The New European: Au revoir France’s everyman

Johnny Hallyday’s skill was his ability to be all things to all people, says Sophia Deboick. It was this that allowed him to become the embodiment of a nation

In January last year, Johnny Hallyday led France in mourning, giving a moving performance of his tribute to the unity marches that followed the 2015 Paris terror attacks, Un dimanche de janvier, at an anniversary memorial service.

On Saturday, Hallyday himself became the focus of national grief. A million people turned out to say goodbye to the singer, who died last week aged 74. And as Hallyday’s white coffin processed down the Champs-Elysées, flowers were thrown on the hearse and grown men wept in the street.

A full scale rock concert outside the church and the presence of 700 bikers meant this was no ordinary funeral, but genuine sorrow descended as the service began and the country realised they really had lost a man of whom Brigitte Bardot once said: ‘He is France’…

The New European, 14 December 2017, pp. 31-35.

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