Claude Antoine Marie François was born in Ismaïlia, Egypt, where his father, Aimé François, was working as a senior manager in the Anglo-French Suez Canal company.
As a result of the 1956 Suez Crisis, the family returned to live in Monaco, where they struggled financially after François’ father fell ill and could not work.
François found a job as a bank clerk and at night earned extra money playing the drums with an orchestra at the luxury hotels along the French Riviera. With a good singing voice, he was offered a chance to sing at a hotel in the fashionable Mediterranean resort town of Juan-les-Pins. His show was well received and he began to perform at the glamorous night-clubs along the Côte d’Azur.
He moved to Paris just as American rock ‘n’ roll was taking hold, and to capitalise on the dance craze ‘the Twist‘, he recorded a song titled Nabout Twist that was not successful.
In 1963 he followed with another French adaptation of an American song, this time recording If I Had a Hammer and Walk Right In in French as Si j’avais un marteau and Marche Tout Droit.
In 1967, he and Jacques Revaux wrote and composed a song in French called Comme d’habitude which became a hit in Francophone countries. Paul Anka reworked it for an English-speaking audience into the now legendary hit My Way – most famously sung by Frank Sinatra.
Although François continued his successful formula of adapting English and American rock and roll hits for the French market, by the 1970s the market had changed and the disco craze that swept North America took root in France. He simply re-invented himself as the king of French disco, recording La plus belle chose du monde, a French version of the Bee Gees‘ hit record, Massachusetts.
François met his end in 1978 in his Paris apartment at the age of 39.
He was taking a shower when he tried to straighten the light bulb in the bathroom and was fatally electrocuted. Two heartbroken fans killed themselves in sympathy.