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Legendary Rocker, "French Elvis" Johnny Hallyday Dies At 74
French rock and roll star Johnny Hallyday, known as "French Elvis," died on Dec. 6 at age 74. According to Reuters, Hallyday had been hospitalized in Paris on Nov. 17 and treated for respiratory difficulties and had been undergoing lung cancer treatments.
Hallyday's prolific career spanned nearly six decades and yielded dozens of albums, a litany of hits and film appearances. After first seeing Elvis Presley, Hallyday decided he wanted to be a rock singer, and made a name for himself in the early 1960s with French-language covers of early rock hits, including Chubby Checker's "Let's Twist Again" and Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On."
In the late '60s, Hallyday updated his sound by forming a new band, the Blackbirds, to match the growing influence of R&B. He eventually incorporated a more psychedelic sound. In fact, the Jimi Hendrix Experience played their first gig opening up for Hallyday in October 1966, according to Billboard.
In 1972 Hallyday moved to Memphis, Tenn., and eventually Los Angeles while continuing to land hit records in France. In addition to appearing in Jean-Luc Godard's film Détective, Hallyday released successful albums through the 1990s and 2000s before announcing his farewell tour in 2009, which included a free show at the foot of the Eiffel Tower for a crowd of 800,000.
The singer continued to perform into his retirement, despite battling colon and lung cancer. As recently as 2014, he released an album produced by Don Was called Rester Vivant and performed a run of shows in Las Vegas with fellow French singers Eddy Mitchell and Jacques Dutronc.