Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Johnny Hallyday (born Jean-Philippe Smet; 15 June 1943) is a French singer and actor. An icon in the French-speaking world since the beginning of his career, he is considered by some to be the French Elvis Presley.
Hallyday, whose music career has spanned a half-century, is one of France's biggest stars. He has completed 400 tours, had 18 platinum albums, performed in front of 25 million people, and sold more than 100 million records. Today Hallyday is still seen as a top stage performer, giving first class shows in crowded stadiums. Hallyday announced his retirement from performing on 3 December 2007 at the age of 64, after a farewell tour. The tour, known as "Tour 66", a play on his age during the tour (66) and the iconic American Route 66, is currently ongoing in 2009-2010.
Influenced by Elvis Presley and the 1950s rock revolution, Johnny, as he is popularly known worldwide, became famous in the 1960s for singing rock and roll in French. His first album, Hello Johnny, was released in 1960. He appeared on the American 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 the late Bruno Coquatrix. Many consider Hallyday to have developed well and become a greater performer in his later years, one of his best loved concerts being 100% Johnny: Live à La Tour Eiffel in 2000, which 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 #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 Hallyday by U2 frontman Bono. His next album, Ça ne finira jamais, released in 2008, reached #1 on the French album chart, and its lead single, "Ça n'finira jamais", became his fourth #1 single in France. Hallyday'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.
Hallyday 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.
Hallyday hired Peter Frampton and the Small Faces to record on his 1969 album Rivière... Ouvre ton Lit. 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 and they can be heard playing on the album. Often forgotten is Hallyday's non-LP single and EP track "Que Je T'aime" from the same sessions. For their first concert, The Jimi Hendrix Experience opened for Johnny Hallyday in Evreux on October 13, 1966. B/W footage, also from October, 1966 exists of Hallyday partying with Hendrix and his manager Chas Chandler and others. In November 2005, he started a procedure to obtain Belgian citizenship but his request was turned down in 2006 because he failed to fulfill the residency 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. Hallyday supported Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 French presidential election. In an ironic twist, when the Canadian comedy duo the Masked Avengers prank-called American vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin by pretending to be Sarkozy, they named Hallyday as Sarkozy's "Special American Advisor."
Hallyday also keeps a 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.