Sylvie Vartan (French pronunciation: [silvi vaʁtɑ̃]; born Sylvie Georges Vartanian, Bulgarian: Силви Жорж Вартанян; 15 August 1944 in Iskrets, Sofia Province) is a Bulgarian-French singer and actress. She is known as one of the most productive and tough-sounding yé-yé artists. Her performances often featured elaborate show-dance choreography, and she made many appearances on French and Italian TV.
Yearly shows with then-husband Johnny Hallyday attracted full houses at the Olympia and the Palais des congrès de Paris throughout the 1960s and mid-1970s. In 2004, after a break in performances, she began recording and giving concerts of jazz ballads in francophone countries.
Vartan was born in Iskrets, Sofia Province, then Kingdom of Bulgaria. Her father, Georges Vartanian (1912—1970), was born in France to a Bulgarian mother Slavka and an Armenian father. He worked as an attaché at the French embassy in Sofia. The family shortened the name Vartanian to Vartan. Her mother, Ilona (née Mayer 1914—2007), daughter of prominent architect Rudolf Mayer, was of Hungarian Jewish descent.
When the Soviet Army liberated Bulgaria in September 1944, the Vartanian family house was nationalised and they moved to Sofia. In 1952, a friend of Sylvie's father, film director Dako Dakovski, offered her the role of a schoolgirl in the movie Pod Igoto, a film about Bulgarian rebels against the Ottoman occupation.
Participating in the film made her dream of becoming an entertainer come true.
The hardships of postwar Bulgaria made the family emigrate to Paris in December 1952. At first they stayed in the Lion d'Argent hotel near Les Halles, where Georges found a job, then for the next four years they stayed in a single room at the Angleterre Hotel. Young Sylvie had to work hard to keep up at school and blend in with her schoolmates. She spent two years learning French.
In 1960, her family moved to an apartment in Michel Bizot Avenue. Thanks to the influence of her music producer brother Eddie, music became teenage Sylvie's main interest. Her most influential genres were Jazz and, out of spite toward her strict high school, Rock 'n' Roll. Her favourite artists included Brenda Lee, Bill Haley, and Elvis Presley.
In December 1964, as Hallyday went into military service, Sylvie's brother Eddie hired two English songwriting session musicians, Tommy Brown on drums and Mick Jones on guitar, as they went to record in New York; they wrote her the hit "Cette lettre-là". Set in the smart design of the J.C. Averty Show, "Cette lettre-là" was the first of Sylvie Vartan's TV variety night performances. In 1966–67 she recorded more original hits. "Dis moi, que tu m'aimes" premiered on TV on 9 July 1967 was accompanied by a group of male dancers. "Le jour qui vient" was aired on the Dim dam dom program of the French Television 1 in color on 14 January 1968. "2'35 de bonheur" and "Comme un garçon" were other #1s in France, Italy, Belgium, Japan, or Korea.
On 11 April 1968 Vartan suffered injuries in a traffic accident but was back on tour in August. She showed off her new sexy cabaret-dancer image to the French TV audience in the "Jolie poupée" show on 4 December 1968; the collaboration with Maritie and Gilbert Carpentier produced a highly entertaining result. The variety night included the performance of "Irrésistiblement", accompanied by elaborate girl-group choreography, and "Jolie Poupée", a dialogue between a doll Sylvie and an adult one.
The hits of the "Jolie poupée" show were released as the Maritza album. In Italy, she released a cover version of Mina's "Zum zum zum". Being the 23rd-biggest-selling single of 1969 in Italy, Vartan's version did better in Italian charts than Mina's original. Vartan continued with her one-woman shows at the Paris Olympia in December 1968; they were published as the documentary Sylvie à L'Olympia.
