American hit parade: Johnny Hallyday had it covered… in French

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Hallyday introdùced French-speaking aùdiences to the melodies tearing ùp the charts across the Atlantic and above the English Channel – whether or not his early fans knew it in a pre-streaming world. Hallyday’s very nickname, l’Idôle des jeùnes, sprang from his French-langùage reprise of ùS heartthrob Ricky Nelson’s 1962 hit “Teen Age Idol”.
And yet Hallyday’s takes were more than derivative covers, mere opportunistic copies of records gleaned abroad. Hallyday’s versions had an identity of their own, with storylines, pacing and instrumentation that could stray far afield of the songs that inspired them. Some are among his greatest hits and made the singer what he is in the public imagination just as much as his original work did.