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Tributes pour in for French icon Hallyday, dead age 74

Tributes have been pouring in for French entertainment star Johnny Hallyday, who has died of lung cancer at the age of 74.

Fans of the star - the latter of whch has been called an “icon” and “the French Elvis” - have gathered around Hallyday’s house in Marnes-la-Coquette (Hauts-de-Seine), holding placards and other tributes alluding to his much-loved place in their hearts as one of their favourite entertainers.

One fan’s message, photographed by French newspaper Le Monde, read: “Johnny without is the end of our long love story together.”

Security staff and police cars rushed to create a buffer around Hallyday’s house and its entrances as news of his death broke last night, ensuring they arrived ahead of the first grieving fans.

The star’s wife, Laeticia Hallyday - whose real name is Læticia Marie Christine Boudou - is reported to have called President Emmanuel Macron at 2am, with Macron and wife Brigitte offering their condolences immediately.

Macron then prepared a statement, but held it back until the news agency Agence France-Presse had released the official news announcement, which came from a statement issued by Laeticia herself.

“Johnny Hallyday has gone,” her statement read. “Jean-Phillippe Smet [Hallyday’s real name] died the night of 5 December 2017. I write these words without believing them. And yet, it is true. My man is no more. He leaves us tonight in the same way he lived his entire life; with courage and dignity.”

“We all have something of Johnny Hallyday in us,” Macron's statement read - a shorter Tweet of which has been ‘Liked’ over 2,000 times and retweeted almost 800 times in less than two hours.

“The public and loyal fans are in tears. We will not forget his name, nor his face, nor his voice. He will enter ‘the singing hall of fame’, where he will join the rock and blues legends he loved so much...all the country is in mourning.”

The President has since also tweeted a follow-up homage, with a link to a YouTube video playing “the best of Johnny Hallyday”. The star had recorded over 1,000 tracks and sold over 110 million records.

The French minister for culture, Françoise Nyssen, has also acknowledged the depth of feeling surrounding the star’s death, tweeting: “An exceptional artist, a rock and song legend, a face of French culture has left us. Johnny Hallyday knew how to make our whole country sing, dance, and cry. He knew how to speak to all generations. He leaves a flame that will burn for a long time.”

In response to the news, Hallyday’s friend, singer Eddy Mitchell - who had known Hallyday since they were teenagers, embarked on his singing career at a similar time in the 1960s, and performed with him alongside third French singer Jacques Dutronc in 2014 -  said: “I have lost more than a friend; I have lost my brother.”

Well-known French cartoonist Plantu has also already created an homage to the star, a drawing in red, white and blue, in a nod to the Tricolore flag and the singer’s place in the nation’s cultural iconography.

Fans and internet users have also rushed to “like” Hallyday’s most recent photo on Instagram, which was posted just two weeks ago, showing him enjoying time with his pet dog, Cheyenne.

Cheyenne the cow dog of my life

A post shared by Johnny Hallyday (@jhallyday) on

Hallyday leaves Laeticia and their two children, Jade and Joy, as well as his two other children Laura and David.

His first wife, Sylvie Vartan, said: “I have lost the love of my youth and nothing will ever be able to replace it.”

Although Hallyday was primarily only known in France, other international stars have joined to pay tribute, including Celine Dion, who called him a “veritable legend”, and American rocker Lenny Kravitz, who wrote: “Your friendship, sweetness and support are imprinted in my heart. It is an honor to have known you.”

He finished his tribute with the French words, “Repose en paix”.

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