David Hallyday

Born : 14/08/1966 in Boulogne-Billancourt (France)
Country : France
Language : French / English
Category : Composer / Male Artist / Songwriter
Style of music : Chanson

David Hallyday, the son of France’s national music idol Johnny Hallyday, appears to have been crushed by the weight of his father’s fame. David hesitated for a long time before launching his own career and his American education and the fact that he sang in English proved to be a handicap when it came to bringing his Californian-style pop to France. Finally, after more than ten years in the music business and a series of hit songs in French, Hallyday junior has managed to carve out his own place on the French music scene.

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  • David Hallyday, the son of France’s national music idol Johnny Hallyday, appears to have been crushed by the weight of his father’s fame. David hesitated for a long time before launching his own career and his American education and the fact that he sang in English proved to be a handicap when it came to bringing his Californian-style pop to France. Finally, after more than ten years in the music business and a series of hit songs in French, Hallyday junior has managed to carve out his own place on the French music scene.

    When David Smet - who went on to take his father’s stage name, Hallyday - was born in Boulogne-Billancourt on 14 August 1966, his parents were both major music stars in France. Indeed it would be fair to say his father, Johnny, had acquired the status of national idol. Following Sylvie Vartan and Johnny Hallyday’s much-hyped marriage, it was inevitable that the birth of a son would cause a media furore. During the period David was born both of his parents were almost constantly on tour. In fact, Johnny rushed home from Italy especially for his son’s birth - only to leave immediately afterwards to perform in Venice that same night! 

    From the moment of his birth David became a miniature celebrity in his own right and consequently spent most of his formative years with the paparazzi in hot pursuit. His mother dedicated a song to him in 1966 called "Balade pour un sourire." But perhaps the more appropriately-named tribute song was her 1969 hit "le Roi David" (King David).

    California dreamin’

    In 1970, Sylvie and Johnny were both involved in a major car crash. Sylvie suffered serious injuries to her face and was hospitalised in the U.S. From that moment on, the celebrity couple began spending several weeks a year in the States where they ended up buying a home. Meanwhile, Sylvie began to spend an increasing amount of time in the States, working with a number of well-known choreographers. And David eventually ended up going to school there.

    David already had dreams of pursuing a music career in his own right. When Johnny celebrated the 20th anniversary of his career with a huge concert at the Pavillon de Paris at the end of 1979, David leapt up on stage behind the drumkit to accompany his father on "Le Bon temps du rock'n'roll. David later admitted that he was worried he might incur his father’s wrath because Johnny had no idea of his son’s intention beforehand. But his father reacted extremely well and the budding young musician, with a passion for guitar and piano as well as drums, went on to accompany his father live on several other occasions.

    In 1980, Sylvie and Johnny officially got divorced, Sylvie relocating to Los Angeles where she concentrated on launching a career in America. She met the American record label owner Tony Scotti in 1981. David, who was 15 at the time, had already had a formative taste of American life and he went on to become a real Californian teenager. It was not long before he teamed up with five of his American friends and formed his first band, The Weekenders. There was no doubt about it, Hallyday junior had been bitten by the music bug and he appeared to have no intention of doing anything else with his life.

    1988: "He's my girl"

    After marrying Tony Scotti in 1984, Sylvie moved into a luxury villa in Beverly Hills and David went to live with the couple there. In fact, the teenager divided his time between Los Angeles, where he was studying, and Loconville in Normandy, the home his parents had bought in the 1960s and still used as a place for family reunions. When he finished school, David worked for a while in the warehouse at Scotti Bros, the label run by his stepfather. But seeing that David had a genuine talent and passion for music, Tony Scotti decided to help him follow in the family footsteps and launch his own music career. Thanks to Tony’s extensive address book, David ended up landing a lead role in Gabrielle Beaumont’s 1987 film musical "He's my Girl." And this gave him his first hits: "He's my Girl" and "Church of the Poison Spider."

    This proved to be the perfect launchpad for David’s career. The young singer went on to record his debut album, "True Cool", in 1988 which sold 900,000 copies and spawned the hit single "High." David went off to promote the album in France and it was here, during the recording of a TV show, that he met a young French fashion model by the name of Estelle Lefébure. The pair began a relationship and went on to get married on 15 September 1989 at a ceremony in Freneuse-sur-Risle in Normandy, Estelle’s native region. The couple’s blonde good looks and perfect smiles assured them extensive coverage in the celebrity press and gossip magazines. In October 1990, David and Estelle accompanied Sylvie Vartan on a trip to Bulgaria, embarking on a sort of personal pilgrimage to David’s mother’s birthplace.

