The French Elvis: Johnny Hallyday

It’s hard to summarize who Jean-Philippe Smet was. An artist with a unique voice, 50 years of success, and an instantly identifiable “face”, he was a living national legend.

Johnny was the ultimate rocker. A man marked by a rough start in life, abandoned by an alcoholic and unstable father and taken in by his aunt, he entered the artistic world really quickly where he made maybe the most important encounter in his life, Lee Halliday, an American singer who was married to his cousin, and helped him discover his musical talent and an icon, Elvis Presley. From him Johnny gained 2 things: a passion for music and a name: Hallyday. After this, he decided that he wanted to get rock music out to French people. He got on stage soon after, performing covers of famous American songs in French and became famous quickly thanks to his unique voice and charisma.

Then, it is 57 years of career and 110 millions of disks sold. 50 albums and a thousand titles. 183 tours and more than 28 million spectators over 3 generations. Unmatched numbers for a 66 million people country! However, despite his many efforts, he never managed to get his name out world-wide, but still, the United States occupied an important place in his heart during his whole life and he lived in Los Angeles for a long time.

Johnny is also the romantic kind of rocker, he had 5 wives, but only one true love. A complicated first love story that got him into depression and its excesses. Then, 3 more tries, 3 more fails..and finally, Laeticia. He met her in Miami and it was the beginning of a long love story in spite of the 32 year age difference. They stayed together until the end.

In short, a life only a rock star could have. Ups and downs, excesses, a lot of biking and also some outbursts. Because Johnny was also known for his tough temperament and the way he expressed himself without restraints, he proved it in his autobiography “Dans mes yeux” (“In my eyes”).

After months fighting lung cancer, Johnny left us on December 6th 2017 at 74 years old.

This is this figure that became an idol, which France is mourning. A rocker always giving everything he had until the end, his last tour actually started after the discovery of his disease. He was also a renowned biker and a great guitarist… Respected by his peers and by the French population. The official procession organized for his death drew more than 500 000 people and 700 bikers to the Champs Elysées. For many people who grew up listening to his songs that felt like losing a friend or a member of the family. Farewell Johnny.

A short video of the procession and the funeral:

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