Popular American Musicians with French Roots

The French definitely have innate musical and artistic talents, and there’s no doubt about that. They have expanded these talents from their home country to many parts of the world, including the USA, through generations. C’est magnifique!

American musicians and artists of French descent have definitely made big waves not just in Hollywood, but globally. Here are some of them:


1. Elvis Presley

There is no lengthy introduction needed — he is the “King of Rock n’ Roll” or simply “The King.”

He is one of the iconic figures of 1950s-1970s music scene, and his image is still one of the most imitated and impersonated. Presley’s suave good looks were no secret, nor a product of some human intervention. Blame his ancestry for that! His bloodline primarily consists of German, Scots, Irish and French (or French Norman). He also had a distant Cherokee-Indian ancestry.

2. Madonna

You know that Madonna — born Madonna Louise Ciccone in Bay City, Michigan in 1958 — has Italian roots. But what you may have not been aware is that she also has a French-Canadian ancestry, from her mother’s side.

As you may have known, Madonna’s popularity first exploded in the 1980s, where she rose to become a music and fashion icon. Her 80s albums like Like a Virgin and True Blue became global bestsellers. But as years passed, she never got complacent and instead kept on reinventing herself, as evidenced in her successful 1998 album Ray of Light. She is also an actress (with film credits such as A League of Their Own and Evita) and businesswoman.

3. Cher

Music, fashion and acting icon Cher rose to fame as one-half of the famous 1960s duo Sonny and Cher, with Sonny Bono as her real-life husband at the time. The pair’s most well-known hit is the pop gem “I Got You Babe.”

But like Madonna, she never rested on her laurels. Even so, she outshone her prime in the 1960s with later hits such as her album Believe (1998) whose title track topped the US Billboard Hot 100 and other charts in many parts of the world. Her 2013 album, Closer to the Truth, also became a hit, peaking at #3 on the Billboard 200 album charts.

Cher’s unique physical features can be attributed to her mixed racial background. She was born Cherilyn Sarkisian in California in 1946, to her American-Armenian father and her English-German mother (who also had more distant French and Irish ancestry).

4. Kurt Cobain

Seattle grunge trio Nirvana almost single-handedly put those “hair metal” bands out of the scene by the unexpected breakthrough success of their second album Nevermind in 1991. But despite the superstardom, the band’s frontman Kurt Cobain felt uncomfortable with the fame, and struggled with drugs and depression. His eventual suicide in 1994 triggered shock waves from fans all over the world.

Nirvana’s fame and success helped popularize alternative rock and indie rock, and bands/artists up to this day are influenced by the band’s musical style and legacy.

Unless one is a die-hard Nirvana and Cobain fan, not many know about his early life. He was born on February 20, 1967 in Aberdeen, Washington. His ancestry, according to sources, includes Irish, Dutch, German, Scottish and French.

5. Beyoncé

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born in 1981 in Houston, Texas. The former Destiny’s Child lead singer has come a long way, scoring hit singles like “Irreplaceable,” “Beautiful Liar,” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”

Beyoncé is also considered one of the fashion trendsetters. She is now married to the successful rapper/producer Jay-Z, becoming one of the most powerful celebrity couples.

Her name has a French twang to it — a tribute to her distant French heritage and to her mother, Tina Knowles, whose maiden name is Beyincé. Tina’s ancestry is of Louisiana Creole, and is a direct descendant of 18th-century Acadian leader Joseph Broussard (aka “Beausoleil”) who is considered a hero during the British resistance and the French and Indian War.

Beyoncé has a younger sister, Solange, who is also a singer-songwriter, actress and model. She also worked with Destiny’s Child for a time as a backup dancer and songwriter.

6. Alice Cooper

Shock rock pioneer Alice Cooper was born Vincent Damon Furnier in Detroit, Michigan in 1948. Cooper has a French Huguenot ancestry, apart from English, Irish, Scottish and Sioux.

Alice Cooper (the band, that is) rose to fame for their predilection for anything gory and grotesque which they displayed on their live performances, giving birth to the “shock rock” sub-genre.

Furnier legally adopted the band’s moniker Alice Cooper as his own name in the mid-1970s. Away from performing and recording, Cooper acts, hosts a rock-oriented radio show and dabbles in his other passion, golf.

7. Izzy Stradlin

Jeffrey Dean Isbell, best known in his stage name as Izzy Stradlin, is a guitarist and one of the founding members of the legendary hard rock/heavy metal band Guns N’ Roses. Born in 1962 in Lafayette, Indiana, Stradlin’s ancestry includes English, German, Irish, Scottish and French.

8. Zooey Deschanel

Although she has made a bigger name as an actress (she’s known for her films such as (500) Days of Summer and for the TV sitcom New Girl), Zooey Deschanel is also proficient in music. Especially among the indie circles, she is known as the one-half of the male-female indie folk duo She & Him where she sings lead vocals and plays the ukelele and keyboards.

Zooey primarily has a French ancestry; she also has Swiss, Irish, English and Dutch blood. Actress Emily Deschanel (best known for her work in the TV series Bones) is Zoeey’s older sister. Their father is cinematographer and director Caleb Deschanel and their mother is actress Mary Jo Weir.

9. JoJo

R&B/pop singer-songwriter and actress JoJo was born Joanna Noëlle Levesque in Brattleboro, Vermont in 1990. At only thirteen years old, JoJo became the youngest singer to hit the #1 spot of the Billboard Hot 100 chart thorugh her single “Leave (Get Out)” in 2004. Her #3 hit pop single “Too Little Too Late (2006) garnered her first platinum record. As of 2013, JoJo has sold around seven million albums worldwide.

Like many people on this list, she has a French ancestry (in addition to Polish, Irish and Native American).

10. David Benoit

Seasoned jazz pianist and producer David Benoit was born in Bakersfield, California in 1953. Among his best works are Freedom at Midnight (1987) and Waiting for Spring (1988). Most of his material has been released under GRP record label, although he has also issued albums on other labels like Blue Moon and AVI.

He has worked with several artists such as Patti Austin, Faith Hill, Kenny Loggins and Brian McKnight, and has performed at the White House. Benoit is also popular among fans of the “easy listening” genre.

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