that you get to talk to France Joli. And I’m going to contact my friends Todd and Paula. We were the biggest France Joli fans at Shoreline High School, and they will be thrilled that thirty-two years later I had such a great talk with you. You’re going to make them very happy.
FJ: I want you to give them a big hug and a big kiss for me and thank them for their support and love.
KH: I will, France. Take care, and we’ll stay in touch. Can't wait to hear the new song.
FJ: Ok, sweetheart. Nice talking to you.
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