The French papers are full of headlines about Johnny Hallyday, a French pop star who has been hospitalized during a visit to Los Angeles. Johnny who? Yeah, I'm with you. I'd never heard of Johnny Hallyday before I came to France but believe me, he's big here, really big, a legend almost, kind of like Elvis, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, and Barry Manilow all rolled into one.
Ironically, although he's virtually unknown in the U.S. (perhaps because he sings almost exclusively in French), he was clearly passionate as a young man about America -- especially rock and roll and the iconography of Route 66 -- to transform himself from Jean-Phillippe Smet to superstar Johnny Hallyday. At 66, he has a face ravaged by too much fast living and plastic surgery, a voice full of gravel, a nascent film career, and a gorgeous young wife Laeticia whose picture is constantly in the tabloids with him. His music is not my thing but see for yourself. Millions of French fans are following his current medical crisis closely, so much so that Le Parisien, one of the daily newspapers, has added "Johnny Hallyday" to the navigation on its Web site.
There's a lot of intro on this clip of Que Je T'aime from his 2009 so-called farewell tour. (I get the impression that it's kind of like one of those Barbra Streisand farewells that just go on and on and on.) You might want to skip ahead to 1:15 for the full Johnny effect.