France to Honor Johnny Hallyday Along the Champs-Élysées

Johnny Hallyday

On Saturday, French citizens will march down the Champs-Élysées in Paris to pay tribute to the recently departed rock star Johnny Hallyday. Following the procession, President Macron will speak at the musician's funeral in the Madeleine church.

Although the French government chose to honor Hallyday in a highly extravagant manner, they decided not to give him a state funeral, as is the custom for France's most famous denizens. The "French Elvis" Halliday, who succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 74 on Wednesday, will instead receive a "popular homage".

Several Parisian locations have recognized the fallen icon. The RATP transport service briefly named their Duroc station "DuRock Johnny", while Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo says the Eiffel Tower will display "Merci Johnny" in lights this weekend.

Hallyday found a die-hard following within France, attracting fans of every age and moving over 110 million records, although he never became famous in non-French-speaking countries.

Admirers of the rock star can say goodbye to him while accompanying his stately procession along the Champs-Élysées, beginning at the symbolic Arc de Triomphe.

Macron's office announced that several of Hallyday's collaborating musicians will play with the traveling motorcade from the Arc de Triomphe to the official funeral at Madeleine church.

The French president tweeted his respects for the singer, saying, "There is something of Johnny in all of us". TV stations played testimonial footage, focusing on Hallyday's evolution of style and influence from his debut in the 1950s through the modern age.

Fan and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy officiated the icon's wedding to his fifth wife, Laeticia. In 1998, Hallyday was designated a knight in the Legion d'Honneur by Jacques Chirac.

When the young star was emerging over fifty years ago, the French government received him much less warmly. With his loud, American rock music and typical "bad boy" image, Hallyday was perceived as a problem by the conservative Charles de Gaulle. At one point, a radio broadcaster broke apart one of Hallyday's records live.

However, the French public adored him, evidenced by his drawing over 100,000 people to a performance in 1963. Hallyday continued to live a highly public, controversial lifestyle and recently emerged in a comeback, "Old Scoundrels" tour.

Although the rock star hoped to become famous in the US, he never did. In the end, Hallyday said he preferred to be a "king in one's own country than a prince elsewhere".

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