Passings: Johnny Hallyday, 74, French Rocker

Johnny Hallyday, whom many called the French Elvis Presley, died on December 6, of lung cancer in France. Pacific Palisades was one of the many locations where Hallyday had a residence.

He was born Jean-Philippe Smet in Nazi-occupied Paris on June 15, 1943. His mother, a model, and his father, a Belgian circus performer, separated soon after his birth. He was raised by a paternal aunt, a silent-film actress, who also served as a stage manager for two dancing daughters, who performed in cities all over Europe. Johnny sang onstage while the girls changed costumes.

He played the role of a schoolboy in the 1955 Henri-Georges Clouzot thriller, “Les Diaboliques.”

Johnny Hallyday performing at the Beacon Theatre in New York City in October, 2012. Photo: rufus, Wikimedia Commons

After he saw Elvis Presley in the 1957 movie “Loving You,” Hallyday’s focus changed to rock-and-roll. He told USA Today in 2000, “His [Presley’s] voice, the way he moved, everything was sexy. The first time I saw him, I was paralyzed.”

Hallyday’s debut single, “Laisse les filles,” was released in March 1960. During his career he sold more than 100 million records and acted in more than 30 films, including the 2002 “The Man on the Train” and the 2009 “Vengeance.” He released an album in 2008 “Ça Ne Finira Jamais (It Will Never End)”, which reached number one on the French charts. He released his 50th studio album “De l’Amour” in 2015.

According to reports, Hallyday owned a chalet in Switzerland to escape the high tax rate imposed by the French government. After an investigation by a Swiss journalist showed he didn’t spend enough time at that residence, Hallyday claimed in January 2014 that the United States was his residence.

He kept the tabloids busy with his personal life. He was married to Bulgarian-French singer Sylvie Vartan from 1965-80. Later he married Babeth Etienne for two months, before divorcing and marrying Nathalie Baye. He was married to his third wife, Adeline Blondieau, from 1990-92 and 1994-95. He final marriage was to current wife Læticia Boudou in 1996, and they adopted two Vietnamese girls.

In addition to his fourth wife, Hallyday is survived by their two daughters, Jade and Joy; David Hallyday, a son from his marriage to Vartan; and Laura Smet, a daughter from his marriage with Baye.

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