Johnny Hallyday, singer known as the 'French Elvis,' dies at 74

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Johnny Hallyday, a legendary French singer and actor, died after a battle with cancer. He had been fighting cancer for several months.

One of Johnny Hallyday's finest performances was in 2002's The Man on the Train.

In 1960, Hallyday released his first album.

"For more than 50 years, he was a vibrant icon", president Emmanuel Macron's office said in a statement.

He was the top rock "n" roll star through more than five decades and eight presidents.

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The highlight of his music career came when he performed in front of more than 600,000 at the Eiffel Tower in 2001.

His biggest hits became French-language classics, songs like Le Pénitencier (1964), Noir, c'est noir (1966), Que je t'aime (1969), J'ai oublié de vivre (1977) and Ma gueule (1979). Sarkozy called the Hallyday family during an European Union summit and giving updates on the singer's condition during news conferences.

Mrs Hallyday wrote in a statement: "Johnny Hallyday has left us".

More recently, Hallyday appeared in Johnnie To's "Vengeance" (2009) and had talked about giving film a bigger role in his life. He broke through in France in "Where Are You From Johnny?", playing a thinly disguised version of himself: a young rocker on the make.

By then, Hallyday had married model Laeticia Boudou, who was 31 years his junior, and adopted two Vietnamese children.

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Hallyday said that his father's departure haunted his life.

He was born Jean-Philippe Smet in Malesherbes, Paris. His mother decided she couldn't look after her son alone, so she arranged for him to be raised by his paternal aunt, Helene Mar, a dancer and actress.

From the age of 11 Hallyday took to the road as an entertainer with Les Hallidays, a family troupe consisting of his uncle Lee and Mar's daughters Menen and Desta.

Hallyday's wife, Laeticia, 42, confirmed that he died at his home in Marnes-la-Coquette, west of Paris, on Wednesday, following hospital treatment.

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