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French rock star Johnny Hallyday dies at 74

French rock star Johnny Hallyday dies at 74

Johnny Hallyday, France's rock 'n' roll icon, has died on Wednesday (Dec 6). He was 74 years old, media reports said.

French rock star and actor Johnny Hallyday, who became the first Gallic singer to popularize rock ’n’ roll in France and sold over 100 million records during a music career spanning over half a century, has died on Wednesday. He was 74 and had been fighting cancer for several months.

In a statement, his wife Laeticia said: "Johnny Hallyday has left us," the AFP news agency reports.

Widely known as the “French Elvis,” Hallyday began his singing career at the end of the 1950s specializing in French-language cover versions of famous songs by artists like Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochrane and Elvis Presley — whose example inspired him to become a singer.

At the beginning of 1960 Hallyday released his first album, “Hello! Johnny.”  The following year he performed at France’s first rock festival at the Palais des Sports in Paris, setting off a near-riot that led to a ban on rock ’n’ roll shows for several months.

Hallyday was known for his hard work and almost non-stop touring. But he was also famous for his wild rock star antics, both on and off stage. Heavy partying, drugs, drinking and smoking, as well as five marriages all kept his bad-boy image alive.