A million fans line Paris streets to bid adieu to ‘French Elvis’ Johnny Hallyday

Nearly 1 million people lined the streets of Paris on Saturday to watch the funeral procession of rock-and-roll legend Johnny Hallyday make its way down the Champs-Elysees.

Hallyday, France’s Elvis, died on Wednesday of lung cancer at 74 after a career spanning nearly six decades.

The hearse carrying his white coffin was flanked by a procession of 700 motorcyclists wearing black leather, in a nod to Hallyday’s bad-boy biker image.

At a ceremony in Madeleine Church, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “He (Hallyday) was part of us, part of France… its prodigal son who suffered terribly, furiously on stage for us. Johnny was ours… because Johnny was a lot more than a singer, he was life.”

Besides Macron and his wife Brigitte, former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande also attended the ceremony. Other prominent guests included actress Marion Cotillard, actor Jean Reno and film director Claude Lelouch.

Sarkozy said: “He was someone who really counted in French people’s lives … For lots of people, Johnny represents the idea of happiness. He leaves a huge hole.”

To keep warm, hundreds of fans spent the night singing and dancing in the streets leading to Madeleine church. Such outpouring of emotion for a singer was rare. For the French cultural icon, it was a state funeral in all but name.

Hallyday’s body will be flown to the French Caribbean island of Saint Barts, where he has a home, on Sunday morning and buried on Monday.