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France to pay national homage to Johnny Hallyday Saturday

Johnny Hallyday in 2011
Johnny Hallyday in 2011 REUTERS/Charles Platiau

France will pay a final tribute to "French Elvis" Johnny Hallyday on Saturday and President Emmanuel Macron will say a few words at his funeral, it was announced on Thursday.


Johnny Hallyday's millions of fans will be invited to pay their respects on Saturday when a funeral cortège will drive down Paris's Champs Elysées avenue to the Madeleine church, the French presidency said in a statement.

Macron will "speak briefly" during a religious ceremony there in honour of the rocker, whom he called a "French hero" after his death at the age of 74 on Wednesday.

The arrangements have been agreed with Hallyday's family and his backing group will provide musical accompaniment, the statement said.

Earlier Jean-Claude Camus, who was the singer's producer from 1982 to 2010, said that both he and Hallyday's wife hoped such a ceremony would take place.

"It's Laeticia's dream," he said. "It is also mine. I think he has the right to this and it would allow the public to say a final goodbye to him."

Culture Minister Françoise Nyssen had also called for a national homage, linking the singer's death to that of author Jean d'Ormesson, who will be so honoured on Friday.

Nation in mourning

Hallyday's body was transferred to a funeral parlour in Nanterre, near his home, on Thursday.

Macron's wife, Brigitte, visited the family on Wednesday.

Fans have been invited to join prayers at a Paris church dedicated to artists on Thursday evening and on Sunday.

The message "Merci Johnny" (Thank you, Johnny) will be projected onto the Eiffel Tower from Friday night to Sunday night, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo announced on Twitter.

Hallyday's death has devastated France, with radio and TV stations scrapping programmes to run tributes, newspapers devoting front and inside pages to the news and internet downloads rocketing.

He was working on a new album at the time of his death and that is expected to be issued next year.

Fellow musicians rushed to express their sorrow, as did most of the country's politicians.

One who did not was hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

He explained why in his weekly blog posting on Thursday.

While he understood that the news "makes a lot of people very upset", he wrote, obituaries are a "way to tell people that someone important has passed away" and Johnny Hallyday "doesn't need me for people to know that he sang songs that marked his era".

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