Thousands mourn rock idol Hallyday at Paris memorial

Hundreds of thousands of people paid homage to late French rock and roll giant Johnny Hallyday at a Paris memorial service attended by French stars and politicians.

A hearse carrying Hallyday’s white coffin, accompanied by 700 Harley Davidson motorcycles, drove the length of the Champs Elysees boulevard in a rare honor usually reserved for foreign statesmen on July 14 National Day.

As his band played instrumental versions of his biggest hits, the crowds belted out the words, many in leather biker jackets and carrying pictures of Harley Davidson enthusiast Hallyday, who died of lung cancer on Wednesday at the age of 74.

Largely unknown abroad, Hallyday was a household name in France, where he had tens of millions of fans and sold more records than any other singer in a career spanning five decades.

His death nine months after announcing his illness sparked days of national mourning, with broadcasters providing wall-to-wall coverage of the rocker’s life, tracing the history of a man regarded by many, non-fans included, as part of French national heritage.

In a eulogy on the stairs of the La Madeleine church, French President Emmanuel Macron said Hallyday was “more than a singer …he was part of ourselves, part of France”.

“It is a sad day today but you had to be there because Johnny was there for you from the beginning. In each of your lives, there was this moment where one of his songs translated what you had in your heart,” said Macron.

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