Johnny Hallyday: France’s troubled Elvis

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FILE- In this Dec. 8, 2007, file photo, French musician Johnny Hallyday during Miss France 2008 election in Dunkirk, northern France. The French president's office says Hallyday, who packed sports stadiums for decades, has died at age 74. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)

Paris :Johnny Hallyday, France’s king of rock who has died aged 74 after a battle with lung cancer, was a leather-clad would-be Elvis who earned love and scorn over five decades spent belting out American rock ‘n’ roll. While he was never taken seriously abroad, Hallyday was by far the best-known rocker in France. Known simply as Johnny, Hallyday sold more than 110 million albums and headlined 50 major tours, the last this summer when he teamed up with veteran French rockers for the “Old Scoundrels” tour. Inspired by Elvis Presley, he broke from France’s classic “chanson” tradition in the late 1950s, rocking like his US idols and summoning the rebellious spirit of James Dean with his quiffed hair and leathers. He drove his young fans wild, attracting 100,000 to a Paris square in 1963 and prompting scenes of hysteria until then unseen in a conservative France led by the stiff General Charles de Gaulle. Defying the view that France, then a land of crooners and jazz, could not rock, Hallyday had his big break with the 1960 hit “T’aimer Follement” (Makin’ Love) and later belted out French versions of songs such as Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe”. Even as the decades rolled by and politicians began to curry his favour, he kept his bad-boy image alive with a colourful private life, ticking off many rock ‘n’ roll rites of passage.

Orignally published by APP