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Johnny Hallyday, ‘French Elvis,’ dead at 74

Johnny Hallyday, a legendary French singer and actor, died after a battle with cancer.

He was 74.

Hallyday, whose real name was Jean-Philippe Smet, was known as the French Elvis, but never found success in non-French-speaking countries.

He sold more than 110 million records over his career, beginning with French-language covers of singers including Eddie Cochrane and Elvis Presley.

In 1960, Hallyday released his first album. Six years later, the Jimi Hendrix Experience debuted as his opening act.

Hallyday’s 2001 concert at the Eiffel Tower drew a crowd as large as 600,000.

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Simultaneously, he launched an acting career, first appearing as an extra in Georges-Henri Clouzot’s 1955 thriller “Les Diaboliques.”

He was best known as a boxing manager in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Detective” and a criminal in Patrice Leconte’s 2002 “The Man on the Train.”

Throughout his life, Hallyday struggled with a cocaine addiction, a failed suicide attempt and a string of broken marriages.

In 2009, Hallyday was temporarily put into a medically induced coma after a botched medical operation.

“Across generations, he carved himself into the lives of French people,” French president Emmanuel Macron said.

“He charmed them through the generosity you saw in his concerts: so epic, so intimate, in huge venues, in small spots.”

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

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