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Culture

French rocker Johnny Hallyday dies, aged 74

media Johnny Hallyday on stage in Brussels in 2016 PATRIK STOLLARZ / AFP

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.

Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, the Small Faces

Although he had difficulty being taken seriously abroad, he was a good talent spotter.

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.

On Bastille Day 2015 he performed in front of 700,000 people at the Eiffel Tower to mark the monument's 120th birthday - see our slideshow here.

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.

President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte announced on Wednesday that they would attend Hallyday's funeral.

The presidential palace said it was not possible to say whether would be a national tribute before consulting the family.

Johnny Hallyday, a life in dates
  • 15 June 1943: Born Jean-Paul Smet in Paris to Belgian national Léon Smet and Frenchwoman Huguette Clerc;
  • 1960: Releases first single Laisse les Filles on the Vogue label;
  • 1961: His cover of Let’s Twist Again sells a million copies and wons gold disc;
  • 1965: Marries Bulgarian-French singer Sylvie Vartan;
  • 1966: The Jimi Hendrix Experience opens for Hallyday at Evreux in Normandy, son David born;
  • 1969: Total sales top 12 million;
  • 1980: Divorces Sylvie Vartan;
  • 1983: Has a daughter, Laura Smet, with actress Nathalie Baye;
  • 1984: Plays in Détective, directed by Jean-Luc Godard;
  • 1990: Marries Adeline Blondeau;
  • 1992: Divorces Adeline Blondeau;
  • 1996: Marries Laeticia Boudou;
  • 1997: Awarded the Légion d’Honneur by president Jacques Chirac;
  • 2000: Performs at the Eiffel Tower to a crowd of 500,000 and a TV audience of 9.5 million;
  • 2004: With Laeticia Boudou adopts Vietnamese child Jade Odette Désirée (formerly Bui Thi Hoa);
  • 2005: His third French number one Mon Plus Beau Noël (My most beautiful Christmas) is dedicated to his adopted daughter Jade;
  • 2006: Application for Belgian nationality turned down, announces moving his residence to Switzerland for tax purposes;
  • 2007: Supports Nicolas Sarkozy in presidential election;
  • 2008: With Laeticia Boudou adopts Vietnamese child Joy (formerly Maï-Huong);
  • 2009: Stars in Johnnie To’s film Vengeance;
  • 2014: Admits that his home is in Los Angeles, USA, after Swiss media show he does not spend enough time in their country to qualify for residency;
  • 6 December 2017: Dies at Marnes-la-Coquette of cancer.

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