Stacey Avédikian Arabian – World Stars Mag
France’s biggest rock star, Johnny Hallyday, the leather-trousered “French Elvis” who sold more than 110m albums over a career spanning more than half a century has died aged 74 of lung cancer.
Born Jean-Philippe Smet in Paris to a French mother and Belgian father on June 15, 1943. He was abandoned as a baby by his parents and raised by an aunt among cabaret singers and performers. He first took to the stage as a teenager, borrowing the name Hallyday from an American relative. Being abandoned left a void he said he always struggled to fill. Despite his black-clad rocker image, he would say he was afraid of the dark.
His more than 55 years of stardom were marked by contradictions. He was musically eclectic, veering from French ballads to blues, and from country and western to prog rock, and was sometimes seen as rebellious, but mostly adored by several generations for his comforting light touch.
His wife, Laeticia Hallyday, said on Wednesday: Johnny Hallyday has left us. I write these words without believing them. But yet, it’s true. My man is no longer with us. He left us tonight as he lived his whole life, with courage and dignity.
His health had been declining for years. In 2009, he underwent surgery for colon cancer and months later for a herniated disc. Just after the last surgery, he was treated for an infection in Los Angeles, where he was placed into an induced coma.
Hallyday’s wife called the French president, Emmanuel Macron, at about 2am to inform him of Hallyday’s death.
In a statement, Macron wrote: We all have a piece of Johnny Hallyday inside every one of us. The public today is in tears. We will never forget the name, face, the voice. The good days of rock ‘n’ roll were over, the public could have abandoned him but a new life for him began.
French-Canadian singer Celine Dion expressed her condolences on Twitter and called Hallyday a “Giant in show business”.