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Johnny Hallyday, Gallic rocker worshiped as the 'French Elvis,' dies at 74

Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Johnny Hallyday, the French rock legend who came to fame in the early 1960s with cover versions of American rock 'n' roll hits and continued to sell out concerts in France for decades, has died at his home outside Paris. He was 74.

Hallyday, who often was called "the French Elvis," died Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced in a statement. Fans -- many in tears or carrying flowers -- gathered outside his home to honor the rocker.

Macron said Hallyday "brought a part of America into our national pantheon." Hallyday, he said, seemed nearly invincible and long ago had been christened a "French hero."

Although many Americans had never heard of Hallyday, he was considered a godlike figure in France, where a survey once indicated he could likely get enough votes to be elected president.

"Hearing about Johnny's death has hurt us because Johnny is our God and nobody can replace him," one fan, Yves Buisson, told the Associated Press outside the Hallyday family's gated home in Marnes-La-Coquette. His arms were covered with tattoos of the star.

In 1997, French President Jacques Chirac presented Hallyday with the Legion of Honor.

 

The Elvis-inspired rocker scored early hits with French cover versions of U.S. records such as "Be-Bop-A-Lula," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On" and "Long Tall Sally."

His 1961 version of Chubby Checker's "Let's Twist Again" sold 1 million copies, and his early appearances in France caused riots.

"Johnny Hallyday introduced American rock 'n' roll to a vast French-speaking audience around the world," Howard Kramer, curatorial director at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, told The Times.

"He had a great reputation as a live performer, and he made records that were massively popular. He never really broke out of Europe, but his success was so massive he didn't really need to."

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