Rock icon was known as France’s Elvis Pres­ley

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - IN MEMORY - By Elaine Gan­ley and An­gela Charl­ton

PARIS >> Johnny Hal­ly­day, France’s big­gest rock star for more than half a cen­tury and an icon who packed sports sta­di­ums and all but lit up the Eif­fel Tower with his high-en­ergy con­certs at the foot of the Paris land­mark, died early Wed­nes­day. He was 74.

Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, who knew the star off­stage, an­nounced his death in a state­ment, say­ing “he brought a part of Amer­ica into our na­tional pan­theon.”

Macron’s of­fice said the pres­i­dent spoke with Hal­ly­day’s fam­ily, but didn’t pro­vide de­tails about where the rocker died.

French me­dia re­ported widely that he died at his home west of Paris, which was quickly sur­rounded by mourn­ing fans and po­lice pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity.

Hal­ly­day had lung can­cer and re­peated health scares in re­cent years that dom­i­nated na­tional news. But he con­tin­ued per­form­ing as re­cently as this sum­mer.

Ce­line Dion was among stars shar­ing con­do­lences for a rocker with a fa­mously grav­elly voice who sold more than 100 mil­lion records, filled con­cert halls and split his time be­tween Los An­ge­les and Paris. Brigitte Bar­dot tweeted: “Johnny is a mon­u­ment. It is France!”

Some of France’s lead­ing po­lit­i­cal fig­ures on the left and right joined Macron in mourn­ing the loss of “Johnny,” as he was known. For­mer Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande, the So­cial­ist leader re­placed by Macron, said Hal­ly­day “is part of our na­tional pat­ri­mony.”

Hal­ly­day fash­ioned his glitzy stage aura, with an open shirt, jew­elry and a pump­ing pelvis, from Elvis Pres­ley, drew mu­si­cal in­spi­ra­tion from Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly, per­formed with Jimi Hen­drix, and made an al­bum in coun­try mu­sic’s cap­i­tal, Nashville, Tenn.

His star­dom largely ended at the French-speak­ing world, yet in France it­self, he was an in­sti­tu­tion, with a postage stamp in his honor. 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.”

“We all have some­thing of Johnny Hal­ly­day in us,” Macron said, prais­ing “a sin­cer­ity and au­then­tic­ity that kept alive the flame that he ig­nited in the pub­lic’s heart.”

He was born in Paris on June 15, 1943, of a Bel­gian fa­ther and French mother dur­ing the dark days of World War II with a less glam­orous name, Jean-Philippe Smet.

Me­mo­rial plans weren’t im­me­di­ately an­nounced.


French pop singer Johnny Hal­ly­day per­forms at the Palais des Sports in Paris. Hal­ly­day, who packed sports sta­di­ums for decades, died Wed­nes­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.