Tuesday, 12 December, 2017

Celine Dion and Lenny Kravitz lead tributes to Johnny Hallyday

France bids farewell to rock icon Johnny Hallyday Celine Dion and Lenny Kravitz lead tributes to Johnny Hallyday
Bennie Garza | 08 December, 2017, 01:10

Tributes poured in after news broke overnight that Hallyday, often dubbed the French Elvis, had died at the age of 74.

A big fan of Elvis Presley, Hallyday is credited for popularizing rock-and-roll music in France in the early 1960s.

The singer sold over 100 million records and starred in a number of films in a career which spanned over half a century. "A great artist has left us, transcending generations".

"With such a long career he touched every generation", said Nicolas D'Auria, a 40-year-old decorator in central Paris who recalled listening to Hallyday on cassettes in the auto on family holidays in his youth. Sarkozy called the Hallyday family during an European Union summit and gave updates on the singer's condition during news conferences.

He sang against long-haired peaceniks one year ("long of hair, short of ideas"), likened hippies to Jesus Christ the next, appeared in more than 30 films and - decades after his emergence on the pop music scene - was chosen to perform at an anniversary concert for the victims of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris.

Think of Elvis, first and foremost-the King was Hallyday's original inspiration and North Star-but add Serge Gainsbourg, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi, James Dean, and David Hasselhoff, and you'll be in the right arrondissement.

Hallyday, whose real name was Jean-Phillipe Smet, was born in Paris.

His career began in 1960 with the release of his debut album Hello Johnny. By 1962 he had met the woman who would be his wife for years, and remained his friend to the end, singing star Sylvie Vartan.

"Across generations, he carved himself into the lives of French people", said Macron.

He forged his career recycling rock gems such as The Animals' version of "House of the Rising Sun" or Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe" in a country that has a legal limit on the amount of English music played on the radio. Soon, he also became a true movie star, acting for legendary directors like Henri-Georges Clouzot and Jean Luc Godard.

However, it was the rocker's personal life, and his marriage to Laeticia, that gave him a mellow edge. "I'm not a star".

"It's the death of a monument, there are no more monuments like that and there never will be, " Girouard said in an interview.

Since Hallyday's father was Belgian, there always has been a special place for the French rocker in neighboring Belgium.

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