'French Elvis' Johnny Hallyday honoured with new statue

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'French Elvis' Johnny Hallyday honoured with new statue
Fans gather next to an artwork showing a motorcycle sitting atop a guitar neck during the inauguration of the Johnny Hallyday esplanade in Paris on September 14, 2021. Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP.

by Jean-François Guyot

PARIS.- Adoring fans paid tribute to late French rocker Johnny Hallyday on Tuesday as a statue went up in Paris in honour of the "French Elvis".

The beloved star, who died in December 2017, will also be feted with a concert and his very own "Johnny's Bar" at one of the city's biggest arenas.

But like much of Hallyday's life, the homage has not been without controversy.

The local Green party mayor initially objected to the statue, featuring his beloved Harley Davidson perched on the end of a guitar, feeling it was not in keeping with the city's environmentalist turn.

And the family feud that erupted over the partition of his vast estate means two of his four children -- actress Laura Smet and singer David Hallyday -- are not expected to attend.

Hallyday parlayed the huge success from Gallic covers of US rock 'n' roll, such as "Blue Suede Shoes" and "C'est Le Mash Potatoes", into a long career in music, film and tabloid gossip before his death at age 74.

His fourth and final wife, Laeticia Hallyday, was on hand as the area in front of the Accor Arena in Paris -- a site where the rocker played 101 shows -- was renamed Esplanade Hallyday.

"Johnny would have been proud to see his name anchored forever in the soil of Paris," she said.

Laeticia turned down the idea of a hologram Johnny at the concert, however, telling Le Parisien: "I'm not ready for that."

She also admitted that tensions remain within the extended family.

Smet and David Hallyday took legal action after their father appeared to write them out of his will, leaving everything to Laeticia and their two adopted Vietnamese children.

A settlement was agreed last year, though no details were released.

"Our relations remains complicated," Laeticia told Le Parisien.

"I hope one day we can speak without the presence of a lawyer."

Despite abandoning France to live out his days in the United States, Hallyday remains a phenomenon in his native land -- and streaming platforms are giving him a successful afterlife.

A posthumous greatest hits collection sold more than 500,000 copies.

His Spotify followers have rocketed from 70,000 in 2018 to 800,000 -- almost half of them under the age of 35, according to the streaming platform.

"In the collective subconscious, he is the greatest French singer," said Nicolas du Roy, a director for Spotify France.

"Young people are discovering him just as their parents are joining these platforms."

© Agence France-Presse

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