François de Roubaix was born on April 3rd 1939, a few weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War. His father, Paul de Roubaix, was an institutional film producer, and his mother, Mimma Indelli, painter and cartoonist.
François was an average student whose favourite subject was drawing, though he also began to develop a passion for music when his grandmother offered him a harmonica. He discovered a second passion: the sea. His mother introduced him to underwater fishing during holidays in Toulon and Saint-Raphaël.
The De Roubaix family bought a property in Corsica in the early 1950s that would serve as a place to unwind for François throughout his life.
Jazz was the reference for young people who wanted to express themselves. François spent his free time in the large family apartment rue de Courcelles in Paris. François organized sessions there and invited his friends. There was always a tape recorder switched on to record these performances. The musician was gifted on the guitar but also on the trombone. He participated in the creation of the New Orleans College Orchestra with Georges Billecard, Michel Fontanes and Michel Klotchkoff, among others. The orchestra performed notably in the Arcachon basin and in Austria and participated in various jazz competitions. He also accompanied some great names such as trumpet player Bill Coleman, clarinet player Albert Nicholas or saxophonist Michel Attenoux. After a short professional career at Jeunesses Musicales de France with André Rewelliotty, François spent some time in Africa on his father's film shoots, familiarizing himself with all the technical trades (cameraman, sound recorder, editor...).
His meeting with Robert Enrico was at the origin of his career as a film composer. He set to music his first short films (L'or de la Durance, Thaumetopoea, Les trois amis, Montagnes magiques, Contrepoint...), produced by Les Films du Centaure, Paul de Roubaix's company. François took part in the SACEM competition as a composer, alongside his good friend Yves Josso, writer and lyricist. Together, they create a few songs and establish a list of potential performers. Juliette Gréco rejected them, because their style no longer corresponded to her desires, having worked with Gainsbourg.
François followed Robert Enrico as he began his career as a feature film director with Les grandes gueules and Les aventuriers. The composer also worked for the screenwriter of Enrico's first films, José Giovanni (La loi du survivant). His themes accompanied the headliners of French cinema in the 1960s : Bourvil, Lino Ventura, Alain Delon, Michel Constantin... Some of them became friends ; Alain Delon, for example, became a regular rue de Courcelles. The actor helped the musician by getting him hired on the film Diaboliquement vôtre, then presented him to Jean-Pierre Melville when the Samurai was in the making. In return, François asked Delon to sing on Les Aventuriers album and offered him the single Le soleil noir, a dark title that was never released.
From the early 1960s, François pursued his career on several fronts. After the short and the feature film, he was called to work in television. First with Robert Enrico for Daphne and La redevance du fantôme, then series followed series : Les survivants, L'extraordinaire Petros, Rue barrée, La vie commence à minuit, Les chevaliers du ciel... He is the only one who composed original music for the series Les cinq dernières minutes. Again with Robert Enrico, François began to explore the world of advertising in 1961. In the mid-1960s, a long partnership with Films Jean Mineur was established with the principal director Raoul Franco and editor Bruno Zincone.
Short film music occupies a place as important in François' career as that devoted to feature films. He works permanently for Les Films du Centaure with his father Paul, but also with other directors of the company such as Henri Lanoë, Daniel Absil or Jean-Michel Barjol. With the Centaure, he took part in the work of the Film Service of the Ministry of Agriculture (SCMA) directed by Armand Deleule, who signed his films under the name Chartier. Other structures such as the SNCF, the PTT, EDF (national train, post and electricity companies), the Pasteur Institute as well as the Ministry of the Armed Forces, used his talents as a composer. François himself directed two short films produced by the Centaure : Le Gobbo in 1968, which won the Ancre d'or at the Maritime Film Festival and Comment Ça Va Je M'en Fous in 1972 (released in 1977).
As for feature films, François wrote the music for all Robert Enrico's films (except Le secret) and José Giovanni (except Deux hommes dans la ville). But other important directors marked his career : Julien Duvivier, Jean-Pierre Melville, Jean Herman, Jean-Pierre Mocky, Jean Delannoy, Yves Boisset, Nicolas Gessner, Serge Korber... François also worked for friends he met at the Service Cinéma des Armées (SCA) during his military service.
The composer didn't limit himself to setting film and television productions to music. Through chance encounters, he discovered the world of puppetry with Philippe Genty and the Bettiol-Lonati tandem, theatre with the comic duo Avron and Evrard and Bernard Maître, stage music with Peter Knapp and Gilles Béhat and, finally, radio with a few signature tunes and a long soap opera about five adventures of Fantômas.
Songs run naturally through all these productions. François had the opportunity to compose for Hugues Aufray, Johnny Hallyday, Nicoletta, Gilles Dreu, Annie Philippe, Marie Laforêt, Guy Marchand, Los Incas, Martin Circus as well as Brigitte Bardot, Louis de Funès, Annie Girardot and Bourvil. François sang some of these songs himself and over the years recorded demos that he used to produce a variety album.
Jazz was still present in François' life. Every Saturday at the end of the day, his friends would get together and jam to the standards of New Orleans. These sessions were interspersed with various happenings (fake interviews, improvised masses, radio adventure series, photo novels with Polaroid...). François went with Stéphane Guerault to jazz concerts in Nice, Megève, Limoges or Cadaquès (Spain), often accompanied by Michel Klotchoff, Bernard Malabre, Henri Boiron, Maurice Lecoeur and Georges Billecard. He also played alongside great jazzmen such as Maxim Saury, Claude Bolling, Claude Luter, Marc Laferrière, Patrick Artero and Pierre Lamalle.
To break his intense pace of work and recharge his batteries, whenever he could, François practiced his other great passion, scuba diving. In the company of his friends, he discovered the seas and oceans of the globe. He brought back many photos from his travels and thought of publishing a book on night diving. It is while wanting to complete this series of photos in the Canaries that he lost his life on November 20, 1975, remaining prisoner of an underwater cave.
On April 3, 1976, his birthday, François received posthumously the first César of film music for Le vieux fusil. His father Paul was overcome, accepted the prize and said a few words with difficulty. The following year, François' talent as a director was rewarded with the César for the best short film for Comment Ça Va Je M'en Fous.
Today, it is François' children who perpetuate his work. Patricia de Roubaix, who was ten years old when her father died, took charge of the relationship with fans and the first record productions early in the 2000s. Benjamin de Roubaix, born a few months before his father left, now works with his sister while pursuing a career as a composer and performer.
Several artists of the new generation have been inspired by the music of François de Roubaix (Air, Daft Punk, Calogero, Sébastien Tellier, Rob...), have sampled him (Robbie Williams, Bow Wow...) or have paid tribute to him as Fred Pallem and the Sacre du Tympan or Magali Heyries, winner, in 2011 for Abysses, of the François de Roubaix Prize, awarded to the composer by the Festival Mondial de l'Image Sous-Marine.