French Rock Icon Johnny Hallyday Dead At 74

CNN reports that Johnny Hallyday, the rock icon known as France’s answer to Elvis, has died. Hallyday, who had already undergone surgery for colon cancer in 2009, started another round of cancer treatments in March. He was 74.

Hallyday was born Jean-Philippe Léo Smet in Paris, the son of a Belgian father and a French mother. Influenced by the early wave of American rock ‘n’ roll stars, he began releasing music in 1960; his first major hit was a cover of Chubby Checker’s “Let’s Twist Again.” But he moved on quickly from that early sound, and at various points, his backing musicians included Jimmy Page, Peter Frampton, and the Small Faces. When the Jimi Hendrix Experience played its first show in Paris in 1966, it was opening for Hallyday.

Hallyday also began acting in French movies in 1962. Throughout the years, he appeared in a number of films, including Jean-Luc Godard’s 1984 crime movie Détective. In 2009, he starred in Hong Kong director Johnnie To’s great existential shoot-‘em-up Vengeance, one of this century’s best action movies. And he remained a huge live draw in France throughout his life; a 2000 show in Paris, broadcast live on French TV, drew over 500,000 fans.

Below, watch a few videos of Hallyday.