Johnny Hallyday, the Elvis Presley of France

Jean-Philippe Léo Smet, better known by his stage name: Johnny Hallyday, was a Belgian-French Rock’n Roll and Pop singer/actor, who captivated generations of French people. Born the 15th of June in 1943 in Paris son of a French model and a Belgian circus performer, Johnny quickly became an icon. His career nearly lasted for 6o years until his deathbed. Hallyday has completed 181 tours, 18 platinum albums and more than 110 million records. He was one of the world’s best selling artists of all times, making him the great Elvis Presley of France. He first began to sing American rock songs in 1956 and was then signed by Vogue records, which released his first single « Laisse les filles » and then his album « Hello Johnny » in 1960.

Like Elvis Presley, Johnny Hallyday pursued another career in acting. Some films are: Le Spécialiste (1969), Terminus (1986), Vengeance (2009), The Pink Panther 2 (2009)….

Some of his best known songs are: « Ma geule » (1988), « L’Envie » (1986), « Allumer le feu » (1998), « Marie » (2002)…

Hallyday was married five times: Sylvie Vartan, Babeth Etienne, Nathalie Baye, Adeline Blondieau and Laeticia Boudou. The first four ended in a divorce. He had 2 children (David and Laura) and adopted two girls from Vietnam with his fifth wife. In 1997, he received the Legion of Honor from President Jacques Chirac.

In 2000, from the hands of his friend Michel Sardou, he got a diamond record celebrating 1 million sales, in 2002, he received the NRJ Music Awards.

In 2009, Johnny was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent surgery, an intervention that faced life-threatening complications. On December 6, 2017, at 74 years, poor Johnny passed away of lung cancer, leaving a dent in France.

For his funeral, thousands of Parisian came together on the Camps Elysées to pay him a tribute. A whole parade was organized, firstly led by 700 bikers and accompanied with rock and roll music. President Emmanuel Macron delivered a eulogy: « He transcended generations and is etched in the memory of every Frenchman ». His body was in a white coffin and the religious ceremony took place in the Madeleine Church. He will be buried on the beautiful French Caribbean island of Saint Barthélemy, true to his heart’s location.

-By Lara D.

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