(FILES) This file photo taken on September 28, 1971 shows French singer Jean-Philippe Smet, aka Johnny Hallyday, performing on stage at the Palais des Sports. AFP / STRINGER
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Johnny Hallyday, whose death at 74 was announced by his wife and the French president on Wednesday, was a rock and roll giant in his native France and survived drug use, family strife and near-death episodes to strut the stage for more than 50 years.Hallyday, with his cowboy swagger and gravelly voice, was a "French Elvis" for hundreds of millions of followers, mostly if not all in his native country, where he sold more records than any other singer.Hallyday is credited with sales of more than 100 million albums over the decades.Hallyday's 2011 album "Jamais Seul" went straight to No. 1, selling 100,000 copies in the first week, despite his reputation for being viewed by younger generations as uncool, or passe.As Johnny Hallyday, he released his first single, "T'aimer Follement" (To Love You Madly), at 16, and then set about bringing his own brand of rock to an avid French youth emerging from the austerity of the post-war era.Partying, drugs, alcohol and dark tobacco, the latter apparently adopted on the advice of rock icon Keith Richards, all took their toll, carving out the husky voice and craggy face that were to become his trademark.In 1965 he married blonde pop star Sylvie Vartan, with whom he had one son, David Hallyday.
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