French rock star, Johnny Hallyday, dies at age 74

By Daniel Uria  |  Dec. 5, 2017 at 11:50 PM
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Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Johnny Hallyday, the rock singer known as "French Elvis" died on Wednesday at the age of 74, his wife said.

Hallyday's wife Laeticia Hallyday said he died at a Paris hospital due to respiratory difficulties after undergoing treatments for lung cancer.

"Johnny Hallyday has left us. I write these words without believing them. But yet, it's true. My man is no longer with us," she wrote. "He left us tonight as he lived his whole life, with courage and dignity."

While his music was little-known outside of France, Hallyday became known as the "Patriarch of French pop" for bringing American-style rock and roll to the country in the 1960s.

"There is something of Johnny in all of us," French President Emmanuel Macron's office said.

Born Jean-Philippe Smet in Paris on June 15, 1943, he borrowed the name of cousin's American boyfriend, Lee Halliday, when he decided to begin his rock career after discovering Elvis as a teenager.

He signed with Vogue Records in 1959 and released his first single "Laisse les Filles" in 1960, followed by his debut album Hello Johnny.

Hallyday sold more than 110 million albums throughout his 55-year career as he gained popularity for his French-language covers of Elvis, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochrane and his elaborate hip-swinging stage shows.

During a year of military service he married fellow singer Sylvie Vartan, his first of five marriages.

Hallyday attempted suicide in 1966 after struggling with the fact his act wasn't as popular in the age of Bob Dylan and The Beatles.

He was candid about his depression throughout his career, channeling the emotion surrounding his suicide attempt with "Noir, C'est Noirs."

Hallyday performed for more than 28 million people in over 50 tours and released his final studio album Rester Vivant in 2014.

When asked the best compliment he could receive he once replied, "The show was good tonight."

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