Johnny Hallyday, the Elvis Presley of France rock ’n’ roll, Dies at 74 from lung cancer

French rock star and actor Johnny Hallyday, rock ’n’ roll and his turbulent offstage life, has died. He was 74.

The death of French answer to Elvis Presley, was confirmed by his wife, Laeticia, 42 to Agence France-Presse on Wednesday.

Her statement read: “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.”

Johnny Hallyday who’s real name is Jean-Philippe Smet – announced in March he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

He introduced rock and roll to France. He’s one of the few singers about whom people say that he’s an animal on stage,” journalist Philippe Le Corre once said.

“He’s quite incredible. People of all ages like him,” he added.

He attempted suicide in 1966, collapsed on stage in 1986 and married five times, twice to the same woman, the daughter of one of his oldest friends and songwriters.

Mr. Hallyday sold more than 100 million records, acted in more than 30 films and appeared on the cover of Paris Match dozens of times. His career endured so long that when he released an album in 2008 called “Ça Ne Finira Jamais”

Hallyday is survived by his wife, Laeticia, and their two adopted children, Jade and Joy; son David Hallyday from his first marriage with Vartan; and daughter Laura Smet from his relationship with actress Nathalie Baye.

Jean-Philippe appeared in commercials as a boy and played the role of a schoolboy in the 1955 Henri-Georges Clouzot thriller, “Les Diaboliques.”

Elvis changed everything. “His voice, the way he moved, everything was sexy,” Mr. Hallyday told USA Today in 2000. “The first time I saw him, I was paralyzed.”

In 1997, President Jacques Chirac made Mr. Hallyday a member of the Legion of Honor.

Hallyday began singing American rock songs at the Moulin Rouge and other clubs around Paris, and in 1959 he was signed by Vogue Records, which released his first album, “Hello Johnny,” in 1960, misspelling Halliday on the cover. The misspelling stuck.

 

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