Johnny, France’s Good American

On December 6, 2017, the French lost their most popular countryman. Johnny was decried by the French elites but the workers adored him. He was our homegrown American.

Whatever may think Paris’ lofty intellectuals who decry the United States, Johnny Hallyday was embraced by three generations of French people. Emmanuel Macron reflected this evident popularity when he declared that Johnny, “brought a little bit of America into the French pantheon.” It is worth asking whether the most American of French singers might end up in the actual Panthéon, between André Malraux and Simone Weil.

The New York Times, commenting on Johnny’s death, called him “the French Elvis Presley.” That’s about right. The young Johnny’s discovery of Elvis, at the age of 14, determined our hero’s destiny. In an interview with France-Amérique [...]