Some encounters mark a life. Even more when you come across a star popular with the French like Johnny Hallyday. During my primary years, I sang in a choir in the suburbs of Paris, formerly known in the 1970s as the Poppys. At that time, our elders were singing the pop hit No, no, nothing has changed while the teen idol declared his love Oh! My pretty Sarah.
On a sunny summer day in 2005, our choirmaster Jean Amoureux told us that Johnny Hallyday himself would like to have a children’s choir to accompany him on his next album. From the top of my 10 years, I could not believe that a famous star called on a band of boys from the suburbs. It was an encounter that absolutely should not be missed!
At each rehearsal on Wednesday afternoons, we worked on both titles in order to be ready on the day of recording. And that moment came a few days later. I was lucky enough to be one of the 20 boys selected to record the backing vocals in a famous Parisian studio. As we waited in the room, between the microphones and the musical instruments, a tall figure walked through the door. Leather jacket, black shirt and pants, motorcycle helmet, hoarse voice… Johnny Hallyday made his entrance and suddenly our faces froze. We are impressed (me first) to meet a French star.
The innkeeper has the easy way, he claps our hands each in turn and tells us 2-3 jokes to lighten the atmosphere. Then comes the time to go into the studio to record the voices for his two songs. The first title, I will take care of you. Then the second, My most beautiful Christmas. A symbolic title for the husband of Laetitia Hallyday after the adoption of their daughter Jade in Vietnam.
All day long, we chained the takes. The breaks follow one another, we resume, we double and triple the tries. End of the recording session, I could finally breathe with my friends. We listen to the result (before mixing) all together surrounded by our choir director, our accompanist and former member of the Jean-Louis choir, of course Johnny and his team. We were proud of this work accomplished and to mark the occasion, we proudly posed with the rocker for a photo shoot. An unforgettable moment of which I treasure two autographed photos in my albums.
After our musical tour in Corsica that year, the time had come to resume our activities at the choir. Shortly after, Johnny Hallyday released Ma Vérité in the fall, the 44th opus of his career. Then comes in December the release of My most beautiful Christmas, “the one I’ve never had”, to use the words of the singer declaimed with love to his daughter Jade.
A melody that will invade the airwaves on the radio, accompanied by a video clip mixing personal archives and the sequences in front of the singer’s camera. But the encounter does not end there. After receiving a signed album and single, we also shared the stage with Johnny Hallyday during several television performances.
Among my standout memories: The Hit Machine where we ran into Charlie and Lulu backstage. The Star Academy where we sang on the night of the final in front of 8.7 million viewers. Or the annual events 500 Choristes (on TF1) and Surprises de stars (M6), during which Johnny came to surprise host Laurent Boyer in song, of course.
From this musical parenthesis, I remember the kindness and benevolence of a monument of variety like Johnny. This song has a special place in our repertoire since we sang it during our concerts and galas. Last year, a new generation of the choir paid tribute to the rocker during the concert event at the Accor Hotel Arena, broadcast on France 2.