Chain smoker and drug addict, French rock legend Johnny Hallyday had self-destructive behavior, unauthorized biography reveals

An emblematic figure in music and one of France’s most publicized personalities, Johnny Hallyday, who produced 80 albums throughout his career, knew how to move the crowd. The man who sang before almost 30 million viewers sadly died of cancer at the age of 74. In a new biography, we discover the journey of an idolized singer, passionate about music, but also of a man with a dark and self-destructive side.

The famous singer Johnny Hallyday, who died in 2017 from lung cancer, admitted in an interview several years ago that he had overindulged in good things, to the point of believing he was going to die young. Long before turning 74 years old.

Photo provided by Éditions Nouveau Monde

And no wonder he smoked three to five packs of unfiltered Gitanes a day. However, he said that he cut back on his cigarette smoking somewhat when he moved to California, since it was difficult to find Gitanes there. Besides cigarettes, there were other demons that Hallyday couldn’t control.

“I used opium, hashish and cocaine,” Hallyday confided in an interview. I drank a lot, but now I only drink it to work, to restart the machine, to move forward,” the singer confessed that he also consumed a lot of alcohol.


The author, Rémi Bouet, who founded the official Hallyday fan club, accumulated over time an impressive collection of unpublished photographs, taken by professional photographers, but also by fans, which is highlighted in this biography dating back to childhood.

We learn that his real name is Jean-Philippe Smet, born in 1943 in Paris. He was an only child and his parents separated when he was only eight months old. His father refuses to acknowledge that he has a son.

The singer’s mother, who is a model, cannot take care of him alone and decides to entrust him to her sister-in-law, who already has two daughters.

One of them married an American dancer, Lee Hallyday, who passed on his artistic side to him and nicknamed him Johnny. Lee will quickly fill the missing father’s place. Johnny quickly enrolled in theater classes, as well as playing the violin and guitar. He went on stage to open a Lee show in Copenhagen at the age of 13.

Driven by all things related to the arts, the boy, who now calls himself Johnny Hallyday, will take classical dance classes in addition to enrolling in theater classes at the Paris Dramatic Art Center.

The “French Elvis”

At the age of 14 he discovered Elvis Presley, who would become his great idol. She wants to sing like him, dance like him, go on the biggest stages and make movies.

In 1960 he signed his first record contract and landed small roles. She will live from success to success, so much so that at only 18 years old she has already recorded 36 songs and sold 1,673,000 records.

If Hallyday experienced some low moments in his career, we can easily say that he achieved his professional challenge of becoming the French Elvis.

In addition to rock, he sings different styles, including songs by Patrick Bruel and Francis Cabrel. He will have performed on major stages including the Paris Olympia, Bercy and the Stade de France; he is the only artist to have performed there nine times. He will also sing in New York, London and Los Angeles, among others.

Legacy in dispute

In March 2017, the singer announced to the media that he had to undergo treatment due to cancer cells. The media quickly reported on lung cancer. He continued chemotherapy treatments without success.

He died at his home on the outskirts of Paris.

After his death, we will witness legal disputes surrounding his inheritance. This is because he had adopted two girls of Vietnamese origin, Jade and Joy, with his last wife, Laeticia Boudou, 30 years his junior. He is also the father of David, the son he had with his first partner, Sylvie Vartan, and Laura, a daughter born from his relationship with Nathalie Baye.

A war breaks out between the biological children and Laeticia, who inherited much of the Hallyday fortune with her adopted children.


  • Of his 80 albums, he has 6 diamond records, 40 gold records and 22 platinum records.
  • He has won 10 Victories de la Musique.
  • In 1997, he became a Knight of the Legion of Honor.
  • He has also appeared in several films.

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