Johnny "French Elvis" Hallyday dies at 74
Johnny Hallyday, whose death at 74 was announced by his wife and the French President on Wednesday, was a rock and roll giant in his native France who survived drug use, family strife and near-death episodes to strut stage for more than 50 years.
Hallyday, with his cowboy swagger and gravelly voice, was a"French Elvis" for hundreds of millions of followers, mostly if not all in his native country, where he sold more records than any other singer. He had been fighting lung cancer, and also preparing yet another album recording and stage tour.
News of his death after weeks of frenzied speculation about his health, set social networks alight with tributes from fans, politicians and celebrities. "For more than 50 years, he was a vibrant icon," President's office said in a statement. Hallyday is credited with sales of more than 100 million albums over the decades.
While never earning stardom in the United States, where he lived in Los Angeles in later years, he won a legion of followers in France and elsewhere in the French-speaking world. "Johnny Hallyday has left us," the singer's wife, Laeticia, said in a statement . "I write these words without believing them. But yet, it's true. My man is no longer with us."
It was not immediately clear where he died.
Hallyday, who issued his first recording in 1959, had been preparing a new album and tour when news of his admission with respiratory difficulties at a Paris hospital was announced in November.