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French mourn Hallyday, roi de rock’n’roll

Showman: Star performed for decades PICTURE: PA

FRANCE’S biggest rock star Johnny Hallyday — who sold 100million records during a 57-year career — has died aged 74, his friend president Emmanuel Macron revealed yesterday.

Stars including Brigitte Bardot paid tribute to the gravel-voiced singer as fans descended on his home west of Paris.

Mr Macron — speaking on behalf of Hallyday’s family — did not give the cause of death, but the singer had battled lung cancer and last year released an album called Rester Vivant (Staying Alive).

Heartthrob: Hallyday in 1963 with singer Sylvie Vartan, who he later married PICTURE: REX

The president said the rocker, inspired by Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, had ‘brought a part of America into our national pantheon’. ‘The whole country is in mourning,’ he added. ‘We all have something of Johnny Hallyday in us.’

Bardot tweeted: ‘Johnny is a monument. It is France!’

Hallyday, real name Jean-Philippe Léo Smet, was born in Paris in 1943 to a French mother and a Belgian father.

He was abandoned by his parents as a baby and raised by his aunt Desta and her husband, US singer Lee Ketchman, who performed as Lee Hallyday. Ketchman gave him his first electric guitar as well as his stage name.

Vigil: Fans and journalists gather outside Hallyday’s home west of Paris PICTURE: GETTY

The rocker released his first album Hello Johnny in 1960 and saw his cover of Let’s Twist Again sell more than 1million copies. He played with Jimi Hendrix and recorded a song with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. He also appeared in director Jean-Luc Godard’s film Detective.

Although he made little impact in the English-speaking world, he was such a star in France he was known affectionately simply as Johnny.

He leaves his fourth wife Laeticia, 42, and four children, including adopted daughters Jade and Joy. His first wife, singer Sylvie Vartan, 73, remained his friend until the end.