Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

HALLYDAY, Johnny

(b Jean-Philippe Smet, '43, Paris) Invented French rock'n'roll '60. French mother, Belgian father; brought up by an aunt, grew up in the music hall, touring with cousin and her husband, American dancer Lee Halliday; appeared on stage at age five, made films, then inspired by Elvis Presley film Loving You '57. Second record was a hit '60. He represents France (to the French) the same way Maurice Chevalier did (to the rest of us), but he decided to be tops in France and ignore the rest of the world; he is not a rock singer at all, but with music-hall skill makes the French think he is: 'a mixture of Cliff Richard, Liberace and Tom Jones', said Jean-Bernard Hebey (disc jockey, then TV/radio producer). Married Sylvie Vartan, singer of Y,-Y, (mindless pop genre); they were magazine fodder until splitting '74. He has 60 gold records (100,000 copies in France); his adroit changes of style have incl. album Hamlet -- Hallyday '76, a bizarre musical version of Shakespeare, also a hit; he has filled 6,500-seat Zenith concert hall in Paris for series of concerts lasting three months; the Johnny Hallyday Boutique on the Left Bank sold T-shirts, photos, jogging outfits, etc (marketing logo was a red heart pierced with a fist). Almost no discs released outside France. Won praise for acting in Jean-Luc Godard film Detective '85.