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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.


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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 PagePeter 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.   Read more