Ry Cooder was born in LA on March 15, 1947. Martin Chilton picks 15 essential songs from the renowned American guitarist

Born Jean-Philippe Leo Smet to a Belgian father and French mother in Paris on June 15, 1943, the singer was brought up by his aunt, an actress, and mentored by an American relative, Lee Halliday, from whom he took his stage name.

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In 1998 he admitted taking cocaine and suffering a difficult childhood with an alcoholic father who first abandoned the family when Johnny was just eight months old.

After a string of successful singles, EPs and pioneering Scopitones (primitive music videos played jukeboxes), his first album was recorded in Nashville in 1962. Four years later, after seeing him in 1966 in a London club, Hallyday hired the unknown Jimi Hendrix Experience as his opening act on a four-date French tour .

American newspaper USA Today once dubbed Hallyday “the greatest rock star you never heard of,” but in France he was a monument known simply as “Johnny.”

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