Johnny Hallyday, the French Elvis, has died aged 74

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Johnny Hallyday was born in Paris on June 15, 1943, and appeared on French television in 1960 for the very first time.

But even with his gravelly voice, good looks and piercing blue eyes he never managed to break into the lucrative United Kingdom and U.S. music markets.

Mr. Hallyday said in Marc h that he had lung cancer, the latest in a string of health problems that included colon cancer and a hernia operation that led doctors to place him in an artificial coma.

Much of his appeal lay in his ability to interpret English rock and roll classics for a French audience, such as the Animals' version of House of the Rising Sun and Jimi Hendrix's Hey Joe.

In a statement released early this morning, French President Emmanuel Macron wrote, "We will never forget the name, face, the voice or, above all, the concerts of Johnny Hallyday". "I'm just a simple man", he said in a 2006 interview on France 3. Mr. Hallyday spent decades in what Britain's Independent newspaper once called "a ghetto of francophone idolatry".

Hallyday, born Jean-Philippe Smet in 1943 in occupied Paris, chose to be a singer after seeing the Elvis Presley film Loving You in 1957.

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Sarkozy called the Hallyday family during an European Union summit, to give them updates on the singer's condition during news conferences. His mother was French and his father, an alcoholic who abandoned the family, was Belgian. He turned to rock music after seeing Presley's 1957 movie musical "Loving You".

Hallyday began his successful career in the 1960s and was one of the leading artists of French rock.

Some worldwide artists paid tribute to Hallyday's career.

He is survived by his wife Laeticia, three daughters and a son.

Hallyday later married model Laeticia Boudou, a mere 31 years his junior, and adopted two Vietnamese children. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available. The idol of the young died at the age of 74 years, leaving behind him a great sorrow. "I want to be Jean-Philippe Smet again".

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