France mourns the death of veteran rock star Johnny Hallyday

Johnny Hallyday

Johnny Hallyday Charles Platiau Reuters

Rock star and actor Johnny Hallyday, known as the "French Elvis", has passed away at the age of 74.

The singer's wife announced his death a little before 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning French time, according to the newspaper.

Hallyday had a fifteen year marriage to a French singer named Sylvie Vartan.

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Despite achieving a God-like status in France, he was nearly unknown in the English-speaking world.

Singer Johnny Hallyday has died aged 74.

Hallyday was born Jean-Philippe Smet in Paris on June 15, 1943. The young Smet followed his father's sisters to London, where he met Ketchman. When he was an infant his parents split up, and he moved in with his paternal aunt, Helene Mar, a former silent-screen actress.

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One of Mar's daughters, Desta, married an American dancer, Lee Lemoine Ketcham, who worked under the name Lee Halliday. "Memories, happy moments, songs and music", Sarkozy said in December 2009, days after Hallyday, then 66, was hospitalized in Los Angeles. Dubbed the "French Elvis", Hallyday became a hero to France's youth with his music, his style and attitude in the 1950s and 60s much in the same way Elvis Presley, a huge influence of his, had done in the U.S.

Hallyday sang some songs in English, including "Hot Legs" and "House of the Rising Sun", - the melody of which was also used for one of his most famous songs, the 1964 "Le Penitencier".

Hallyday said that his father's departure haunted his life. When Hallyday returned to Paris in 1957, he signed up for acting and singing lessons after watching Elvis for the first time in "Loving You".

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Certainly among the most familiar faces - and voices - in France, Hallyday was known simply as Johnny, pronounced with a slight French accent and lots of love by fans who spanned generations. He earned critical praise playing a thief in the 2002 film L'Homme du Train (The Man On the Train).

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