Johnny Hallyday

Born : 15/06/1943 in Paris (France)
Country : France
Language : French
Category : Male Artist
Style of music : Chanson

With Johnny it's difficult to avoid clichés. So let's just say he's a huge star, in France - and has been for thirty years. The length of his career has surprised more than a few, especially if one considers the lack of originality of his repertoire. The fact is, though, that even if on the other side of the Atlantic there are hundreds of more interesting rock stars, Johnny remains the only authentic French one - the only stage performer, above all, to hold his fans in the palm of his hand like his idols across the Atlantic. France needed its own national rock singer. It got Johnny.

With Johnny it's difficult to avoid clichés. So let's just say he's a huge star, in France - and has been for thirty years. The length of his career has surprised more than a few, especially if one considers the lack of originality of his repertoire. The fact is, though, that even if on the other side of the Atlantic there are hundreds of more interesting rock stars, Johnny remains the only authentic French one - the only stage performer, above all, to hold his fans in the palm of his hand like his idols across the Atlantic. France needed its own national rock singer. It got Johnny.

Huguette and Léon Smet's son Jean-Philippe was born on June 15th 1943 in the Cité Malesherbes in Paris. Unfortunately, the boy's parents separated a few months later and he was taken in by his aunt, Hélène Mar, Léon's sister. In 1944, she took him on tour with her two daughters, Desta and Menen, who were dancers. Due to this itinerant existence, carted about from one theatre and cheap hotel to another, Jean-Philippe's life was solitary and friendless. His aunt paid for him to take correspondence courses. He took dance lessons and learnt the guitar at the beginning of the fifties.

Friends got him bit parts in cinema advertisements. When he was only nine, he was already performing on stage, singing - as he did in Copenhagen - songs like "la Ballade de Davy Crocket" while his cousin Desta and her boyfriend, Lee Halliday, changed costumes. In 1957, Jean-Philippe returned to Paris, to the Trinité quarter. Fascinated by American films, he dreamed of becoming an actor. His family encouraged him to go to drama and singing classes. Everything changed in 1957, however, when he went to see "Lovin' You", starring Elvis Presley. From then on there was only one thing he wanted to be: a rock'n'roll singer.  

At the end of the fifties he used to regularly to the Golf Drouot, the famous Parisian club where young rock'n'roll fans gathered. Jean-Philippe, who sang Presley songs for his friends, began going to auditions and got his singing first engagements - some of which came to a sudden end.  

On December 30th 1959, he appeared in the television programme, "Paris Cocktail", performing alongside Colette Renard. Jacques Wolfsohn, artistic director of Vogue records signed him immediately. In March 1960 Johnny Hallyday's first record came out (the name was borrowed from Lee Halliday, his cousin's boyfriend). The disc, a four-track EP, included "T'aimer follement", a cover version of a Dalida song. In June his second record, "Souvenirs souvenirs", was released, his first hit. In September, he did his first major live performance at the Alhambra in Paris, doing the first half of comedian Raymond Devos's show. His friends from the Golf Drouot came were there en masse and the atmosphere was electric, especially when the young singer rolled around on stage, something which had never been done before in France.

1960: "Hello! Johnny" 

At the beginning of 1960, he released his first album, "Hello! Johnny". In February he triumphed at the Palais des Sports in France's first rock festival, organised by Vogue records. Johnny Stark became his manager. Hallyday was already a big star and left Vogue for Philips in the summer. Just turned eighteen, and until then a Belgian citizen (by his father), he took French nationality.  

In mid-September, he went on a short tour to run in his stage show for his season at Olympia from September 20th to October 9th. He now was top of the bill at Olympia, where he launched the latest trans-Atlantic craze, the Twist, following this up in the autumn with a single in French and English, "Viens danser le Twist". At the end of the year, he released his first album on the Philips label, "Salut les Copains". Now a teenage idol, he gave a charity concert on the liner, France , in front of Jackie Kennedy. In July and August, he went on a huge tour of France, during which there were numerous riots and all kinds of damage done by fans - collective hysteria was the terme often used to describe the atmosphere at his gigs. His hit single, "Idole des jeunes", also came out that year. From October 35th to November 12th, he did his second season at Olympia, with his stage show including a ballet at the end of the song "La Bagarre".  

