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Johnny Hallyday, singer known as the 'French Elvis,' dies at 74

Johnny Hallyday, singer known as the 'French Elvis,' dies at 74

His ability to bounce back from the tragedies life threw at him is what made him a folk hero among the French people.

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.

French singer Johnny Hallyday gestures as he performs on June 2, 2013 in Bordeaux.

Hallyday's 2011 album "Jamais Seul" went straight to number one, selling 100,000 copies in the first week, despite his reputation for being viewed by younger generations as uncool, or passé.

Star: Johnny Hallyday is seen in this picture from September. He was the country's top rock "n" roll star through more than five decades and eight presidents, and it was no exaggeration when Macron wrote "the whole country is in mourning".

Hallyday appeared in Johnnie To's "Vengeance" (2009) and had talked about giving film a bigger role in his life. He even gave the Jimi Hendrix Experience their very first gig as his opening act at the Paris Olympia in October 1966.

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His music and wild stage antics sparked rioting and hysteria, and the leather-clad, Harley Davidson-loving rocker soon became famed for his hard living and self-destructive streak as much as for his chart-topping albums.

He made his first screen appearance in 1955 as an extra in classic thriller 'Les Diaboliques.' Hallyday broke out in France in 'Where Are You From Johnny?', playing a thinly disguised version of himself.

Jean-Philippe Smet was born in Malesherbes, Paris, the son of a French mother and Belgian father.

Hallyday, who had long suffered from lung cancer, "brought a part of America into our national pantheon", a statement from the president said. After his parents split, Hallyday moved to live with his aunt, Helena.

Hallyday is survived by his wife Laeticia and their two adopted children Jade and Joy along with his son David Hallyday from his first marriage and daughter Laura Smet from his relationship with actress Nathalie Baye.