My first Ye-Ye girl to introduce to you all is the lovely Sylvie Vartan, an original Ye-Ye girl and first girl rocker of France. Sylvie has a wonderful story of hardwork and dedication to her music which I am excited to share with you all!
Sylvie Vartan was born in August 1944 in Bulgaria. As Bugaria was being invaded by soviets, the Vartan family of four had to move, first to Sofia and then emigrated to Paris, France. Life as an immigrant was not an easy one. Sylvie had to work very hard to learn french at her grade school. The first years in Paris were spent in a single cramped hotel room.
Sylvie’s older brother, Eddie Vartan, was seven years older than her. While Sylvie was in highschool, Eddie worked as an artistic director for RCA. When a singer he was working with, Frankie Jordan, needed a female vocalist on his new EP, Eddie Vartan suggested his own sister take the job! Sylvie’s parents resisted this idea, but relented so that she could record her very first LP! Crazily enough, her LP with Frankie was a hit and she became very popular! Eventually, the seventeen year old was given a deal with RCA and quit school to start her solo singing career. Sylvie was featured in the very first issue of “Salut de Copains” magazine which often featured French Ye-Ye singers. This feature spurred on her popularity even further!
At a show, Sylvie’s brother Eddie introduced her to singer Johnny Halladay , the “french Elvis”, who was instantly smitten with young Sylvie. Johnny continued to pursue Sylvie, but they kept their relationship very private. One day, to everyone’s surprise, they announced their engagement on the radio! Sylvie and Johnny were France’s very favorite sweethearts.
Sylvie released French covers of English songs and then later released her self-titled EP in 1962. From 1962-1964 Sylvie traveled to New York City and Nashville, Tennessee where she recorded music with The Jordanaires (also famous for recording with Elvis Presley) Back in France, Sylvie played a show with the Beatles! Her fame brought her new opportunities. Sylvie had worked in film in the past, but she was offered extraordinary roles to play in such films as Pierrot la Fou and Les Parpluies de Cherbourg! Strangely, her agent declined the roles for Sylvie without letting her know, robbing her of incredible opportunity. Sylvie was crushed.
In 1965, Sylvie and Johnny Halladay were married and came back to Europe from their honeymoon to give a special duet performance for Queen Elizabeth! In 1966 Sylvie gave birth to her first child, David.
Through the late 60s Sylvie evolved her performace to include song and dance routines. This style of performing was popular in the United States, but Sylvie trailblazed in France by learning to sing and dance at the same time! The French went crazy for her new direction and Sylvie morphed from a ye-ye girl into a bit of a rock-n-roll girl! Her voice had always been deeper than those of other Ye-Ye girls, and people loved the roughness to her voice. Sylvie toured in Japan and Africa and recorded her hits in multiple languages. She produced new EPs, many with songs featuring duets with her and Johnny.
Sylvie and Johnny had a rocky future ahead of them, eventually divorcing in 1978. The couple had spent years in the tabloids and this was the last time that rumors of their split would be in the papers. Sylvie spent the 1980s performing in the USA, where people compared her to the likes of Cher and Liza Minelli. She remarried again and lived a life of luxury in Beverly Hills, CA. she continued to perform into the 2000′s and played special tribute concerts with her ex-husband Johnny. She also played shows in her home country of Bulgaria and set up charities to assist children.
Beautiful Sylvie is still one of the most loved voices of France. Her hard-work has left an incredible collection of music to enjoy!