In 63, he recorded the album" les Bras en croix" and the hit single "Da dou ron ron". He also played in the film "D'où viens-tu Johnny?", directed by Noel Coward, and co-starring Sylvie Vartan, a singer he had already met and who was to become his girlfriend. But the major musical event of the year was the concert given in the Place de la Nation in Paris to celebrate the first birthday of the magazine Salut les Copains. 150.000 young people flocked to the square to see their idol and the atmosphere verged on hysteria. The "Yéyé" generation was born.  

In September, he left for the United States with Sylvie Vartan and recorded "Pour moi la vie va commencer" in Nashville, world capital of Country music.  

"G.I. Blues"

On May 8th 64, Johnny Hallyday, now on military service, was stationed with the Forty-third Infantry Regiment at Offenbourg in Germany. Military service transformed his media image. He became an almost respectable young man in the public eye. His marriage to Sylvie on April 12th 65 did nothing but enhance this. On November 18th, a civilian once more, he gave his first concert at Olympia. It was not, however, as successful as expected. At the end of the year the album "Johnny chante Hallyday" came out.

His rise to fame in the first part of the decade had been meteoric. Yet, once "Yéyé" had been and gone, Hallyday felt himself abandoned. A whole section of the public that had moved on to explore other musical styles and artists like Bob Dylan and the Beatles. He was even made fun of by the "agitator", Antoine, who joked about "putting Johnny in a circus cage" in his "Elucubrations". Johnny riposted by bringing out the single, "Cheveux longs, idées courtes". On September 10th, genuinely depressed, he tried to commit suicide. A little later he brought out "Noir c'est noir", a reflection on the depressed state he had been in. One happy event must have comforted him, however: the birth of his son David on August 14th.  

At the beginning of 67, he took part in the Monte Carlo Rally. In February, he recorded the French version of "Hey Joe" by Jimi Hendrix, the American singer and guitarist he had helped to make known in France. From March 15th to April 16th he again played Olympia, accompanied by Sylvie Vartan.  

The couple then went on tour in South America. On their return, Johnny recorded the album "Johnny 67", released in July, which included "Amour d'été" Johnny's French version of Elvis Presley's "Love me tender". He gave the song a "soul" slant (his latest musical influence) and harnessed the talents of English arrangers to achieve a puncher, brass-based backing for his deep and powerful voice.

In October, he acted alongside Eddie Constantine in John Berry's "A Tout Casser" and sung the film's hit song. One of the track's session musicians was guitarist Jimmy Page, who later joined the famous English hard rock group, Led Zeppelin. Johnny's year ended with a tour of France.  

Psychedelic 

At the beginning of 68, he went on an American tour. At the end of June, he brought a new album, "Jeune Homme", which included another French adaptation of a Presley song, "Loving You" (transformed into "La vie à t'aimer"). On October 20th, he left on an African tour during which, on stage in Johannesburg, he broke a leg falling into the orchestra pit. He continued the tour with his leg in plaster.  

From April 26h to May 4th 1969, Hallyday gave sixteen concerts to full houses at the Palais des Sports in Paris. It was a grandiose psychedelic show with Micky Jones on guitar and Tommy Brown on drums (both from the famous Blackbirds), and with a seventeen piece orchestra directed by Jean-Claude Vannier. The outrageous decors and the singer's performance further contributed to a legend in the making.

