— Johnny Hallyday was France’s ‘Elvis Presley’
— Johnny Hallyday loses battle to lung cancer at 74
Singer, who sold more than 110m albums and was revered across generations in France, had lung cancer.
The singer sold about 100 million records and starred in a number of films in a career that began in 1960.
He was made a Chevalier of the Legion D’Honneur by President Jacques Chirac in 1997.
The French simply called him “Our Johnny”. However, outside the Francophone zone, Hallyday was virtually unknown.
In a statement, his wife Laeticia said: “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.”
His children, Laura and David, wrote a joint statement, saying: “Today we lost our father,” and thanking fans for the outpouring of support.
“Our pain is immense,” they said.
That sentiment was echoed by Laura’s mother, Nathalie Baye, who posted an empty black square to Instagram with the single line caption: “My grief is immense.”
Reacting to the news, French President Emmanuel Macron referenced the title of a recent tribute album by saying: “There is a little bit of Johnny in all of us.”
He added: “Across generations, he carved himself into the lives of French people. He charmed them through the generosity you saw in his concerts: so epic, so intimate, in huge venues, in small spots.”
Hallyday, whose real name was Jean-Philippe Smet, decided he wanted to be a singer after seeing Elvis Presley on screen in 1957. Hallyday was nicknamed the “French Presley” by his numerous fans.