Johnny Hallyday: Damn Johnny. In addition to having an incalculable number of lookalikes on the planet, finding his face tattooed on all the shoulders of drunk uncles and having destroyed my childhood with his “oh Marie”, he is also an artist full of secrets. So OK, I certainly don’t teach real fans ANYTHING, but the rest of the population should still be surprised when they learn that he did 6 years of ballet, right?
1. His father abandoned him
Léon Smet, a Belgian artist, is Johnny’s biological father. When he is only 8 months old, he deserts the family home, and does not come back. In 1965, when he was already 22 years old, Johnny decided to reconnect with his parent… But the latter ruined everything: he invited the press to get 5000 francs from this meeting. It will remain one of the singer’s biggest injuries.
2. It should have been called “Halliday”
After his father’s abandonment, Johnny was raised by one of his aunts: Hélène Mar. He then became very close to his cousin Desta and her husband, the American dancer Lee Halliday (with an “i”). When he chooses his stage name, he then decides to bear the name of this male figure, which he associates with that of an adoptive father. It is also an opportunity for him to Americanize his image (he will long spread the rumor that he has American origins). Problem: when his first record came out, a typo renamed it “Hallyday” (with two “y’s”). He decides to keep this writing.
3. Aznavour became his spiritual father
While Johnny is having a very difficult start to his career, Aznavour (aka the cutest singer in history) decides to take him under his wing! He goes so far as to host her at home for several months, and watches over her early career. He will advise him in particular “to say that he had not been raised on a ranch, to become what he must become by himself, to do his military service and to sing songs for older people”. Shortly after, Johnny will admit in an interview that he does not have American origins, contrary to the rumor he let run. (Source.)
4. He flew fans to Vegas for one of his concerts.
In 1996, Johnny had delusions of grandeur. He decides to perform in Vegas, the city of his idol (Presley). So far, nothing impressive. Problem: he is not really known in the USA and does not have the public to fill a room. He then decided to charter several Airbuses to bring more than 5,000 fans from France! He then sings 13 new songs created and adapted for this concert and… C’est le flide. Total. A bitter failure, both financially and personally. The one who is nicknamed “The taulier”, who disappointed his audience for the first time that day, will himself admit having “done a stupidity”. (Source.)
5. He turned down the Beatles
In an interview for Tv Mag, Johnny tells this completely crazy anecdote: in the 60s, he was looking for a group to accompany him on stage. One day, when he had just found Joey and the Showmen (the orchestra that would later accompany him), four musicians from Liverpool requested an audition. At this time, they haven’t recorded anything yet. Johnny refuses them. Shortly after, they released their debut album “Please Please Me”. It was… The Beatles.
6. Hendrix made his first game
On September 29, 1966, the two artists met in a London club. Johnny is already a star while the young prodigy is still unknown. Johnny then offers him a great opportunity: to play some of his first games. Hendrix then plays in Évreux, on October 13 of the same year. Three other dates will follow. The two artists will then remain friends. In an interview for France 2, Johnny says “when I was in London, I slept with him, when he came to Paris, he stayed with me”. According to legend, it was even Jimi Hendrix who suggested to him the idea of recording the French version of “Hey Joe”. A legend confirmed by Johnny himself, but which the guitarist’s fans find hard to believe.
7. He did ballet and violin
His aunt imposes the violin and classical dance on him with his cousins. He will practice them for… 6 years! From 8 to 14 years old. In an interview with Télérama, he confides that he was even “Little rat of the Opera”.
8. “I am no hero” was written for him
In 1980, Daniel Balavoine wrote “I am not a hero” for Johnny. Big disappointment for the artist: the title does not come out in 45 rpm and goes completely unnoticed. Because in the end, you are never better served than by yourself: Balavoine records his song himself, dedicating it to Jean-Philippe Smet. And this time… It’s a real hit! Johnny will not resume the title on stage until 1990, four years after Balavoine’s sudden death on January 14, 1986.
9. It was Michel Drucker who co-piloted the helicopter that dropped him off at the Stade de France in 1998
And it must be said that Johnny didn’t really leave his longtime friend a choice… At 4am, Drucker’s phone rang. At the end of the line, Johnny: “Have you seen Apocalypse Now? (…) You will co-pilot four helicopters in formation and we will arrive above the Stade de France and you will drop me on the crowd, good night. That’s what happened.
10. Johnny recorded during his military service
He is entitled to permission to go to the studio, on the sole condition of keeping the uniform. It is for this reason that he is in uniform on the cover of the Penitentiary, in 1964. He also takes advantage of a perm to marry Sylvie Vartan.
11. The French version of “Black is black” was recorded in one take
The story isn’t very funny… Black is black. Johnny is depressed the day he tries out a French version of “black is black” in the studio. At that time, Lee Halliday is at the helm and presses “record”. This is the version that will be kept for the album. A few days later, Johnny attempts to end his life.
12. Johnny came close to ex-communion
In 1970, Johnny sang that “Jesus Christ is a hippie”, explaining that “if he still exists”, “he treats the wounded in Woodstock”, “likes girls with bare breasts”, wears a “and Mexican banjo on the back “. Nothing too bad, but it’s already too much for the Vatican, which speaks of excommunication. “The owner” will then publicly apologize, before declaring “I am a believer and I am a Christian (…) You can do what you want to me, I will remain a Christian. I’m sure Jesus doesn’t blame me. He knows I didn’t mean to insult him or make fun of him, and that alone matters to me. “. He will eventually be pardoned by the Vatican. Phew. Amen.