After the triumphant Palais des Sports show came the release, in May 69 of "Je suis né dans la rue", a very personal album in which lyric writer Long Chris allowed Hallyday to give free rein to his inner rage in tracks such as "Rivière ouvre ton lit". But it was the EP released with the album, "Que je t'aime", that was the real hit. Then, after a series of concerts in Canada just before the summer, he spent most of the rest of the year doing film work

The next decade opened with a traumatic event. In February, he and his wife were in a car crash which resulted in Sylvie undergoing a serious operation. Johnny, however, recovered in time to give a special concert at the Golf Drouot for his fan club members. A month later, he brought out the single "Jésus Christ (est un hippie)", written by the novelist and journalist, Philippe Labro. After ten years in the business, Johnny was as ready as ever to profit from the latest musical craze. As a result, however, these songs are now too dated. 

The following year, after a big tour filmed by François Reichenbach for the film "J'ai tout donné", Johnny Hallyday brought out a new album, "Flagrant Délit", recorded in London.

On it, he sang better than ever, with a new maturity. The album sold above all because of the hit single, "Oh ma jolie Sarah", immediately recognisable by its guitar intro. Now at the height of his powers, he played the Palais des Sports from October 26th to November 14th in a show entitled "Pollution, accompanied by Michel Polnareff on piano. A double live album came out shortly afterwards.

Also in 71, he played himself in "L'Aventure c'est l'Aventure", a film by Claude Lelouch, co-starring with Lino Ventura nd Jacques Brel. Johnny sung the film's theme song.  

Circus

The Hallyday machine, almost thirty, was now perfectly tuned. His 1972 summer tour, "Johnny Circus, with its roundabouts and big top, and with the singer living in a mobile home and travelling in a white Rolls Royce, did indeed resemble a huge circus - and ran up huge losses. 

The singer's tumultuous lifestyle was having its effect on his married life. Sylvie's and Johnny's decision, after a year's separation, to live together again, resulted in their duo single "J'ai un problème", a huge hit in the summer of 73. 

A few weeks earlier, Johnny had brought out his album, "Insolitudes", which included the standard, "Toute la musique que j'aime", written by Michel Mallory. On June 15th, he gave a concert at Olympia in Paris to help the venue's director, Bruno Coquatrix, overcome cash flow problems. 

In 1974, he toured in South America and in France. He also crossed Death Valley in the United States on a motorbike, a hobby the singer was to practise more and more. He took time out to see Elvis Presley's show in Las Vegas. In September he brought out the album, "Rock'n slow", followed, in October, by the single, "Johnny Rider".  

Deeply affected by Presley's performance in Las Vegas and feeling the need to return to his rock roots, Johnny went to Memphis in January 1975 with lyric writers Long Chris and Michel Mallory to record French versions of several American standards, including "La fille de l'été dernier" after Eddie Cochrane and "Dégage" after Little Richard. "Rock à Memphis" was released in May, followed in September by another album, "La Terre Promise". 

Opera rock

Johnny was now having problems with the French fiscal authorities, who were demanding 100 million francs of unpaid taxes, and went to live in Los Angeles with Sylvie and their son, David. Despite this upheaval, he continued to release albums at the same rhythm. In June 76 he brought out "Derrière l'amour", which included the two hits, "Joue pas de rock'n'roll pour moi" and "Gabrielle". In September, he brought out the double album, "Hamlet" , a rock opera written by Gilles Thibault and composed by Pierre Groscolas, and which proved to be a huge commercial flop. At the same time, he returned to the Palais des Sports in Paris with his "Johnny Story" show, which was recorded for a live album.  

His normal yearly activities included French and foreign tours, a few holidays in the sun and a handful of television shows. In the middle of 77, the album, "Tant pis c'est la vie", came out, which included chart topper "J'ai oublié de vivre".  

The following year, he celebrated his 35th birthday at the International Music Festival in Tokyo, where he and Catherine Deneuve were judges. On August 13th, he gave a concert in the arena at Béziers with Carlos and Sylvie Vartan, on her birthday - professional and private life were inextricably linked. 

1979 was mostly given over to tours. He was also invited to do a live TV performance on board the aircraft carrier "Clemenceau". Johnny, now at the summit of his glory and fame, had become almost a national monument (that even institutions like the Army and the Navy could now easily identify with).  

