French Yé-Yé and Rock icon Johnny Hallyday was born on this day in 1943

He partied with some of the biggest 1960’s Rockstars and was seen as a “national monument” in France

French Yé-Yé and Rock icon Johnny Hallyday was born on this day in 1943

Johnny Hallyday was born Jean-Philippe Léo Smet on 15 June 1943 in Paris, France. Seen as a “national monument” in France, Hallyday rose to fame during the 1960’s French Yé-Yé musical and cultural movement. Though remaining largely unknown in the English-speaking world, Hallyday’s numbers are impressive: 79 albums released, more than 110 million records worldwide, 5 diamond albums, 40 golden albums, 22 platinum albums, 10 Music Victories and 540 duets with 187 artists among many other triumphant and record-breaking moments. Hallyday took his stage name from a cousin-in-law from Oklahoma who performed as Lee Influenced by Elvis Presley and the 1950’s Rock N’ Roll revolution, Hallyday first became known for singing Rock N’ Roll in French, mainly covers of American Rock N’ Roll hits. His success quickly expanded outside France and he began to top almost every European chart during that period. That success also touched North America for a little while when he appeared together with Connie Francis at The Ed Sullivan Show, in a show that was taped at the Moulin Rouge nightclub in Paris. Hallyday by then was socializing with some of the world’s biggest Rock stars including The Animals, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. The Jimi Hendrix Experience even opened for Johnny Hallyday in 1966 on a concert in Nancy, France. Film footage, also from October 1966, exists of Hallyday partying with Hendrix, his manager Chas Chandler and others. The Yé-Yé movement included French singers and artists such as France Gall, Jacques Dutronc, Françoise Hardy, Claude François, Antoine and Sylvie Vartan, that married Hallyday in 1965. Other influential names on the scene were Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot (who tried to catch up with younger generations by associating herself with the movement). It was a French approach of Rock and Pop music that soon expanded throughout Europe and each country soon had it’s own Yé Yé movement (named that because of The Beatles early songs like “She Loves You (Yeah Yeah)”. Hallyday was one of the most important figures in the movement, but by the late 1960’s, as a society and music trends begun to change, he switched to a more commercial and adult music style that included more original songs and fewer covers. By 1969 alone, his record sales exceeded twelve million units. Reportedly, Hallyday was also one of the last persons to see Jim Morrison of The Doors alive as they both frequented the same trendy club Rock N’ Roll Circus in Paris. By the 1970’s, Hallyday had reached the peak of his success and had now become an adult and mature singer with a softer music repertoire. Still, his love for American Rock music made his move to Los Angeles, where he resided during the last years of his life. Johnny Hallyday was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2009. But on December 5, 2017, he passed away of lung cancer in Marnes-la-Coquette, near Paris, at the age of 74. His death caught France (and the music world) by surprise. The impact of his loss was so big in France that French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute, saying he “transcended generations and is etched in the memory of the French people.”Johnny Hallyday’s funeral was held in Paris, 800 000 lined the Champs-Élysées as his body was taken to the Madeleine Church and the service was attended by Macron and two of his predecessors. Hallyday was able to project and cultivate an image that lives on Pop Culture, and aside of the music, it’s one of its legacies. Today he would have turned 75.

Watch Johnny Hallyday performing one of his earliest hits “Retiens La Nuit”, live in Amsterdam 1963

Also watch the Johnny Hallyday music video for his Yé-Yé hit “Noir C’est Noir” (“Black Is Black”)

Watch footage Johnny Hallyday having a dinner party with The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Chas Chandler in 1966

Discover or re-discover Johnny Hallyday by listening to the compilation “Les Nº1” on Spotify

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