The French Elvis? Not quite. A French Cliff? Surely not. But when I awoke to news of the death at 74 of Johnny Hallyday, I was instantly aware that another important figure of contemporary music was no more. Massively important to some, hardly worth a thought to others, a choice guided by nationality and/or place of residence, Johnny was adored in France and much of the wider francophone world where his passing is being treated more as Elvis or Lennon than, say Roy Orbison or Freddie Mercury.
L'idole des jeunes, for the French of a certain generation in search of their answer to Anglo-Saxon pop and rock dominance; "poor Johnny remains the most famous rock star most people have never heard of" as a sceptical journalistic consoeur put it. I cannot say I warmed especially to his music but acknowledge he had a terrific voice and some style, though I could cheerfully have strangled the builder we once had in France who not only played Johnny incessantly on his ghetto-blaster as he worked but sang along.
Ten years ago, Robb Johnson - a very leftwing British songwriter wrote at length about his own, superficially strange love affair with Johnny's music. Robb may well be adding his response to the news (not unexpected; Johnny had been suffering from lung cancer and, clearly knowing his time was up, discharged himself from hospital against medical advice to spend his last days at home). His immediate reaction? 'Merde.' I have pulled together the three-part essay Robb composed for these pages ...
UPDATE: the list has undergone a change; in comes Linda Thompson - a terrible oversight in the previous lists - and out, with regret, must go Dolores Keane ...
If I remain convinced that lists of this kind are fun, but no more, I admit to reading as avidly as anyone what others consider their best, five best, 10 best albums, types of tree, car models, authors and so on. It doesn't mean they are, just that someone thinks that way and may even think it inconceivable that this or that CD, tree, car, dog, lawnmower, author or whatever was included or excluded by another.
Read the entertaining comments at the originating Facebook page, and as followed up here (including a link to Facebook).
Having relented a couple of times in the ensuing discussion, I thought I'd offer an off-the-wall second selection. I called in my non-mainstream list at Facebook although it is hardly less mainstream than the first one. But I did exclude anyone I had previously included or later added as substitutes.
Buy Janis Joplin's Greatest Hits album at Salut! Live's Amazon record shelf by clicking on this caption
UPDATE: scroll down the article or check Comment No 24 for a revised Top 10 ...
Of Nick Hornby's books - and I've read a few - High Fidelity is comfortably my favourite. If you've read it, too, you'll remember the lists.
He went for Top Fives or Five This/Five That. At a Facebook group called Greatest Albums of All Time and Great Music!! (yes, two exclamation marks), Damian Mitchell doubled it to give his choice of the best 10 female singers.
Long, long ago, when we were even more reactionary than now, we insisted on calling fROOTS by its perfectly good previous name Folk Roots at every opportunity.