France's king of rock Johnny Hallyday dies aged 74: wife

Joann Johnston
December 7, 2017

Adored by young and old, hard-living Hallyday was nearly a national monument, selling more than 110 million records despite being nearly unknown outside the French-speaking world. The president of the Republic has also been one of the first to react to this disappearance.

If the date of the funeral of the famous rocker has not yet been announced, Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte have confirmed their presence.

Johnny Hallyday performing in Paris in 1962.

"My worldwide career? It'll happen if it happens", Mr. Hallyday once told Agence France-Presse.

Born in Paris in 1943 as Jean-Philippe Leo Smet, the French artist released his first song in 1960 under the name Johnny Hallyday.

More recently, Hallyday appeared in Johnnie To's "Vengeance" (2009) and had talked about giving film a bigger role in his life.

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Outside the Francophone countries, Hallyday was virtually unknown. A large number of his recordings were French adaptations of English-language songs.

Fats Domino (L) being congratulated by French singer Johnny Hallyday (C) and United States boxing champion Ray Sugar Robinson following his performance at the Palais des Sports in Paris, Oct. 20, 1962.

His career took off the following year, when a concert at the newly built Palais des Sports ended in a riot of leather-jacketed fans, terrifying cultural critics who thought Mr. Hallyday was a negative influence on the country's youth.

Singing icon Celine Dion said Hallyday was "a giant in show business", adding that he will be "sadly missed but never forgotten".

Fans came soon after, bundled against the December cold to pay tribute and share memories of France's biggest rock star. "Repose en paix (Rest in peace)".

Hallyday had long suffered from lung cancer and had repeated health scares as of late, which dominated national news. He said he considered it his therapy.

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