Johnny Hallyday
Johnny Hallyday

Johnny Hallyday

About Johnny Hallyday

Few European artists have loved American pop culture as much as French rocker Johnny Hallyday. Born Jean-Philippe Léo Smet in Paris in 1943, he was the country’s Elvis, motorcycle and leather jacket included, selling more than 110 million records and acting in nearly 30 films before his 2017 death. By his 20s, the French were calling him “L’idole des jeunes” (“The idol of youth”) and his debut single, 1960’s “Laisse les Filles,” is considered France’s first rock song. By the mid-’60s, he was the teddy bear of yé-yé, France’s unique, bubbly pop style, and would go on to record with Elvis’s backup singers, The Jordanaires, as well as Jimmy Page, Peter Frampton, and Foreigner’s Mick Jones. Though he never crossed over to American audiences, his staying power was massive: He had a hit with 1985’s Rock'n'Roll Attitude and a career-spanning 42-disc box set sold out almost immediately in 1993. Despite tabloid excesses and massive wealth, Hallyday maintained an everyman image till the end, so beloved by the French that a 2009 concert at the Eiffel Tower attracted almost a million fans. The nation’s feelings about their idol can be summed by the title of a tribute album: “On a Tous Quelque Chose de Johnny” (“We’re All a Little Bit Like Johnny”).

  • HOMETOWN
    Paris, France
  • BORN
    June 15, 1943