PARIS (Reuters) – Rocker Johnny Hallyday, frequently described as a French Elvis Presley, is being treated in a Paris hospital for respiratory difficulties, French television station BFM reported on Friday.
The veteran rock-and-roller, a huge crowd-puller in his home country and much of the francophone world, had a brush with death in 2009 and is currently being treated for cancer.
BFM said Hallyday was admitted on Sunday night and was undergoing tests. Reuters could not immediately reach Hallyday’s PR team or his production staff.
Hallyday, who turned 74 in June, issued his first recorded song in 1959 and has strutted the stage for as long as Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, also 74. He has been preparing a new album and stage tour.
Despite his stage longevity and periodic ventures into song recordings in English, Hallyday’s rock-icon status is largely confined to France and other French-speaking countries such as Belgium and Canada.
He was once described, by U.S. newspaper USA Today, as “the greatest rock star you never heard of”.
His gravelly voice and cowboy swagger earned him an army of followers, including ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, who set up a fan club to him at the National Assembly – France’s lower house of parliament – and is said to know his song lyrics by heart.
Hard partying, drugs, alcohol and dark tobacco played a part in carving out the husky voice and an increasingly craggy face that are his trademark. He has spent much of his later life in Los Angeles.
Reporting By Brian Love; editing by Richard Lough