Johnny Hallyday, France's biggest rock star for more than half a century and an icon, has died. He was 74.
Hallyday had had lung cancer and repeated health scares in recent years that dominated national news, yet he continued performing as recently as this summer.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced his death in a statement early Wednesday, saying "he brought a part of America into our national pantheon." Macron's office said the president spoke with Hallyday's family but did not provide details about where the rocker died or the circumstances.
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.
Hallyday fashioned his glitzy stage aura 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, Tennessee.
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."
The antithesis of a French hero right down to his Elvis-style glitter and un-French name, Hallyday was among the most familiar faces and voices in France, which knew him simply as Johnny, pronounced with a slight French accent and beloved across generations.
He released his last album "Rester Vivant" — or "Staying Alive" — last year, and performed this summer as part of the "Old Crooks" tour with long-time friends and veteran French musicians Eddy Mitchell and Jacques Dutronc.