Born Jean-Philippe Smet
on 15 June 1943, Cité Malesherbes, Paris, France, he is better known by his stage name of Johnny Halliday. He is an iconic (but only in France) singer and actor and has been an icon in the French-speaking world since the beginning of his career. He is considered by many to have been the French answer to Elvis Presley
. Johnny has completed 100 tours, had 18 platinum albums, and sold more than 110 million records. Although he announced his retirement from performing on 3 December 2007, saying that he would retire in 2009, he emerged from retirement in March 2012 to announce North American engagements Los Angeles on April 24 and in New York City on October 7.
He was married for 15 years to popular Bulgarian-French singer Sylvie Vartan. They formed the golden couple of the sixties and seventies in francophonic Europe.
Influenced by Elvis Presley and the 1950s rock revolution, Halliday became famous in the 1960s for singing rock and roll in French. His debut single, Laisse les filles
was released in March 1960. His first album, Hello Johnny
, was released in 1960. In 1961 his cover ofLet's Twist Again
sold over one million copies. It became his first gold disc. It topped almost every European chart with the notorious exception of the British.
He appeared on 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, which became his favoured performing arena.
An interesting piece of trivia is that the Jimi Hendrix Experience opened for Johnny Halliday in Évreux on 13 October 1966. Black and white footage, also from October 1966, exists of Halliday partying with Hendrix, his manager Chas Chandler and others.
At the end of the 1960s, Halliday 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
, Halliday 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 tracks. (Humble Pie being Frampton's band). Often forgotten is Halliday's critically acclaimed non-LP single and EP track Que Je T'aime
from the same sessions. By 1969 alone, his sales of records exceeded twelve million.
Halliday arguably become a better and more rounded performer in his more mature years. One of his concerts, 100% Johnny: Live à La Tour Eiffel
in 2000, attracted an audience of 500,000 in Paris, and 9.5 million television viewers (the show was broadcast live on French TV). In December 2005, Halliday had his third number-one single in France, Mon Plus Beau Noël
), 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 #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 bluesman Taj Mahal and I Am the Blues
, an English-language song written for Halliday by U2 frontman Bono. His next album, Ça ne finira jamais, released in 2008, another #1 on the French album chart, and its lead single, "Ça n'finira jamai
, also reached #1. Halliday's most recent album, also a #1 hit in France, is Tour 66: Stade de France 2009
, a live set recorded at Stade de France during his farewell tour. Halliday remains largely unknown outside of France, thus earning the nickname "the biggest rock star you've never heard of" in English-speaking countries. He was made Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur in 1997.
French movie producers Michèle and Laurent Pétin introduced Johnny Halliday to Hong Kong film director Johnny To. Halliday was cast as the main role of To's Vengeance after meeting with the director in early 2008. The shooting began in Hong Kong in November 2008 and concluded in February 2009.
In November 2005, Halliday 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, Halliday announced that he would move his permanent residency to Gstaad, Switzerland, to escape the high tax rate imposed by the French government. Halliday has said that he would move his residency back to France if it changes its tax laws.
He maintains a second home in Los Angeles, where he has been spending increasing amounts of time in recent years, enjoying his relative anonymity in the U.S. One of his favorite leisure activities is riding his Harley-Davidson on long trips through the California desert, staying in small motels along the way.