Johnny's live performances were eagerly awaited and he always tried to innovate with each new show. From October 18th to November 26th, he appeared at the Pavillon de Paris at the Porte de Pantin in Paris in his show, "L'Ange aux yeux de laser". Dressed in leather and with his eyes made up with electric blue mascara, he sang the hit number "Ma gueule". For a few days, he was accompanied at the piano by the singer Gilbert Montagné. 

Soap opera

The beginning of the next decade saw the release of the album "A partir de maintenant", in which Hallyday did a cover version of Balavoine's "Je ne suis pas un héros" and Polnareff's "La poupée qui fait non". As he had done almost yearly, he did a summer tour in France, and on August 14th he collapsed on stage. Despite his rapid recovery, rumours circulated: in January 81, whilst on holiday at Richard Antony's house in California, he read in the papers that he was dead. His life had become an inexhaustible source of gossip in the press. His divorce with Sylvie, announced on November 5th 1980, was widely covered in the media. For fifteen years, the whole of France had followed the couple's tumultuous marriage like a soap opera.  

In 81, Johnny Hallyday brought out two albums, "En pièces détachées" and "Pas facile", both titles seeming to allude to his private life. In February and March, he went on tour, finishing in Paris at the Hippodrome de Pantin. A double live album came out shortly afterwards. On December 1st, he married fashion model Babeth Etienne in Los Angeles, a marriage that was to last two years and two days.  

The following year he definitively parted company with his favourite lyricist and producer and also long-time confident, Michel Mallory, who was replaced by Pierre Billon. Johnny's emotional life was now taken up by friends and women. During a television show, he met actress Nathalie Baye, with whom he began a relationship. 

In September, he released the album "La Peur", which included "le Survivant", the title he gave to his new show at the Palais des Sports. For the first time in his career, a video cassette of the show went on sale. In February, he went on tour in France. Nathalie Baye gave birth to their daughter, Laura, at the end of 1983. 

Despite his public image of an invincible being with boundless energy, the singer's hectic life had quite often taken its toll on his health. Johnny was booked for a four month season at the Zenith in Paris, from October 25th 1984 to February 23rd 1985. On January 8th, he fainted on stage. But after a few days in hospital he was back on stage again. 

In 1984, he returned to the cinema to work for one of the masters of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard. "Detective" brought together a director and an actor from two opposite worlds. Nathalie Baye was without doubt one of the originators of this ambitious project - which was not crowned by box office success. Through Nathalie, Johnny met a more cultivated set of people than his show business friends. She began nudging him towards a more "intellectual" career. She introduced Johnny to Michel Berger, and in doing so lost Pierre Billon the job of writing the next album. "Rock'n'roll attitudes" which included "Le Chanteur abandonné" and "Quelque chose de Tenessee" came out in May 85. Concocted by one of the most talented composers of his generation, whose work was more "variété" than rock, the combination of Berger's songs and Johnny's renditions was a huge hit.  

1986: "Gang"

 His relationship with Nathalie Baye ended in 86, a year marked musically by the release of "Gang", the turnkey album written for Hallyday by Jean-Jacques Goldman. The collaboration produced the hit tracks "Laura", "L'Envie" and "J'oublierai ton nom" (a duo with English singer Carmel). Following this album, he returned to live performance again (which he never left for long), asking Michel Berger to direct his show, "Johnny se donne à Bercy", in the new Bercy sports stadium in Paris from September 15th to October 4th 1987. He followed this up with a French tour that carried over into 1988.   

A year later, Hallyday called on Etienne Roda-Gil, Julien Clerc's famous lyric writer, to write the album "Cadillac", which included two tracks written by Johnny's son David, one of which was "Mirador".    

At the end of 89, Johnny Hallyday took part in the "Enfoirés" tour to raise funds for the Restos du Coeur charity organisation founded by Coluche. Other French stars such as Michel Sardou, Véronique Sanson, Goldman and Johnny's life-long friend Eddy Mitchell, contributed to the success of this fund raising effort. 

