Johnny Hallyday: the thousand facets of a chameleon musician
Johnny Hallyday on the stage of the Palais des Sports in Paris, April 29, 1969
From the period of yéyés with blond banana and fine tie, to the blues-rock leather jacket, to the extravagant animal skins of the 1980s, Johnny Hallyday has seen many changes in clothing and music.
– The ‘king’ of the yéyés –
Johnny Hallyday November 25, 1965 in his box lined with telegrams of encouragement, before a concert at the Olympia
In 1959, Johnny Hallyday publishes his first single, which bears the mention “American of French culture”. Striped shirt and sizzling swaying, Johnny sings rocks just landed from the United States. Influences that will later earn him the nickname “French Elvis”. In 1961, his new manager Johnny Starck imposed melody songs to expand his audience. The young black jacket, mouth of love and brawler, becomes “the idol of young people”. In 1965, her marriage to Sylvie Vartan made the young couple the undisputed king and queen of yéyés.
– The hippie –
Johnny had mocked the beginnings of “flower power” in 1966 with his “long hair, short ideas”. But a few years later, the rocker climbs somehow on the hippie train. He plays “San Francisco”, a hymn to non-violence, then sings that “Jesus Christ is a hippie” on a text by the writer Philippe Labro. This is the time when the black jacket wears glitter pants, flower necklaces and frilled shirt.
– Hamlet –
Johnny Hallyday and his wife at the time Sylvie Vartan, Paris, January 20, 1968
In 1976, Johnny published “Hamlet”, a concept-album inspired by Shakespearean tragedy and very marked by progressive rock. The double album, which includes titles like “Ophelia, Oh Folly”, “The maggot king” and “To be or not to be”, is recorded with an orchestra of 150 musicians. But it’s a commercial failure and the idea of making it a show is quickly abandoned.
– Mad Max –
In the early 80’s, Johnny trades the classic tragedy for the post-apocalyptic future. From September 14 to November 11, 1982, he invests the Palais des Sports in Paris for a show called “The Survivor”, a rock vision of the end of the world in 1997. The show is inspired by the science fiction film of George Miller ” Mad Max “, released three years earlier. Electric storms, mountains of burnt cars, zombies rising from the open bowels of the plateau, the show uses the latest fashions in fashion. Johnny Hallyday, who started bodybuilding, wears an outfit made of animal skins, but also a total leather look, with nails and chains. Eyes makeup, neck long, it also slips into colorful satin jackets, more disco spirit.
– The intellectual –
Nathalie Baye, whom Johnny met in 1982, profoundly changed his image, advising him to change his appearance and to try the suit and tie. She convinced Jean-Luc Godard to engage him in his film “Détective” (1984), selected at the Cannes Film Festival. Nathalie Baye also influences the music, putting him in touch with Michel Berger, who wrote him “Something of Tennessee”, in reference to the American writer Tennessee Williams. The intellectual world begins to look at it differently and the cult program “The Children of Rock” devotes an American portrait to it.
– The return to the sources –
The 1990s are marked by the gigantism of his concerts at the Parc des Princes and the Stade de France. The era is with sleeveless leather jackets, tattoos and cowboy boots, shiny shirts and pants.
Johnny Hallyday, December 15, 2003 at the Palais Omnisports of Bercy in Paris
In 2009, Johnny is close to death after a back surgery. Out of several days of coma, he does a great cleaning in his entourage. After an album – failed – transition piloted by -M-, he says he wants to definitely turn his back on the “varietoche”. Hailed by critics, his last two albums adopt a resolutely blues rock tone on melancholic lyrics evoking the passing of time.
He also reconnects with two early accomplices, Eddy Mitchell and Jacques Dutronc, for the “Vieilles Canailles” concerts. Inspired by the “Rat Pack”, a trio united in the 50s in the United States Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr, the three friends opt for classic costumes and the sobriety of black and white.