New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
France's biggest rock star Johnny Hallyday
has died after a battle with lung cancer. He was 74. The singer sold about 100 million records and starred in a number of films in a career that began in 1960. He was made a Chevalier of the Legion D'Honneur by President Jacques Chirac in 1997. The French simply called him "Our Johnny".
In a statement, his wife Laeticia said: "Johnny Hallyday has left us. I write these words without believing them. But yet, it's true. My man is no longer with us. He left us tonight as he lived his whole life, with courage and dignity."
Jean-Philippe Léo Smet, known by his stage name Johnny Hallyday
(French pronunciation: [dʒɔ.ni a.li.dɛ(j)], 15 June 1943 - 6 December 2017), was a Belgian-French singer and actor. He was married for 15 years to popular Bulgarian-French singer Sylvie Vartan
and the two were considered a "golden couple" for 20 years. Hallyday completed 181 tours, had 18 platinum albums, and sold more than 110 million records worldwide, making him one of the world's best-selling artists of all time.
Hallyday's father, Léon Smet (1908-1989), was Belgian; his mother, Huguette Clerc (1920-2007), was French. Born in Paris on 15 June 1943, Hallyday took his stage name from his aunt Desta's husband and dance partner Lee Hallyday, a pseudonym for Lee Ketcham, an expatriate Oklahoman performer and MC at the Café de Paris where Johnny began his singing career. Johnny was raised by Desta and Lee from a very young age, with Lee being his first manager. Johnny was always loyal to Lee and secured him a permanent job as a producer and A&R man with his label, Philips Records until Lee's retirement and relocation back to Oklahoma.
Influenced by Elvis Presley
and the 1950s rock n' roll revolution, Hallyday became famous in the 1960s for singing rock 'n' roll in French. His debut single, "Laisse les filles" was released on the Vogue label in March 1960. His first album, Hello Johnny, was released in 1960. In 1961 his cover of "Let's Twist Again" sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. It topped almost every European chart, although the track did not appear in the UK Singles Chart. He appeared on the American The Ed Sullivan Show with American singing star Connie Francis in a show that was taped at the Moulin Rouge
nightclub in Paris. He also staged many appearances in the Paris Olympia under the management of Bruno Coquatrix. For their first concert, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
opened for Johnny Hallyday
in Nancy on 14 October 1966. Black-and-white footage, also from October 1966, exists of Hallyday partying with Hendrix, his manager Chas Chandler and others. He also socialised with Keith Richards
and Bob Dylan.
At the end of the 1960s, Hallyday made a string of albums with Mick Jones and Tommy Brown as musical directors, and Big Jim Sullivan, Bobby
Graham and Jimmy Page as session musicians. These are Jeune homme, Rivière... Ouvre ton lit (aka Je suis né dans la rue) and Vie. On Je suis né dans la rue, Hallyday also hired both Peter
Frampton and the Small Faces. Amongst their contributions are the songs "Amen (Bang Bang)", "Reclamation (News Report)", and "Regarde pour moi (What You Will)", which are variations of Small Faces and Humble Pie (Frampton's band) songs—tracks and they all play on the album. Often forgotten is Hallyday's non-LP single and EP track "Que je t'aime" from the same sessions. By 1969 alone, his sales of records exceeded twelve million.
One of Hallyday's later concerts, 100% Johnny: Live à la tour Eiffel in 2000, attracted an audience of 500,000 and 9.5 million television viewers (the show was broadcast live on French TV). In December 2005, Hallyday had his third number-one single in France, "Mon plus beau Noël" (after "Tous ensemble" and "Marie
"), dedicated to his adopted daughter Jade. Shortly before announcing his retirement from touring, he released a blues-flavored album, Le Cœur d'un homme, on 12 November 2007. The album hit No. 1 in both France and French-speaking Belgium. In addition to the lead single "Always
", Le Cœur d'un homme features "T'aimer si mal", a duet with blues musician Taj Mahal and "I Am the Blues", an English-language song written for Hallyday by U2's lead singer Bono. His next album, Ça ne finira jamais, released in 2008, another No. 1 on the French album chart, and its lead single, "Ça n'finira jamais", also reached No. 1. In 2008 he recorded a series of acoustic songs with French musician Drexl Jonez. Hallyday's most recent album, also a No. 1 hit in France, is Tour 66: Stade de France 2009, a live set recorded at Stade de France during his farewell tour with appearances by Drexl Jonez on the guitar.
French movie producers Michèle and Laurent Pétin introduced Johnny Hallyday
to Hong Kong film director Johnnie To. Hallyday was cast as the main role of To's Vengeance after meeting with the director in early 2008. The shooting began in November 2008 and concluded in February 2009.
