Wednesday, October 8, 2014

TMFW 57 - The French Elvis

(Today's TMFW comes to you for Paris, France, where I am for a quick bit of business.  So today's TMFW is bonus fact free (boo), but it deals with a fun bit of French music trivia.)

Considering the worldwide market for pop music, and the fact that the industry is now 50+ years old, the list of 100 million album sellers is surprisingly short: there's less than 60 acts who claim that feat.  And the list of acts that are non-native English-speaking performers make up only three out of that group. 

The first two of those three are likely known to TMFW readers (or at least their parents): they are ABBA ("Dancing Queen," "Fernando," giant Broadway musical based on their songs), and Julio Iglesias ("To All the Girls I've Loved Before," father of Enrique Iglesias, and maybe father-in-law of Anna Kournikova).  The third is the subject of today's post: Mr. Johnny Hallyday of France.  You are excused if you have never heard of Mr. Hallyday: he's never had a single song chart in the US in his 50+ year career. 

Monsieur Hallyday was born in 1943 as Jean-Philippe Smet, in Paris, and started his career in 1960.  From the outset, he was unabashedly an American rock-and-roll act, but singing in French and to Francophone audiences. To be honest, the only things I knew about Hallyday before today were (1) that it makes young French people embarrassed when you bring him up, and (2) those same people admitted to knowing much of his catalog (and could usually pull up an impressive list of tracks on their iPod). But reading about him for this TMFW, he's had an impressive run, including the following:

*  The Jimi Hendrix Experience opened for Hallyday in 1966
*  He worked with Mick Jones of Foreigner as a producer, with Peter Frampton as a songwriter, and with Jimmy Page (!) as a session musician
*  In 2000, he played in front of an estimated 500,000 people at the Eiffel Tower
*  In 1997 he was conferred knighthood in France and became a chevalier in the French Légion d'honneur.
He's had 18 platinum records and has toured extensively (over 175 "completed tours" according to Wikipedia) for over 40 years.
If you'd like to understand what all the fuss is about, try these two songs (though they probably won't help too much): "Je te promets" ("I promise," a top-5 song from 1987) and "Un jour viendra" ("The day will come," a top-10 in France and Belgium from 1999).

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