Johnny Hallyday is a living legend on the French singing charts with a career that has spanned over 50 years. He was in Tahiti this past May to give an exceptional concert. In love with French Polynesia, he came for several visits during the 1970s and 1980s. This French rocker recently decided to come back to French Polynesia to spend a week’s vacation with his daughters and wife Laetitia. This brought back souvenirs of his last trips to the islands which he sees as being paradise on earth…
What prompted you to come to Tahiti to do a concert?
Johnny Hallyday: Well, first of all, I adore French Polynesia. I adore Tahiti. I often came here on vacation back in the day with my friend Joe Dassin.
Why haven’t you given a concert here since 1972?
I haven’t had a chance. No one asked me. However, we were lucky because we met a good producer. I told her that my dream was to come back to Tahiti to sing and here I am. I am thrilled!
Do you remember the Polynesian name Pai Avero that you were given during your first trip here during the 1970s? It is the name of a Polynesian deity…
I don’t remember but hey, I will start going by that name now! (He laughs). “Pai Avero – tonight in concert!”
Do you have good memories of your concerts performed before a Polynesian audience during the 1970s?
My last concert here was amazing. The audience was very receptive and we were singing in a place that was like paradise. Not everyone gets this opportunity. It was gorgeous, enchanting!
What is the meaning of the title of your tour, Rester Vivant (Stay Alive)?
First of all, the name came from a song from Yarol Poupaud, the tour’s musical director. It is also symbolic of all the health problems I experienced a few years ago. I almost died and I made it through. So Rester Vivant has an important meaning to me. I am not ready to leave this earth. I almost died, yet the other side didn’t appeal to me so I came back…
When you think of when you started out at Golf Drouot (a rock concert venue in Paris during the 1960s) and everything you went through to get to this point, if you had a chance to do it over, would you redo all of it?
Oh, yes! I have amazing souvenirs ! Even those times that were not as pretty or as joyful as others, overall there were extraordinary moments that I would never have known had I not pursued this career. It is true that sometimes when I pass in front of the building and I see the fast food place that has been built where Golf Drouot stood, it gives me a heartache (he laughs).
You are constantly reinventing yourself, yet you still remain Johnny. What is your secret?
I don’t have a secret. Above all, I perform all the music that I love. I select songwriters according to the current era we live in and I choose the best musicians I know. I do not just sing and have the musicians in the background. For me, we are a real band on stage. This is important. This is how I see rock n’roll.
You already have several tattoos. Are any of them Polynesian?
I don’t have a Polynesian tattoo and unfortunately, I won’t have time to get one before I leave. My dream is to have a Polynesian tattoo that will cover my shoulder and half of my back. I have been recommended a good tattoo artist, so I will plan to come back on vacation to get this tattoo.
You spent a few days in French Polynesia. How was your stay?
I went to Bora Bora, which is an incredible place. Then, we went to Marlon Brando’s island Tetiaroa. Brando is my idol. I was excited to see his island for he is legendary to me. During my trip to French Polynesia in 1972, I met his wife. Yesterday, we went for a boat ride and saw an enormous shark. The young girl in charge of the excursion was Marlon Brando’s granddaughter. She was very pretty (he laughs).
Do you have anything to say to your Polynesian fans?
I hope the Polynesian audience appreciated our concert. I hope to have the same great memories I had during my last stint on stage here in Tahiti. I also want to come back on vacation as soon as possible. It is a true paradise here. If there is such a thing as a magical place on earth, it is here. You are so lucky to be able to live here.
Do you think you could ever live here?
You know…at one time, I considered buying an atoll. I was in negotiations to buy one that belonged to Paul-Émile Victor. However, I lived in Paris at the time and I felt it was too far to make regular trips. Now that I live in Los Angeles, I am thinking about it again. So in other words, it is not an improbable idea that I could consider having a place in French Polynesia.
Interview compiled by: Delphine Muzeau Roux de Badilhac