    David went on to release a new album, "Rock'n'Heart", in 1990. The songs on the new album, all recorded in English, did nothing to endear him to the French public. Indeed, his curious mix of ‘French by nationality but thoroughly American in style’ appeared to confuse everyone. And French fans seemed unable to recognise the son of their national idol, Johnny Hallyday. This caused David more than a few problems when it came to finding a record label in France.

    Unable to find a French label to produce him, the young singer continued living and working in the U.S. Nevertheless, David followed the release of "Rock'n'Heart" with a series of concerts in France, which proved something of a challenge, too. Accompanied live on stage by three musicians, Eric Godal, Bo Gavino and Greg V, David performed at the Paris Zénith, a massive 3,600-capaity venue which he was unable to fill. David looked much more comfortable performing at a smaller Paris venue, La Cigale, in October ‘91. A live album was recorded on this occasion and a more extensive French tour followed.

    Meanwhile, Disneyland Paris commissioned David to write the music for its grand opening night in 1991.

    1993: first song in French

    In 1993, David ventured into French songwriting territory for the first time, recording a single in French. On this occasion he teamed up with Gérard Manset, a French songwriter whose style was a million miles from his usual style. Interestingly enough, the song the pair wrote together, "Héros" (Hero) contained a host of veiled references to David’s father. Johnny had celebrated his 50th birthday in style in June 1993, organising a mega-concert during which David accompanied him on drums for two songs ("O ma jolie Sarah" and "Mirador", a song David had written himself). David’s single "Héros" was actually largely inspired by this father-son experience together on stage.

    David still appeared to be finding it difficult to give up English altogether, however. Indeed, he seemed to be more comfortable writing songs in the language of his adopted homeland. In 1994, he went on to record a new album, "Pain and Pride", with his group Blind Fish. The album was produced by his stepfather’s label, Scotti Bros, once again.

    After a temporary absence on the performance front on the music scene, David re-emerged in 1994 in the film world, starring alongside his wife, Estelle, in Michel Blanc’s movie "Grosse fatigue." The couple played themselves in the film. A few months later, in May 1995, Estelle gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Ilona (after Sylvie Vartan’s mother).

    After his experience with Blind Fish, David Hallyday went on to form a new band, Novocaine (which included Eric Godal and Bo Govino from Blind Fish). David and his new crew went into the studio together in Santa Monica in April 1996 and in 1997 the album "Novocaine" was released on the U.S. market. Meanwhile, David hit the headlines in France again when Estelle gave birth to a second daughter, Emma, in September 1997.

    1999: "Un Paradis, un enfer"

    At the age of 32, happy in his family life as father-of-two and fulfilled in his songwriting and recording career, David turned his songwriting talent to composing material for his parents. In 1998, he contributed two songs to Sylvie Vartan’s album "Sensible." But it was his father’s 1999 album "Sang pour sang" that cemented a true father-son collaboration, David composing all the music for the songs on Johnny’s new album. Johnny’s album received rave reviews from the critics and proved to be a huge commercial hit, too.

    Meanwhile, in 1999, David released "Un Paradis, Un Enfer", his first album recorded entirely in French. The lyrics were penned by new songwriting partners David had met such as Zazie, Kristine Lidon and Lionel Florence. While musically speaking David’s style did not alter radically from his previous albums, the fact that he was now singing in French totally changed his image in France. A string of hit singles including "Pour toi" and "Tu ne m'as pas laissé le temps" boosted the success of "Un Paradis, Un Enfer", making it one of the top-selling French albums of the year. Almost forty years after his father’s heyday, David began his own reign as teen pop idol in France. In January 2000, he won Best Francophone Album of the Year at the NRJ Music Awards and he was also nominated for a ‘Victoire de la musique’ award (for Best Song of ‘99).

    In the spring of 2000, David embarked upon his first major French tour which included two appearances at the legendary Olympia, in Paris, on 21 & 22 March.

    New musical direction

    Meanwhile David, who had separated from his wife, Estelle, began to devote an increasing amount of time to his favourite hobby: motor racing. And in 2001, he became  French champion in the GT category.