Hallyday has been called "the French Elvis". He remains largely unknown outside the Francophone world, thus earning the nickname "the biggest rock star you've never heard of" in English-speaking countries. Nevertheless, at an international level he is still considered the only non-Anglophone rock musician to have a large international reputation. He was made Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur in 1997.
Hallyday was introduced to the singer Édith Piaf in the late fifties and became one of her biggest fans up until her death in 1963. He attended every concert she performed in and was said to have been friends with her throughout his career. In a recent article he claimed that Édith tried to seduce him during a dinner with her in 1960, which resulted in him fleeing from her in despair, but a 1962 photograph of Édith, her husband Théo Sarapo, and Hallyday shows that she earned his trust back. Hallyday performed Édith's 1950 hit "Hymne à l'amour" in 1995.
In November 2005, Hallyday started a procedure to obtain Belgian citizenship but his request was turned down in 2006 because he failed to fulfill the residence requirements. In late 2006, Hallyday announced that he would move his permanent residency to Gstaad, Switzerland to escape the high tax rate imposed by the French government. Swiss
law allows wealthy individuals to claim residency if they live six months and one day in the country and then pay a fixed tax based on expenses, such as rent or assets in Switzerland, rather than a percentage of their income. Hallyday has said that he would move his residency back to France if it changes its tax laws.
He maintained a second home in Los Angeles, where he had been spending increasing amounts of time in recent years, enjoying his relative anonymity in the U.S. In January 2014, Hallyday revealed that his current residence was in fact in the United States after an investigation by Swiss
journalist showed that Hallyday did not spend enough time in Gstaad, Switzerland to qualify as a resident. One of his favorite leisure activities was riding his Harley-Davidson on long trips through the California desert, staying in small motels along the way.
Hallyday married Bulgarian-French singer Sylvie Vartan
on 12 April 1965. Their son David
was born on 14 August 1966. Hallyday and Vartan divorced in 1980. He was then briefly married to Babeth Étienne; the marriage lasted just two months and two days, ending in February 1982. A four-year relationship with French actress Nathalie
Baye followed; their daughter Laura
Smet was born on 15 November 1983. He was married to his third wife Adeline Blondieau for two years, divorcing her in 1992. He was married to Laeticia Boudou since 25 March 1996. The couple adopted two girls from Vietnam: Jade Odette Désirée, born 3 August 2004 (formerly Bui Thi Hoa), in November 2004, and Joy (Maï-Huong), born 27 July 2008, in December 2008.
Hallyday supported Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 French presidential election. The Masked Avengers referenced this in their prank call to American vice-presidential nominee Sarah
Palin when an Avenger impersonating Sarkozy named Hallyday as his "Special American Advisor".
In July 2009, Hallyday was diagnosed with colon cancer, and underwent surgery. On 26 November 2009, Hallyday underwent surgery in Paris to repair a herniated disc. He suffered complications and was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Doctors announced that they had put Hallyday into a medically-induced coma so they could repair lesions that had formed as a result of the surgery, and to relieve his pain. On 17 December, Hallyday and his wife started legal proceedings against Dr. Stephane Delajoux, who had performed the original surgery. The conflict was resolved in February 2012 following Delajoux's vindication by medical investigators.
Hallyday died of lung cancer on 6 December 2017 in Marnes-la-Coquette, near Paris, at the age of 74. The French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute, saying he "transcended generations and is etched in the memory of every Frenchman".
• Les parisiennes (1962) as Jean Allard
• D'où viens-tu Johnny? (1963) as Johnny (but not Hallyday)
• Cherchez l'idole (1963) as himself
• À tout casser (1968) as Frankie
• Le Spécialiste (1969) as Hud / Brad
• Point de chute (1970) as Vlad Le roumain
• L'aventure c'est l'aventure (1972) as himself
• L'Animal (1977) as himself
• The Case of the Missing Bottle (1983) as Monsieur Waitor
• Détective (1984) directed by Jean-Luc Godard as Jim Fox Warner
• Terminus (1987) as Stump
• The Iron Triangle (1989) as Jacques
• La gamine (1991) as Frank Matrix
• Why Not Me? (1999) as José
• Love Me (2000) as Lennox
• L'homme du train (The Man on the Train) (a.k.a. Man on the Train
in the US) (2002) as Milan
• Crime Spree (2003) as Marcel Burot
• Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse (2004) as L'ermite borgne
• Quartier V.I.P. (2005) as Alex
• Jean-Philippe (2006) as Jean-Philippe
• Vengeance (2009) as Francis Costello
• The Pink Panther 2 (2009) as Laurence Millikin
• Salaud, on t'aime (2014) as Jacques Kaminsky
• Rock'n Roll (2017) as Johnny Hallyday
• Chacun sa vie et son intime conviction (2017)