In 1990, Johnny was more than ever in the news when he married Adeline, the young daughter of his friend Long Chris. The musical event of Johnny's year was without doubt his season at the Bercy stadium in Paris, which started on September 15th. This series of concerts earned him two Victoires de la Musique awards the following year: Best Show of the Year in France and the Biggest Audience.  

Although Hallyday remains the biggest French star of the last thirty years, his recording career began to run out of steam from this moment on. In 1991, he called on wide-ranging talents for the album, "Ça ne change pas un homme": Contributors were as different as Art Mengo, Americans Jon Bon Jovi and Tony Joe White, Patrick Bruel and Etienne Roda-Gil. At the same, his past hits had become French standards and his live shows were as packed as ever. In September 1992, the Polygram label re-released seventeen Hallyday albums in five box sets - a total of around two hundred and twenty tracks. This release event came only a few months before a huge live event: on June 18th, 19th, and 20th 1993, Johnny celebrated his fiftieth birthday with his three grandiose "Retiens la nuit" concerts at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, a retrospective of his career in fifty songs. 

1994: an album in English

In 1994, after an arduous French tour, an old dream finally came true for Hallyday: he recorded an album in English, "Rough Town" (a title borrowed from Canadian Bryan Adams), produced by Rolling Stones producer Chris Kemsey. A series of concerts at small venues enabled him to reveal another facet of his talent: the English lyrics gave his voice a whole new dimension. It is also worth mentioning here that Johnny sometimes boasted he used the "Gitane (the famous brand of French cigarettes) method" to develop his voice. 

His favourite artists - Bruce Springsteen, for instance - were all American, but his flirtation with English was a flop in France. In 95, he brought out a new album, "Lorada", named after his house in Saint-Tropez. The album, directed by Jean-Jacques Goldman and ex-members of the group Canada, hard a marked blues-rock flavour, and heralded a return to the simple and direct music so dear to Johnny's heart. The "Lorada tour" began on September 12th at Bercy, with nothing particularly revolutionary about this umpteenth mega-concert of Johnny's, except perhaps his rendition of Edith Piaf's "Hymne à l'amour".  

After a painful operation, "our national rock singer" (as the press had affectionately baptised him) went back on the road again, as fit as ever. Another project was beginning to preoccupy him. On November 24th 1996, Johnny realised an American dream: he gave a concert at the Aladin in Las Vegas to 4300 French fans shipped over by special charter flight for the event. A CD came out in December, "Destination Vegas", not the live album of the show, but a collection of the new songs he sang on stage there. 

The unrivalled star of French rock, Hallyday was awarded the medal of knight of the Legion d'Honneur by President Chirac in January 97.

A few days after celebrating his birthday in Cuba in June, Johnny went back to work in New York. With Philippe Chatel, he recorded a song which is part of the new version of the children's story, "Emilie Jolie". Then, from August 20th to October 30th, Hallyday spent two months recording his next album, working with Pascal Obispo, the principal composer on the CD. The first track to be released, "Ce que je sais", came out at the end of the year, accompanied by a video shot in New York by the director of "The Exorcist", William Friedkin.

In May 98 Johnny made his fifth guest appearance at the Cannes film festival, although this time the star came as a simple movie fan, not having any particular film to support. And yet Johnny's appearance at Cannes did herald the singer's return to the film world. Indeed, it was later revealed that the director Stéphane Giusi had invited Monsieur Hallyday to star in his new film - in which Johnny is set to play the role of an ex-toreador!

Later that year Johnny turned his attention to his singing career once again, beginning preparations for a live extravaganza at the Stade de France (just outside Paris). Johnny, ever the showman, sought to make his show the biggest and most spectacular concert ever seen in France - and most critics agree that Johnny Hallyday's performance at the new French football stadium proved to be the Greatest French Show of All Time! Johnny's concerts at the Stade de France on 5 and 6 September 98 - which attracted audiences of 80,000 each night! - featured an all-star line-up of guest artists. Lara Fabian performed an unforgettable duet with Johnny, bringing the house down with an impressive version of "Requiem pour un fou", which was equalled only by Florent Pagny and Johnny's duet of "Le Pénitencier". Jean-Jacques Goldman and Pascal Obispo also joined Johnny on stage in the course of the evening. Needless to say, Johnny's mega-concerts at the Stade de France proved a huge hit with the public.