    Back on the recording front his music career also continued to go from strength to strength. After sales of "Un paradis, un enfer" had topped 600,000, David went on to write material for a new album, "Révélation", released in June 2002. He composed all the music for his new album himself and recruited the services of songwriters such as Eric Chemouny and Hocine Hallaf for the lyrics. The album was produced by Dave Bascombe (renowned for his work with Anglo-Saxon stars including Natalie Imbruglia and the group Placebo). "Révélation" featured a number of softer, ballad-style tracks but on the whole it had a much stronger rock feel than "Un paradis, un enfer." "Repenses-y si tu veux" was chosen as the first single release from the album.

    November 2002 saw the release of a new Johnny Hallyday album, "A la vie à la mort." David wrote one song for his father’s new album, "Arrête le temps", with Michel Mallory. He also co-produced Johnny’s new album in collaboration with Gérald de Palmas and Pierre Jaconelli.

    In 2002, Walt Disney Studios hired David to dub the hero of the animated film "Treasure Island" in its French version (which hit cinema screens at the end of that year) and also asked him to record the film’s theme song. David wrote the song "Un homme libre" on this occasion. In 2003, Universal Music re-released David Hallyday’s album "Révélation" which, this time round, included the hit "Un homme libre."

    Meanwhile, David continued to devote much of his time and energy to his passion for motor racing. And in June 2003 he took part in the famous French race ‘Les 24h du Mans’. In 2004, at the age of 38, David married his second wife, Alexandra Pastor, the daughter of a rich industrialist from Monaco. The couple’s son, Cameron, was born on 8 October 2004.

    2004: "Satellite"

    David also spent a large part of 2004 working on his new album, "Satellite." Recorded in studios in London over a three-month period, this new album put the sentimental love ballads that had contributed to his success on hold for a while and delved into more of a rock vein. "Satellite" revolved around feisty guitars and upfront drums and featured a number of ultra-catchy chorus lines. David was joined in the studio by a crew of experienced musicians including bassist Steve Fishman (a former collaborator of Paul McCartney’s) and drummer Ron Roesing (an ex-member of The Smashing Pumpkins). David’s third French album, which spawned two major hits "Le défi" and "Comment faire", was produced by Paul Reeve (renowned for his work with the British band Muse).

    An English version of "Satellite" was also brought out for the international market. But this time round the name on the cover was not David Hallyday’s but his group’s: Nova 6. The singer hoped that this would prove much more commercial than his surname (after all, even his own superstar father, Johnny, had never had much luck breaking into markets outside France).

    In June 2007, David competed in ‘Les 24h du Mans’ a second time. And that same month his fourth French album, simply entitled "David Hallyday", hit record stores. David co-produced the album (released on the Mercury label) with Pierre Jaconelli, with whom he had scored his smash hit "Tu ne m'as pas laissé le temps." This new 13-track album featured a variety of musical styles but, on the whole, had much more of an acoustic feel than "Satellite" and piano featured prominently on several songs. "David Hallyday" was written in the style of a private diary, the singer touching on a number of very personal themes such as love, friendship and his father-son relationship with Johnny ("Dans mon film"). The song "Père de personne" also featured vocals by his own daughters, Ilona and Emma. Songwriting credits on the album included Miossec ("Tendre est la nuit"), Jean-Patrick Capdevielle ("Dans mon film") and the young Monsieur Clément ("Plus vent de toi").

    After releasing his album, he gave several concerts throughout France, including a date at the Cigale in Paris on 17 March 2008.

    That same year, David Hallyday moved into television and new media production with his childhood friend, Cyril Viguier.

    He also made an appearance in his father’s  “Tour 66” in 2009, playing some of the drum parts.

    2010: "Un nouveau monde"

    Still in his pop rock style, David Hallyday brought out a new opus in March 2010 entitled, “Un nouveau monde”. For the lyrics he called on Pierre-Dominique Burgaud, Elisabeth Gatine, Eric Chemouny and, in a completely different register, Grand Corps Malade, who wrote two of the texts, including “New York City”. The music was composed by David Hallyday himself. The first track is a duet sung with his sister, Laura Smet. Entitled “On se fait peur”, it rapidly shot to the top of the charts. 

    At the end of the year he set off on a tour of France.

    November 2010

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