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Johnny Hallyday, French “rock’n’roll attitude”

(AFP) – Johnny Hallyday, who died overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday, at the age of 74, was the icon of French rock: his hits accompanied all eras for more than half a century and his life tumultuous made the happiness of the magazines people.

His successes, entered into the collective memory, enamel a career of exceptional longevity begun in 1960: “The Penitentiary”, “Black is black”, “Retiens la nuit”, “Hair long ideas short”, “For me life will begin”, “When the night returns”, “That I love you”, “Gabrielle”, “The music that I love”, “My face”, “Something from Tennessee”, “Lighting the fire “, “Married”…

Until the memory song of the January 2015 attacks, “A Sunday in January”, performed during the tribute to the victims in January 2016.

Jean-Philippe Léo Smet was born on June 15, 1943 in Paris. Very quickly, his mother Huguette Clerc, a Frenchwoman, and his father Léon Smet, a Belgian, separated and the child was taken in by his aunt.

As a teenager, he discovered the scene thanks to his cousin, the American artist Lee Halliday, from whom he took inspiration for his name. He frequented the cult place of French rock at the time, the Golf Drouot, where he made French covers and adaptations of the American country repertoire and especially of Elvis Presley.

His first 45 rpm (at Vogue) under the name of Johnny Hallyday was released in 1960 with a cover of a song by Dalida, “T’aimer follement”, followed by “Souvenirs, souvenirs”, two titles which propelled him to the top of the poster.

Hallyday then occupied the Parisian stages and made major tours in the provinces, making headlines along the way. The one the media nicknamed “the idol of young people” becomes the king of French rock. During a concert at Place de la Nation in Paris in June 1963, 150,000 people overflowed the police to listen to him.

– Part of shadow –

He married the singer Sylvie Vartan in 1965. David, their son, who would become a singer himself, was born in 1966.

The fashions will follow one another (hippie, soul music, blues, pop…) and Johnny will accompany them.

In more than 50 years of career followed by three generations of fans, he has sold more than 100 million copies, recorded 50 studio albums including forty gold records and won ten Victoires de la Musique.

But where he commands respect is in concert. A real beast of the stage, during often spectacular performances, he broke attendance records with more than a million spectators during the 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009 tours.

He performed nine times at the Stade de France and gave himself the ultimate pleasure last summer, alongside his comrades Eddy Mitchell and Jacques Dutronc for a tour of the “Vieilles canailles”.

If Johnny is a beautiful and powerful voice, his handsome face opened the doors of the cinema to him.

His acting career had its ups and downs, with a handful of notable roles including three films selected for the Cannes Film Festival: “L’aventure c’est l’aventure” by Claude Lelouch in 1972, “Detective” by Jean- Luc Godard in 1985 and “Vengeance” by Johnnie To in 2009.

Friend of two right-wing presidents, Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, the singer was appreciated by Emmanuel Macron.

– ‘Not like the others’ –

The star also had her dark side, sinking into excess and fighting against her demons. In 1966, he attempted suicide.

“He needs these descents into hell to go back up, to build himself, to reinvent his life”, had confided Laeticia, his wife.

“We can’t do this job if we’re normal. I haven’t felt like the others for a long time. I have to be bad to know that I could be fine,” he summed up in the newspaper Le Monde. in 1998.

In recent years, it was his health that worried.

In 2009, he was operated on for colon cancer, then urgently hospitalized in Los Angeles, following complications following the operation of a herniated disc. The whole of France holds its breath. Plunged into a coma, he was close to death. There follows a long convalescence and a period of depression that he will overcome to return to the stage and record new albums.

In March 2017, after living in Los Angeles for several years, he announced that he was being treated for cancer. He returns to France at the end of the summer with his wife Laeticia and his two adopted little girls, Jade and Joy, of Vietnamese origin.

Before this union, Johnny had a tumultuous love life.

Immortalized with Sylvie Vartan as the couple of the yéyés years, he divorced the singer in 1980.

A year later, he married Babeth Etienne. In 1982, he became the companion of actress Nathalie Baye, with whom he had a daughter, Laura, herself an actress. Then he married Adeline Blondieau in 1990 to divorce in 1992. He married her a second time in Las Vegas and the couple divorced again two years later.

In 1996, he married the daughter of one of his close friends, Laeticia Boudou.

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