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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 14:15 GMT
Veteran rocker rescues Vivendi
Cover of Johnyy Hallyday's latest CD
Born in Belgium but quintessentially French
Vivendi's musical ventures in France have received a much-needed boost with the latest recording by Johnny Hallyday.

And although his career has lasted 45 years, the wrinkly rocker is not simply peddling nostalgia for a dwindling audience - his latest double CD of new songs registered the biggest first-week sales for any record in French history.

A La Vie A La Mort (To Life To Death) notched up sales of 800,000 in four days and has since reached 1.5 million copies.

The news will be welcomed by the debt-laden French media giant Vivendi - it owns Universal Music which releases Mr Hallyday's records on the Mercury label.

The singer's success has confounded critics who derided his initial imitation of US rock singers such as Elvis Presley and Eddie Cochran.


But in France his prestige has remained intact and other singers refer to him as Le Patron (the boss).

He has maintained a vigorous schedule of recording and live appearances - reinventing himself with each new release to appeal to a new generation of record-buying public.

The consumate entertainer has recorded 53 albums and over 1,000 songs - selling a total of 80 million units.

His healthy record sales compare favourably with other artists of his generation - established stars such as Elton John and Eric Clapton are currently struggling to sell half-a-million.

The 59-year-old with a penchant for black leather may have become an institution like Charles de Gaulle and Asterix, but record company bosses would love to have more singers like him on their books.



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