Though other French artists were influenced by rock & roll, none was as beholden to the original sources as Johnny Hallyday. His appropriations of Elvis Presley and James Dean captured the French imagination, but failed to resonate with U.S. or U.K. audiences. Hallyday's life was the stuff of which tabloid reporters' dreams are made, but his appeal rested on his ability to maintain his essential Frenchness while exploring a foreign cultural phenomenon. His later move into quintessentially French balladry helped increase his cross-generational appeal. With a career of several decades behind him, Hallyday still ranks among France's greatest cultural icons. ~ Steve Huey
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