1999: "Sang pour sang"

On 13 October '99 Johnny rocketed back into the French music news with a brand new album entitled "Sang pour sang". This album was a major event in the singer's career for the making of the album involved close collaboration with his musician son, David. In fact, young David Hallyday got a chance to prove his composing talent on his father's album, writing the music for all 13 tracks on "Sang pour sang". Johnny's album also involved a host of surprise French celebrity songwriters including authors Vincent Ravalec and Françoise Sagan and the singer Miossec (as well as Johnny's faithful songwriting partners Philippe Labro and Michel Mallory).

Two months later sales of "Sang pour sang" topped 1.5 million, earning Johnny a diamond disc to add to his extensive award collection. Needless to say, it came as no surprise when the veteran French rocker went on to win Best Album of the Year at the "Victoires de la Musique" awards in February 2000.

Later that year Johnny celebrated 40 years in the music business and in June the singer’s record label, Mercury, marked the occasion by re-releasing a remasterised collection of his studio albums (complete with the original record covers!) But the highlight of Johnny’s anniversary year was the huge free concert the singer performed at the foot of the Eiffel Tower on July 10th. Needless to say, hundreds of thousands of fans turned out to watch the mega-show! Johnny followed this success with another concert on June 17th (paying this time!) in the Parc des Sceaux (just outside Paris) to celebrate his 57th birthday. After this Johnny went on to kick off a major summer tour. He performed in Paris at the Olympia (from June 17th) and then went on to play a series of dates in stadiums and small venues up and down the country before heading off to play two sell-out dates in Montreal on August 30th and 31st. France's favourite rock star is now planning to take a break from his hectic touring and recording schedule and devote more time to his film career.

Parenthesis

After those years focused on singing and live performing, Johnny Hallyday set his mind on the cinema. In 2000 he starred in Laetitia Masson’s "Love Me", playing his own part. In 2001, he had a small role in his friend Jean-François Stévenin’s "Mischka".

A great fan of car racing, the singer took part in the Paris-Dakar rally in December 2002 and brought his car to the finishing line.

In March, Johnny was selected by the whole of the French football team to sing their official song for the 2002 World Cup. Entitled "Tous Ensemble", the song was penned by Catherine Lara.

What’s more, the French star was getting ready to celebrate her 60th birthday in the midst of his fans. He organized a tour of stadiums that started on the Reunion Island in May 2003 and climaxed at the Parc des Princes in Paris from June 10th to 15th. For this occasion, Johnny Hallyday’s media coverage in France and abroad (The Times, New York Times) was overwhelming. The tour continued in Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland and even Lebanon with a gig at Baalbek on August 2nd.

In November 2004, Johnny and his wife, Laetitia, welcomed a new addition to their family, adopting Jade, a young girl from Vietnam. The following year Johnny, embroiled in a lengthy legal battle with Universal, released what would be the last album with this label, appropriately entitled "Ma vérité" (My Truth). The album featured contributions from several notable guest stars including the hot young French rock outfit Kyo and rappers Passi, Doc Gynéco and Stomy Bugsy (all former members of the Ministère A.M.E.R. collective) who appeared on a track entitled "Le temps passe".

Johnny turned his attention back to his acting career after this, starring alongside Fabrice Luchini in the film "Jean-Philippe" (in which he played himself). The film hit French cinema screens in April 2006. Later that year, Johnny made a major comeback on the live circuit with the "Flashback Tour", performing new versions of all the old favourites from his repertoire. The veteran rocker embarked upon a marathon tour in June, which included mega-stadium shows at all the biggest venues in France. Johnny kicked things off with a performance at the Palais des Sports in Paris, then continued his stadium tour throughout July before playing at the Vieilles Charrues festival in Brittany. Then he proceeded to bring down the house at the Palais Omnisport de Paris-Bercy, Le Zénith, La Cigale and L'Olympia. September saw the release of a live CD entitled "Flashback Tour", featuring excerpts from his concerts at the Palais des Sports on 14 and 15 June. (This was the first album released on his new label, Warner Music France).

