Tribute to Johnny: “It was the mixture of a very particular fervor and sadness”


“I was born Jean-Philippe Smet. I became Johnny Hallyday, but I will die Jean-Philippe Smet”. These words spoken by the Taulier during a television interview in a Parisian metro car have a particular meaning today. Five years after his disappearance, his fans have still not forgotten him.

To honor his memory, his widow Laeticia Hallyday chose to call on their friend William Karel to carry out a TV project. In the film Johnny by Laeticia, broadcast this Thursday, December 8 on M6, it is an opportunity for millions of viewers to dive into the intimacy of the rocker, between his career and his private life until his last days. “In my eyes, it was during this last part of his life and career that Johnny was the most authentic. A fulfilled husband, a father crazy about his daughters and an artist who knows what he wants. And the most free”, says the director in a press release from the channel.

Through these sequences, archive images and testimonies, this video retrospective allows us to come back to the significant moments that the French have not forgotten. Among them, the popular tribute of fans to Johnny, on December 9, 2017 in Paris. A cold and almost winter day during which a million people came to say goodbye to the idol of young people, carried away by lung cancer at 74 years old.

In an excerpt from the documentary that Planet was able to view before the broadcast tonight, Johnny’s relatives confided that he would have liked to sing on the most beautiful avenue in the world one day. “The dream could never come true. And, I thought it was the best way to pay tribute to him than to say goodbye to him on the Champs-Élysées”, confides the mother of Jade and Joy with emotion in front of the camera.

For his former manager Jean-Claude Camus, “the descent of the Champs-Élysées that he did with a huge crowd, my God all these people, it was incredible what we could see”, he still remembers today. Apart from Victor Hugo, no other personality has had the right to such a grandiose funeral. For the 15 million viewers, their eyes riveted on their screens this Saturday morning, they still remember the solemn funeral procession, the roaring engine of the motorcyclists who accompanied his coffin to the Madeleine, or the throwing of roses by the saddened fans. as the hearse passes.

Among the crowd of fans, Amélie Schildt provided the live duplex on site for our Belgian colleagues from RTL Info. Asked by Planet, the journalist confides what she felt during this tribute to Paris. “What was striking was when I arrived in the square, in the morning before taking our positions as journalists on the podiums installed in front of the Madeleine. I discovered a very heavy atmosphere”.

© Lace Eliot/ABACA

In this heavy and moving atmosphere, the author of the book Johnny, Belgium in the blood reveals a detail that marked him. “We saw Johnny’s musicians who had marked faces. Johnny’s microphone was there, but he was no longer there”. A symbolic object that has surely escaped some viewers possibly moved in front of their television, Everyone hopes to see their idol one last time. In vain.

Mixed in with the crowd in communion, resuming with a joyful choir the tubes of the Taulier, Amélie Schildt also remembers. “We navigated between happier moments with an almost concert atmosphere. Then, it’s as if the next moment, people realized that Johnny would never come again”, explains the 30-year-old rocker specialist. “It was the mixture of a very particular fervor and sadness”.

© Lace Eliot/ABACA

For this ultimate tribute, Laeticia Hallyday wanted to allow fans of her husband to come and say goodbye to him before being buried in Saint-Barthélemy. “I dreamed of it to share the departure of Johnny with his fans because it is his most beautiful love story. They are part of his life”, she explains in the exceptional report by William Karel. “All the people came to accompany me on his last journey, and say thank you, or I love you”. Love, emotion and memories are on the agenda this Thursday evening in this intimate film to be discovered on M6 and on RTL-TVI in Belgium.