Dec. 07--PARIS -- French music icon Johnny Hallyday died Wednesday aged 74 after a battle with lung cancer, plunging the country into mourning for a national treasure whose rock 'n' roll entertained three generations.
The leather-clad star broke from France's classic "chanson" tradition in the late 1950s, emerging as a figure who embodied the rebellious spirit of the gloomy post-war era.
While Americans were going wild for Elvis or Jimi Hendrix and Britain was gripped by Beatlemania, France turned to the Paris-born crooner who borrowed liberally from his English-speaking peers and never won international acclaim.
But he was adored at home, selling 110 million albums, and his death on Wednesday devastated his fans and sparked an outpouring of grief from fellow artists and politicians.
"Johnny Hallyday has left us. I write these words without believing them. But yet, it's true. My man is no longer with us," his wife Laeticia Hallyday, 42, was quoted as saying by AFP.
"He left us tonight as he lived his whole life, with courage and dignity."
News of Hallyday's death triggered tributes from global singers Celine Dion and Lenny Kravitz as well as Arab stars like Elissa and Carole Samaha.
"I'm very sad to hear the news that Johnny Hallyday passed away. He was a giant in show business ... a true icon!" Dion wrote on Twitter.
Elissa wrote: "Johnny Hallyday ... the French Elvis left us today ... An icon that was present since we started loving music. I was one of his fans and I will always love Johnny! #JeTePromets."
Samaha tweeted: "Sad morning for me ... we lost a big French legend and a big part of the French culture! His powerful voice & outstanding stage presence will always b engraved upon my heart #quejetaime #JohnnyHalliday."
"Your friendship, sweetness and support are imprinted in my heart. It is an honor to have known you and to have spent time with you and your beautiful family. Your soul is pure Rock and Roll," Kravitz tweeted.
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