Fiona Alderman’s blog: The French Elvis
Johnny Hallyday – The French Elvis Presley
For the French, Johnny Hallyday is a National legend. He sadly died at the beginning of December and it was as if a member of one’s own family had died, so immense was the love for him. It seemed to transcend all ages too which is remarkable. He was known as the French Elvis as he had admired Presley in his youth, and loved rock ‘n roll and blues music. He was born Jean- Philippe Smet to a Belgian father who left the family when he was a child, and a mother that was scarcely able to look after him. He was raised by his aunt and two cousins, who were dancers, within a loving background of entertainers. Learning to sing, dance and act was a natural thing to him and he progressed well. He modeled himself on the American Dream, the coiffed hair, tight jeans and a look of the rebel, the actor James Dean. Adapting classic American songs into French he quickly became noticed and would explode onto the small screen, singing and moving with such incredible energy that you couldn’t fail to watch him. Plus the voice which matured over the years.
He had a huge career spanning over 50 years, 1000 songs recorded, millions of discs sold and huge concerts with light shows and special effects to keep his enormous fan group happy. I remember watching one on tv when he arrived in a helicopter over La Stade de France in Paris, a huge auditorium, and landed on the roof, to descend into the stadium. The fans went crazy!
Well, he has died at 74, after a long battle with cancer, leaving a young widow Laeticia, two small adopted Vietnamese children and his two other children from former wives. The funeral in Paris was a spectacle in itself, fit for a king, the white coffin, like Elvis’s, and 788 motorcycles, revving up on the Champs Elysees as his favourite mode of transport was the Harley Davidson. Thousands of people lined the streets up to the Madeleine church for a very moving ceremony, ordinary people mixing with celebrities with ease, all as one for their “brother “ a man named Johnny.
Something so British
The Charente region, next to the Dordogne, has the highest number of British inhabitants in France, with a huge rise in the last 20 years. What attracts us ? The weather is certainly a factor, as is the beautiful scenery and quaint villages plus of course the prices of the homes themselves which are still very attractive. A local estate agent, who is English , has been here for many years and commented in the newspaper recently that it wasn’t always the case and that he first lived in a caravan whilst he built up his now considerable empire. His is a family business and he has made it his job to integrate into local activities and even to restore some of his village’s buildings. He adores France and continues to find old stone houses in the country for the equally smitten Britanniques.
And for something particularly British, I know an artist who went to London and bought a black taxi cab and brought it back here. A tall elegant Frenchman, who uses it for transporting his large canvases, it is quite a sight and it always makes me smile!
I WISH YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR from France Profonde Fifi’s stories from rural France. December 2017.
www.salignacfoundation.com courses in dance and film techniques.
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