Johnny Hallyday has died at the age of 74 after a long battle with lung cancer.
France’s biggest rock star sold about 100 million records and starred in a number of movies in a career that began in 1960.
Johnny Hallyday 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, Johnny Hallyday was virtually unknown.
In a statement released to the AFP, the singer’s 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.”
Johnny Hallyday, whose real name was Jean-Philippe Smet, decided he wanted to be a singer after seeing Elvis Presley on screen in 1957. He was nicknamed the French Presley by his numerous fans.
Reacting to the news, France’s President Emmanuel Macron referenced the title of a recent tribute album by saying: “There is a little bit of Johnny in all of us.”
“Across generations, he carved himself into the lives of French people,” the president said.
“He charmed them through the generosity you saw in his concerts: so epic, so intimate, in huge venues, in small spots.”
Among those to pay tribute to Johnny Hallyday was American guitarist Lenny Kravitz.
Heavily influenced by Elvis Presley, Johnny Hallyday broke from France’s classic “chanson” tradition in the 1950s, and began singing rock and roll in French.
Despite his success at home, Johnny Hallyday failed to crack the lucrative American or any English-speaking market.
The USA Today once described the singer as “the greatest rock star you never heard of”.
Johnny Hallyday was known for his hard work and almost non-stop touring.
However, 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 Johnny Hallyday’s bad-boy image alive.