France’s best-known rock star Johnny Hallyday has died at the age of 74 after a battle with lung cancer. Johnny, as he was affectionately known by his fans, had a career which spanned nearly six decades during which he sold more than 100 million albums and headlined 50 major tours.
Born Jean-Philippe Smet on 15 June1943, Johnny Hallyday broke from France’s classic “chanson” tradition in the late 1950s, modelling himself on Elvis Presley and performing French cover versions of British and American rock songs.
His success in France was almost immediate and Hallyday became an integral part of French popular culture.
Although he had difficulty being taken seriously abroad, he was a good talent spotter.
Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, the Small Faces
British rockers Jimmy Page, Peter Frampton and the Small Faces all played on his albums in the 60s and the first concert of the Jimi Hendrix Experience was in the French town of Evreux in 1966, when they opened for him.
Not only did he go on to become France’s best-known rock star and an idol for millions of French people, but he also bridged the musical gap between people of all generations.
Since his debut in 1960 Hallyday was awarded 40 golden albums, recorded over 1,000 songs and remains one of the best-selling artists in France.
He also had roles in a number of films, including spaghetti westerns, gangster movies and dramas, such as Jean-Luc Godard’s Détective.
Tribute from Macron
Amongst the first tributes to be paid this morning was one from the French presidential palace, which said “There was something of Johnny in all French people.”
Married five times, including twice to the same woman, Johnny Hallyday announced in March this year that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and he was recently admitted to hospital for breathing troubles before returning to his home in the Paris suburbs.
It was his current wife Laeticia who announced his death, saying Johnny had lived his entire life wholly for his fans.