Johnny Hallyday, France's best-known rock star for more than half a century, has died at the age of 74. His wife Laeticia announced the death of the cancer patient. lung on early Wednesday.

Known as the "French Elvis" for his bulging pelvis and hoarse voice on stage, Hallyday was widely recognized for popularizing rock and roll in France.

"For more than 50 years, it was a vibrant icon," president Emmanuel Macron's office said in a statement. "He brought a part of the United States to our national pantheon."

Singer Celine Dion also paid homage to Hallyday, calling him a "giant in the entertainment world" and a "true icon" on Twitter.

Little known outside of France or the French-speaking world, Hallyday sold more than 100 million albums and continued to produce music and tour until this year despite fighting against lung cancer.

In France, he was simply known as Johnny. [19659008] Born in Paris in 1943 as Jean-Philippe Leo Smet, he was raised by his aunt after his parents separated.

As a child he spent time on the street and in London with his cousin's acrobatic dance company. Finally, he took the stage at age 12 to sing.

He made his first professional concert under the name of Johnny Hallyday in 1960, and released his first album a year later.

Hallyday recycled many American rock classics such as The Animals "version of" House of the Rising Sun "or" Hey Joe "by Jimi Hendrix, taking them to the French public subject to legal limits on the amount of English music played on the radio

Among five wives over the years, Hallyday leaves behind two biological children and two adopted children.

This article originally appeared in Deutsche Welle.Its content was created separately for USA TODAY

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