For nine Saturday nights in winter of 1969, Vartan starred in the Doppia coppia variety nights of RAI, performing her hits "Irrésistiblement" ("Irresistibilmente") and "Le jour qui vient" ("Una cicala canta") in Italian. In March 1969, "Irrestibilmente" entered the Italian charts at No. 3, peaked at No. 2 and stayed in Top Ten for 10 weeks. In 1969 the single was the No. 22 single on the Italian chart. The tender ballad "Blam blam blam", written especially for Doppia coppia, peaked at No. 14 on the Italian charts and was among the 100 biggest-selling singles in Italy in 1969.
After her world tour in autumn 1969, she returned to Italy to perform "Festa negli occhi, festa nel cuore" on a Canzonissima variety night and "C'est un jour à rester couché" on the Incontro con Sylvie Vartan TV show, recorded in the Gattopardo Club of Messina. Her appearances were popular in Italy and France; she donned a different costume for each song, including plenty of short skirts and Barbarella boots. The cartoonists of both countries even drew Sylvie Vartan lookalikes.
1970 – today
Despite suffering a second serious car accident in 1970,Sylvie Vartan continued to perform and record extensively; and in 1972 she starred in the film Malpertuis. She sold millions of records on the RCA label, which made her its most prolific artist after Elvis Presley. Her most famous songs are "J'ai un probleme", "L'amour au Diapason" (73), "Parle moi de ta vie"(71), "Petit rainbow" (77), "Bye Bye Leroy Brown" (74), "Disco Queen" and "Nicolas" (79), and "Caro Mozart", an international hit in Italian (72). However, her annual world tours and Italian TV shows continued to include her biggest late-1960s hits.
In 1976 she recorded "Qu'est-ce qui fait pleurer les blondes?", a disco-style cover of a John Kongos track, which topped the French chart for several weeks. Her disco era climaxed at the Dancing star TV show on TF1, produced by Maritie and Gilbert Carpentier, on 10 September 1977. RCA published the show as the Dancing star After a week of concerts in Las Vegas in 1982, she released a duet with John Denver: "Love Again," a #85 single on Billboard Hot 100 followed in 1985 by a new album in the USA with "Double Exposure" and "One-Shot Lover." In 1986 she took a break from show business; she returned in 1989 with "C'est Fatal" ("E' Fatale" in Italy).
In 1990 Sylvie gave a concert at Sofia's Palace of Culture, opening and closing with a Bulgarian song. This was her first visit to the city since her emigration.
In 1991, she performed for three weeks at the Palais des Sports in Paris and hit the charts with "Quand tu es là". In 1995, she starred in "L'ange noir" directed by Jean-Claude Brisseau. In 1996 Sylvie recorded a successful album ("Toutes les femmes ont un secret") featuring "Je n'aime encore que toi" written by Quebecer Luc Plamondon. After her brother Eddie died in 2001, she took another break from performing in public. In fall 2004 she started recording and giving concerts of jazz ballads in francophone countries and Japan. She performed two weeks in the Palais des congrès in 2004 and 2008—all sold-out concerts. In 2009 she toured Turkey, France, Japan, Switzerland, Quebec, USA, Italy, Spain, Netherlands and Belgium.
In 2005, the singer was appointed as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal and Child Health in the European Region.
Chevalier (Knight) of the Ordre national du Mérite on 13 November 1987, Officier (Officer) in 2006.
Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur on 14 November 1998, Officier (Officer) in 2009.
In 1962, during her second concert in Paris Olympia Hall, Vartan met rock musician Johnny Hallyday; they were married in Loconville on 12 April 1965. They had a son, David Michael Benjamin Smet, later known as David Hallyday. Sylvie Vartan and Johnny Hallyday were their generation's "golden couple" in France, and their marriage was among the most carefully watched relationships for the nation's publicity. But Hallyday openly preferred his pals to parenting, sparking many disagreements, and the couple finally divorced on 4 November 1980. Vartan later married record producer Tony Scotti, and they have adopted a young Bulgarian girl, Darina. Sylvie is an aunt to Eddie Vartan's son Michael Vartan.
"I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free"