French musical icon Johnny Hallyday has died aged 74, the office of French president Emmanuel Macron has announced.
Hallyday, who had long suffered from lung cancer, “brought a part of America into our national pantheon,” a statement from the president said.
His stage persona borrowed from stars such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. However, Hallyday’s fame rarely extended beyond the French-speaking world.
“We all have something of Johnny Hallyday in us,” Macron said.
He was born in Paris on June 15, 1943, under the name Jean-Philippe Smet. After his parents split up, the youngster followed his father’s sisters to London, where he met American singer Lee Ketchman.
Hallyday gave his first professional concert in 1960, the start of a career that would extend for five decades.
By 1962 he was making albums in Nashville, Tennessee, rubbing shoulders with American singing greats. He later went on to star in movies, including a part in French director Jean-Luc Godard’s Detective.
“I’m not a star. I’m just a simple man,” he said in a 2006 interview. He is survived by four children.