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Johnny Hallyday: who are the Bretons behind his hits?


More than 300 lyricists, double the composition: Johnny Hallyday has always surrounded himself to write his songs. Among his collaborators, the Bretons figure prominently. Did you know that the second most prolific lyricist of Idol des jeunes was from Finistère? Even if he was relatively discreet, the Brestois Georges Aber-Poubennec is credited on 69 songs by Johnny Hallyday, mainly in the 60s. “Noir c’est noir”, that’s him. “The hits”, “You talk too much” too.

The lyricist, very talented at adapting American standards into French, was popular during the yéyé years. Besides Johnny, he wrote for Sheila, Sylvie Vartan, Claude François, Dick Rivers, Franck Alamo, Les Chaussettes Noires and Alain Bashung. Even if the Brestois, who died in 2012, saw his activity decline in the 1970s, he undoubtedly left his mark on French rock..

Miossec’s “physical” writing

Almost as prolific with 35 titles crediting him as a lyricist, Pierre Billon certainly born in Paris, but son of a Douarnenist – is the seventh biggest songwriter of Johnny, in the years 1970-1980. It is he who hides in particular behind the tube “I forgot to live”.

The singer-songwriter, who made the buzz in 2011 with his cult “Sad Bamba”, was not content to write, since he made ten albums of the singer, between 1982 and 1984. Closer to us, there is of course the collaboration of the French Elvis Presley with Christophe Miossec. Credited on 15 songs since 1999, spread over three albums, the Brestois is one of the feathers that marked the end of Taulier’s career in French rock. In 2014, this collaboration even allowed him to win a Victoire de la musique, with “20 years”, named song of the year.

Miossec had also reacted, with a lot of emotion, at the sad news of Johnny’s disappearance on December 5, 2017. The Brest singer evokes a “physical” writing for the rock icon: “the words must come out, it must be hardened. I remember all those concerts where he glued the audience to the ceiling with very simple words … “.

Behind “Lorada”, “The penitentiary”, “The cheart of a man “…

An impressive top three, but other Britons have counted in Johnny’s career. This is the case of the Finistérien Gildas Arzel who, with 6 songs, left his mark on the album “Lorada” in 1995, under the aegis of the producer of the project, Jean-Jacques Goldman. We owe the Breton “Lady Lucille”, “Do you want me still” or the title “Jamais” on Florent Pagny’s album “Staying true” (sung in duet).

At the same place in the charts of the authors of Johnny, the Breton of heart Hugues Aufray also sees 6 songs credited to his name, including three versions of the famous “Penitentiary”. The Nantes native Jeanne Cherhal, she instead marked the album of 2015 “Staying alive” with “You are there”, “You miss”, “Clandestine traveler” and “A Sunday in January”.

We also note the influence of Rennais Yvan Cassar, who composed (or helped compose) five songs, including four on the 2007 album “Le coeur d’un homme”. Like the Vannetaise Marielle Hervé, who wrote the music for the four versions of “La Loi du silence” (including two sung in … Italian, because Johnny was multilingual and even sung in turkish). Finally, perhaps more unusual, the eccentric Morlaisienne Brigitte Fontaine is cited twice for the text of “Tanagra”, sung with and without Matthieu Chedid (-M-).