She got into Joe’s taxi aged 14 before becoming Johnny Depp’s ‘baby’. It’s Vanessa Paradis!
Child star Vanessa Paradis (b.1972) became a star in her native France aged 10 when she released her debut single, “La Magie des surprises-parties”, but is was in late 1987-early 1988 that the world got to hear about her with her international smash hit, “Joe Le Taxi”, which soared to the top of the charts. After leaving school the following year, she embarked upon a music career, only to branch out into acting and eventually to land a longterm contract with Chanel as a ‘spokesmodel’ for the perfume house.
Although “La Magie des surprises-parties” was not a commercial success, it did get her recognised and she was signed to Polydor Records in 1985. Vanessa divided her time between school and recording tracks for what would become her debut album and in April 1987, while still 14 years old, she released “Joe Le Taxi” as the lead single from the project. The song hit number one in France and sold over a million copies. Gradually, during 1987, the song was released across mainland Europe, where it went top ten in almost every territory. January 1988 saw the song hit UK record shops and it soon peaked at No.3 there.
Vanessa, now aged 15, released “”Manolo Manolete” in mid-1988 as the follow up, but although this charted top ten in her homeland, interest elsewhere was limited to non-existent. Her debut album, “M&J” (short for Marylin and John) was released that summer and achieve Platinum status in France. Three further singles were released, although only the title track reached the top ten (No.5). Having turned 16 and left school, by 1989, Vanessa was back in the studio and released her second album, “Variations sur le même t’aime”, in 1990. It too was Platinum certified in her home country and featured the mid-charting single, “Tandem”.
Having aligned herself with American rocker Lenny Kravitz romantically, she used her new found celebrity to relaunch her career outside of France and worked with Kravitz on her next album. The lead single, “Be My Baby”, released in April 1992, did just that, giving her, her biggest hit at home since “Marilyn & John” and a No.6 hit in the UK, whilst reaching the top ten in Germany and The Netherlands. Her self titled album, released soon after, topped the French chart and became her biggest seller yet, as well as becoming her first album to chart in multiple other territories. The album achieved one further, minor hit with “Sunday Mondays” that same year, before Vanessa’s music career was confined once more and to date remain just in her own country.
Vanessa spent most of the 1990’s doing her main job as a Chanel model and spokesperson, while also appearing in a handful of French films, most notably ‘Elisa’, in which she starred in the title role, in 1995. Eight years after releasing “Vanessa Paradis”, Vanessa, now with actor Johnny Depp, released her fourth album, “Bliss”, in 2000, along with the French mid-charting single, “Commando”. She provided the voice of Margotte in the all star version of the 1970’s children’s TV show ‘The Magic Roundabout’ in 2005 and released the album “Divinidylle” in 2007, another Platinum seller in her native France. She released the song “La Seine” from the 2011 film ‘A Monster In Paris’, which she voiced the character Lucille. “La Seine” took her back to the top ten in France for the first time since “Be My Baby”, nineteen years earlier.
“Divinidylle” had been her third consecutive chart topping album in France and in 2013, “Love Songs” would deliver a fourth, and with the title track going top twenty there. In 2016, Vanessa received France’s highest award, the Legion of Honour, in recognition of her achievements, while two years later, she released her most recent album, “Les sources” (Fra No.6) and a best of album the following year. 2019 saw Vanessa release a number of standalone singles, while still being requested by Chanel to promote their goods. She married writer and director Samuel Benchetrit in 2018. But just for the record, ‘Joe’, her fabled taxi driver, was based upon a real life cab driver called Maria José Leão dos Santos, who was born in Portugal and fled her homeland to France in the 1970’s because of her sexuality!
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