Popular culture

Little honour for Johnny Hallyday one year after his death

Johnny Hallyday en concert à Barcelone le 8 mars 2016
Johnny Hallyday en concert à Barcelone le 8 mars 2016 Getty - Xavi Torrent

Legendary French singer Johnny Hallyday died at the age of 74 on the night of December 5th 2017 after a battle with lung cancer. He had been in the middle of preparing yet another album and a stage tour. But, one year later, there are surprisingly few signs of Hallyday being honoured in his native country.


This anniversary comes as Hallyday is topping the charts with his record-breaking posthumous anniversary. ‘Mon Pays C’est L’Amour’ sold almost 800,000 copies in one week in France, making a huge sales record. During his lifetime Hallyday, known by fans as “the French Elvis”, sold 110 million records, and is on track to sell at least another million.

Hallyday, born Jean-Philippe Smet, started recording ‘Mon Pays c'est l'Amour’ in 2017. He died before he was able to put the finishing touches to the production of the album – a task that was taken on by his widow, Laeticia. The album has topped the charts ever since it went on sale in mid-October.

The release of Hallyday’s 51st record was a significant cultural event in France. Queues formed outside record stores shortly before midnight on the night before it was released and around 300,000 physical copies of the album were sold on the day itself.

But how is the country publically remembering their Elvis? The answer is surprising. Despite major petitions and France’s traditional fondness for naming streets and public buildings after their heroes, just one road bears Johnny’s name and it has carried his name for many years.

In the municipality of Charvieu-Chavagneux, in the department of Isère, there is a Rue Johnny-Hallyday, which shares a junction with Rue Charles-Aznavour. A public ceremony has been held there today in front of the local mayor to unveil a new plaque, which features Johnny’s emblematic cross.

But the only civic commemoration scheduled to take place since his death is in Nice, where the square directly in front of Palais Nikaia is scheduled to be officially renamed Johnny-Hallyday Square.

However, Johnny’s widow Laeticia said she has further plans to keep alive the memory of the singer whose music formed a soundtrack to the lives of generations of French people, even though he was little known in the English-speaking world.

“We have lots of projects… A museum (dedicated to Hallyday), a music school... That was his dream, this music school,” she told RTL radio.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning