French rocker Johnny Hallyday beats Drake's one-week sales figure with posthumous album

'French Elvis' died before being able to add finishing touches to the album – a task carried out by his widow, Laeticia

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
Saturday 27 October 2018 10:32
French singer Johnny Hallyday
French singer Johnny Hallyday

The late French rocker Johnny Hallyday has managed to posthumously beat the one-week sales figure previously held by US artist Drake.

Mon Pays c’est l’Amour (My Country is Love) has sold 780,177 copies in one week, marking a sales record for France.

During his lifetime Hallyday, known fondly by fans as “the French Elvis”, sold 110 million records, and is now on track to sell at least another million.

Described by his record company as “historic”, Hallyday’s new album has sold more than Drake’s Scorpion, which shifted 732,000 albums in a single week this July.

Writer Philippe Labro, who was a friend of the singer, told the BBC: “It's typical Johnny and since he has died, all the lyrics have a different dimension.”

Last year, Taylor Swift attracted the biggest sales in one week in the US since 2015 with her album Reputation, with more than 1.2m copies.

Hallyday, born Jean-Philippe Smet, recorded Mon Pays c'est l'Amour in 2017, while he was dying of lung cancer. He died before he was able to put the finishing touches to the album – a task that was taken on by his widow, Laeticia.

His death was marked by a national day of mourning in France last year, honouring him with a funeral procession down the Champs-Élysées, a presidential speech and a parade of motorcyclists – all under intense security.

The release of his 51st record became something of a national event in France. Queues were seen forming outside record stores shortly before midnight on Thursday last week, and around 300,000 physical copies of the album were sold on Friday alone.

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David Bowie's final album Blackstar was released just two days before he died in January 2016, and sold almost 150,000 copies in its first week on sale in the UK.

“It's been a long time since CD manufacturers have had such a stiff test in meeting such massive public demand,” said Stu Bergen of Warner Music Group.

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Laeticia Hallyday is currently involved in a legal battle with the singer’s older children, who are fighting to have a stake in his estate – of which the new album is a significant part. A court dismissed their request to oversee production on the album.

Hallyday left everything to his widow Laeticia and their adopted children. A French court put a temporary freeze on many of his assets and is expected to make a ruling in November.

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