French rock legend Johnny Hallyday, one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time who was often referred to as the “French Elvis,” has died after a battle with lung cancer, his wife says. He was 74 years old.
“Johnny Hallyday has left us. I write these words without believing them. But yet, it’s true. My man is no longer with us,” his wife Laeticia told the French news agency AFP on Wednesday morning. Hallyday had announced in March that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.
French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Hallyday’s life and sent his condolences to the singer’s family, friends and fans. “The rock ‘n roll attitude he imported from the United States made him the idol of young people in the 60s, and an icon of the yé-yé generation,” he said.
Selling more than 100 million records, he was one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. Yet, despite his enormous success, he was relatively unknown outside the Francophone world, earning him the nickname “the biggest rock star you’ve never heard of.”
His music career spanned more than 50 years, during which he was also referred to as the “French Elvis.” But he also had a turbulent life; he attempted suicide in 1966, he called on stage in 1986, and he married five times.
Hallyday first married singer Sylvie Vartan in 1965 and their marriage became one of the country’s most closely-watched relationships, but they ultimately divorced in 1980. He then had two other marriages and had a relationship with actress Nathalie Baye.
Hallyday eventually married Laeticia Boudou in 1996 and the couple stayed together until his death on Tuesday night. The couple adopted two girls from Vietnam in the 2000s. Hallyday also had two children from his previous relationships: David Hallyday and Laura Smet.
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