Police, fans at French rocker Hallyday's home

Brunilde Fioravanti
Dicembre 7, 2017

Despite a few attempts to break the global market, Hallyday remained largely unknown in many parts of the world - although it didn't stop him from reportedly amassing an impressive 100 million-plus albums sold or performing to roughly 750,000 people at a free concert held at the Eiffel Tower in 2009 - all milestones befitting the performer who, as journalist Philippe Le Corre is quoted as saying, "introduced rock "n" roll to France". He took one of his uncles' stage name and became Johnny Hallyday.

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

Born in Paris in 1943 as Jean-Philippe Leo Smet, the French artist released his first song in 1960 under the name Johnny Hallyday.

Yet while drawn to English-language music and low-tax jurisdictions, Mr. Hallyday remained defiantly French, singing "les blues" before massive crowds at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, where he appeared alongside dancers from the Moulin Rouge and drove a motorcycle across the stage. His capacity to sing a wide variety of music genre is often cited as one of the reasons for his tremendous popularity in France. One of Hallyday's most iconic hits, "Le Pénitencier", was adapted from The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun".

His career took off the following year, when a concert at the newly built Palais des Sports ended in a riot of leather-jacketed fans, terrifying cultural critics who thought Mr. Hallyday was a negative influence on the country's youth. French-Canadian singer Celine Dion tweeted that she was very saddened to hear of his death.

Television channels cleared their schedules to broadcast tribute shows to the star who first came to fame in the late 1950s yet managed to cleverly adapt to changing musical styles. "Repose en paix (Rest in peace)".

Hallyday had had lung cancer and repeated health scares in recent years that dominated national news, yet he continued performing as recently as this summer. He said he considered it his therapy.

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