In December 2006, Johnny Hallyday sent shockwaves reverberating through the French nation, announcing that he would be moving to Switzerland. His decision, doubtless motivated by tax reasons but not publicly acknowledged as so, caused a national outcry with many French politicians criticising the star’s disrespect for his French citizenship.

The early part of 2007 was largely taken up with another intensive series of concert dates across France. In May, Johnny caused another major spot of controversy, appearing at a much-hyped celebrity dinner alongside the newly-elected French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Even some of his fans found this overt political affiliation a little too much.

2007: Back to the blues

Johnny made a comeback on the recording front on 12 November 2007 with a new album entitled "Le cœur d'un homme." The singer had long dreamt of making a blues album such as this, but he claimed that his former record label, Universal, had always refused to let him branch out in a blues direction, as it would not be "sufficiently commercial." However, after signing to a new label, Warner, Johnny finally got to make his blues dream come true, recording a series of blues ballads penned by Jacques Veneruso, the French novelist Marc Lévy, actor Bruno Putzulu, singer-songwriter Francis Cabrel and Bono, the lead singer of U2. Johnny’s new album, produced by his habitual arranger and musical director Yvan Cassar, was recorded and mixed in Los Angeles by Bob Clearmountain (famous for his work with the likes of David Bowie, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen).

Warner masterminded a massive marketing campaign for "Le cœur d'un homme" with a series of high-profile ads and Johnny made the usual round of TV appearances on shows such as Star Academy. The first single release from the album, "Always", was closely followed by a second, "Chavirer les foules." But, despite these efforts, Johnny’s blues opus did not sell as well as his previous albums (108,000 copies sold in the first week of its release as opposed to 300,000 copies the week "A la vie, à la mort" was released in 2002). However, it is fair to say that for a blues album, "Le cœur d'un homme" achieved decent overall scores, selling 400,000 copies in France within two months of its release.

On 2 December 2007, Johnny - cherished by many as a national icon - announced that he intended to stop performing live in 2009, finishing things up with a grand farewell stadium tour caled "M'arrêter là." Tired of the non-stop tour schedule he had assured for fifty years, and keen to spend more time with his young family, the singer reassured distraught fans that he would make the odd live appearance on exceptional occasions.

In July 2008, after a long drawn-out court battle with Universal, Johnny came to a private financial settlement with his former record label giving him the right to exploit material from his extensive back catalogue. The French rock veteran went on to sign a new record deal with Warner.

2008: "Ça ne finira jamais"

Following the release of his live album "Flashback Tour" and the blues-influenced "Le coeur d'un homme", Johnny made a notable comeback in October 2008 with a new studio album entitled "Ça ne finira jamais." On his new opus, the singer recruited the services of a surprisingly diverse team including his son David Hallyday, Francis Cabrel, Calogero, Raphael, Christophe Maé, the French slam artist Grand Corps Malade and the young British soul singer Joss Stone. Johnny's new songs appeared to be recorded with future live performances in mind.

On 26 December 2008, Johnny Hallyday and his wife, Laetitia, extended their family, adopting a second daughter from Vietnam called Joy.

Johnny was back on the road again the following year, kicking off his official farewell tour on 8 May 2009. Billed as the "Route 66" tour - an allusion to the veteran rocker's age as well as to the legendary American highway - the tour began with seven concerts at Le Zénith Métropole in Saint-Etienne. Johnny rose to the occasion in style, belting out new renditions of his greatest hits in a sound-light-and-pyrotechnics extravaganza. 

On 17 May, Johnny walked the red carpet at the Cannes film festival, promoting his lead role in Hong Kong director Johnnie To's crime thriller "Vengeance" (which premiered in the official selection at Cannes that year.) 