In July 2009, Halliday was diagnosed with colon cancer, for which he was operated on. On 26 November 2009, Halliday underwent surgery in Paris to repair a herniated disc. He suffered complications and was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.Discography
- Hello Johnny (1960, Vogue)
- Nous les Gars, Nous les Filles (1961, Vogue)
- Tête à Tête avec Johnny (1961, Vogue)
- Salut les Copains! (1961, Philips)
- Johnny Hallyday sings America's Rockin' Hits (1962, Philips)
- Les Bras en Croix (1963, Philips)
- Les Rocks les Plus Terribles (1964, Philips)
- Halleluyah (1965, Philips)
- Johnny Chante Hallyday (1965, Philips)
- La Génération Perdue (1966, Philips)
- Johnny 67 (1967, Philips)
- Jeune Homme (1968, Philips)
- Rêve et Amour (1968, Philips)
- Rivière... Ouvre ton Lit (aka Je suis né dans la rue) (1969, Philips)
- Vie (1970, Philips)
- Flagrant Délit (1971, Philips)
- Pleins Feux Sur... (1971, Philips)
- Country-Folk-Rock (1972, Philips)
- Insolitudes (1973, Philips)
- Je t'Aime, Je t'Aime, Je t'Aime (1974, Philips)
- Rock'n Slow (1974, Philips)
- Rock à Memphis (1975, Philips)
- La Terre Promise (1975, Philips)
- Derrière l'Amour (1976, Philips)
- Hamlet (1976, Philips)
- C'est la Vie (1977, Philips)
- Solitudes à Deux (1978, Philips)
- Hollywood (1979, Philips)
- À Partir de Maintenant... (1980, Philips)
- En Pièces Détachées (1981, Philips)
- Pas Facile (1981, Philips)
- Quelque Part un Aigle (1982, Philips)
- La Peur (1982, Philips)
- Entre Violence et Violon (1983, Philips)
- Hallyday 84: Nashville en Direct (1984, Philips)
- En V.O. (1984, Philips)
- Rock'n'Roll Attitude (1985, Philips)
- Gang (1986, Philips)
- Cadillac (1989, Philips)
- Ça ne change pas un homme (1991, Philips)
- Rough Town (1994, Philips)
- Lorada (1995, Philips)
- Ce que je sais (1998, Philips)
- Sang pour sang (1999, Philips)
- À la vie, à la mort ! (2002, Mercury)
- Ma Vérité (2005, Mercury)
- Le Cœur d'un homme (2007, Warner Music France)
- Ça ne finira jamais (2008, Warner Music France)
- Jamais seul (2011, Warner Music France)
- Johnny et Ses Fans au Festival de Rock'n'Roll (1961, Vogue)
- À l'Olympia (1962, Philips)
- Olympia 64 (1964, Philips)
- Olympia 67 (1967, Philips)
- Au Palais des Sports (1967, Philips)
- Que Je t'Aime (1969, Philips)
- Live at the Palais des Sports (1971, Philips)
- Palais des Sports (1976, Philips)
- Pavillon de Paris (1979, Philips)
- Live (1981, Universal Music)
- Palais des Sports 1982 (1982, Universal Music)
- Au Zénith (1984, Universal Music)
- À Bercy (1987, Universal Music)
- Dans la Chaleur de Bercy (1990, Universal Music)
- Bercy 92 (1992, Universal Music)
- Parc des Princes (1993, Universal Music)
- À La Cigale (1994, Universal Music)
- Lorada Tour (1995, Universal Music)
- Destination Vegas (1996, Universal Music)
- Johnny Allume le Feu: Stade de France 98 (1998, Universal Music)
- 100% Johnny: Live à La Tour Eiffel (2000, Universal Music)
- Olympia 2000 (2000, Universal Music)
- Parc des Princes 2003 (2003, Universal Music)
- Flashback Tour Live (2006, Warner Music)
- La Cigale (2007, Warner Music)
- Tour 66: Stade de France 2009 (2009, Warner Music)
- Cherchez l'idole (1963) as himself
- Le Spécialiste (1969) as Hud / Brad
- L'aventure c'est l'aventure (1974) as himself
- L'Animal (1974) as The Male Star
- The Case of the Missing Bottle (1983) as Monsieur Waitor
- Détective (1985) directed by Jean-Luc Godard
- Terminus (1987) as Stump
- The Iron Triangle (1989) as Jacques
- Why Not Me? (1999) as José
- Love Me (2000) as Lennox
- L'homme du train (The Man on the Train) (aka 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
Tropes associated with Johnny Halliday
- Hell-Bent for Leather: Halliday always performs in leather jacket.
- Mistaken Nationality: He is often named a Belgian, though he has always held the French nationality. His parents were Belgians.
- The Power of Love: Que je t' aime.
- One Woman Song: Oh ma Jolie Sarah.
- Pep Talk Song: Ma Gueule about a young man complaining how everyone looks at him and who wants to beat everyone up with the question: What's wrong with my face?
- Shout-Out: Oh ma Jolie Sarah uses the refrain tout passe, tout lasse et tout casse, which refers to some poems by Guillaume Apollinaire.
- Verbal Tic: His Les Guignols de l'info puppet has cemented the idea that Halliday used the word Que at the start of all his sentences. It certainly turns up in a lot his songs.