MONTREAL – The Quebec music community paid tribute to French rocker Johnny Hallyday on Wednesday as an influential figure whose legendary status will live on.
Hallyday, who was often referred to as the “French Elvis,” died of lung cancer on Tuesday at 74.
Celine Dion, who collaborated with the successful French star over the years, including a duet on her 2012 album “L’Attente,” hailed his artistic talent.
“I’m very sad to hear the news that Johnny Hallyday passed away,” she tweeted. “He was a giant in show business…a true icon! My thoughts go out to his family, his loved ones, and to the millions of fans who adored him for many decades. He will be sadly missed, but never forgotten. Celine xx…”
Producer and host Julie Snyder said she was “shocked” to learn of the death of the man she called a “monument of song” and “the greatest French rocker.”
Snyder told The Canadian Press she interviewed Hallyday in July 2000 as she was directing a documentary called “Johnny allume le feu avec Julie” (“Johnny Lights The Fire With Julie”).
“Johnny Hallyday is one of those people who are considered immortal because they are forces of nature,” said Snyder, who produced the singer’s last tour stop in Montreal.
Longtime Quebec cultural commentator Michel Girouard said a page in musical history had turned with Hallyday’s death.
“It’s the death of a monument, there are no more monuments like that and there never will be,” Girouard said in an interview.
He described “Johnny” as a unique phenomenon within “the pop and rock ‘n’ roll world in the Francophonie” and said his song “Que je t’aime” will now go down in history
Daniel Gelinas, a former director of Quebec City’s popular summer festival, recalled Hallyday’s “incredible” tours in the 1990s and 2000s, shows he said were worthy of groups like Pink Floyd.
Hallyday performed at the 2011 edition of the Quebec festival, a performance Gelinas remains proud of today.
Gelinas couldn’t help but imagine the extent of the mourning in France, where everyone saw a bit of themselves in Hallyday, extending to France’s intellectual class.
“It is the end of a great artistic era for the French,” Gelinas said.