The actor turned singer again straight after Cannes, resuming his hectic concert schedule in Brussels (19 - 23 May.) Johnny went on to bring the house down at the Stade de France, just outside Paris (29 - 31 May), delighting his French fans with a series of memorable performances.

On 14 July 2009, France's national rock icon performed a mega-show at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. The free concert attracted a massive turn-out of 800,000 fans who greeted support act Christophe Mae with rapturous applause but went truly wild the moment Johnny strode out on stage. Johnny took a two-month break from live performances after his Eiffel Tower spectacular and resumed his tour in Lille on 25 September 2009.

Johnny's tour, which was to have taken him to the four corners of France, should have kept him on the road until January 2010. But the 66-year-old star began to show signs of ailing health. Johnny spent nine days in the American Hospital, in Paris, at the end of July 2009 for what his PR people insisted were straightforward medical check-ups. However, in September, the singer revealed that he had been operated on for "a little colon cancer."

Johnny was back in hospital again on 26 November, undergoing an operation for a herniated disc at the Hôpital Monceau, in Paris. The singer flew off to the U.S. on 2 December 2009 but was rushed to Cedars-Sinaï Medical Center in Los Angeles five days later for an emergency operation. American doctors put the French superstar in an artificial coma after surgery, claiming that he had contracted a serious infection following his operation in Paris in November. On 14 December 2009, the singer emerged from his drug-induced coma and doctors predicted he should make a full recovery. Johnny will require an extended period of convalescence, however, which forced organisers to cancel the remaining concert dates in "Tour 66." 

Back in France in early 2010, Johnny underwent several medical examinations for legal reasons. It took him time to get his health back and rise up from the depression that the painful episode had plunged him into.
 
In September 2010, Johnny Hallyday split with his producer of over thirty years, Jean-Claude Camus, creating quite a stir in the small world of showbiz. The star apparently hadn’t appreciated Camus’ efforts at communication during his health problems and the legal fuss that ensued. There was also talk of a financial wrangle regarding his future concerts. Johnny went on to join the ranks of Gilbert Coullier (Celine Dion, Patrick Bruel, etc.), signing a contract worth several million euro for a tour scheduled for 2012.
 
2011: "Jamais seul"


The singer was back in the record shops in autumn 2010, but this time on someone else’s album, singing a duet with Patrick Fiori entitled “Je viendrai te chercher”, written by Jean-Jacques Goldman. His stage comeback was also on someone else’s turf, in Montpellier on 3 December 2010 at a concert by M (Mattheiu Chédid) to whom he had just handed over the production of his latest album.
 
The new collection was released on 28 March 2011 under the title “Jamais seul”. The idol launched it with a fanfare on the Champs-Elysées followed by a frenetic promotional campaign in the media, proving just what fine fettle he was in.
“Jamais seul”, despite Matthieu Chédid’s omnipresent guitar work, turned off more than one Johnny fan. Bluesy and crepuscular, it is reminiscent of his seventies work. As well as M, the singer called on Maxime Nucci (alias Yodélice), Hocine Merabet and the drummer Vincent Polycarpe (from the group Gush) to set the lyrics to music. M took him to the African savannah in “Les herbes folles” and got him to reply to his own high voice in “England”; Yodélice had him sing about his recent trials in the first single, “Jamais seul”; Hocine Merabet wrote him two odes to the women of his life, his daughter Jade and his wife Laeticia (“Jade dort” and “Elle a mis de l’eau”). Sales of the album never really took off.
 
Open-air tour in 2012


Johnny Hallyday was back in the spotlight in August 2011, this time at the theatre. The singer made his first stage performance in a play by Tennessee Williams, "Kingdom of Earth”, a psychological drama in which he played the lead role. Performances were at the Edouard VII Theatre in Paris, with 72 shows running from 6 September.
 
His major singing come-back was scheduled for spring 2012, including a tour across France, with three dates at the Stade de France in Paris on 15, 16 and 17 June.
 
August 2011

 

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