The message “Merci Johnny (Thank You Johnny)” is to be projected onto the Eiffel Tower throughout this weekend, and in front of the AccorHotels Arena show venue (formerly known as Paris Bercy), as Hallyday performed there most often at the height of his career.
The funeral procession is expected to begin at midday this Saturday (9 December), starting from Place Charles de Gaulle in Paris and heading down the Champs-Elysées.
The iconic French entertainment star, who died overnight on Wednesday this week from lung cancer, has been remembered and honoured across the country by a host of significant figures including President Emmanuel Macron.
The country has been described as “in mourning” for one of its greatest and most-loved stars ever since.
The light projection and memorial event will be part of what has been dubbed a “historic ceremony” in keeping with the national strength of feeling at the singer’s death, explained French news source 20 Minutes today.
An "hommage populaire"
The event will be defined as an "hommage populaire", rather than an "hommage national".
While both are forms of remembrance for national figures and well-known icons, the latter is a more restrained affair, which must take place at either Les Invalides or the Panthéon, include a speech from the President, is not open to the public, and must be recorded in the official national Journal.
The writer Jean d'Ormesson, who also died this week, will be remembered this weekend in this "national" style, and Simone Veil, politician and holocaust campaigner, was also given this honour. It was traditionally used to honour fallen French soldiers.
While this option was offered to the Hallyday family, they have preferred to go down the "populaire" route, which will include the procession down the Champs-Elysées with a musical accompaniment. There will also be a speech from the President, but members of the public will be invited to view the event (except for the private family ceremony in the Madeleine church).
State funerals that do not fit into the "hommage national" setting came about in the 19th century, explains French news source France Info, with figures such as Victor Hugo, Louis Pasteur and Josephine Baker all benefiting from this arrangement.
A period of "national mourning (deuil national)" can also be declared by the head of state if appropriate. This is rare, and has only happened seven times under the 20th Republic, including after the death of Charles de Gaulle, and each time in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice.
The procession route
As for Johnny Hallyday, after leaving Place Charles de Gaulle (often known as “L’Etoile (The Star)” due to its shape), the funeral procession will then travel down the Champs-Elysee, followed by a group of bikers, through to Place de la Concorde, before heading to Place de la Madeleine, where Hallyday’s family and close friends will exit to take part in the memorial ceremony itself.
A live concert will then take place on a stage installed in Place de la Madeleine, which will play strictly instrumental versions of the star’s greatest hits, to honour the fact that there “is no longer a singer” to sing the lyrics.
Over 1,500 police officers will be present as part of the event, to ensure its security and control the crowds that are expected to descend. Crowd control measures will be in place, with fans not permitted to get closer than four metres from the procession itself.
The event will also mean that the Parisian métro stations of Concorde and Madeleine will be closed, as will the car park at Place de la Madeleine, so if you are planning to travel to the capital this weekend, it is advised to double check your route.
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