Johnny Hallyday returns to cherished Caribbean island for burial

The residents of Saint-Barthélemy pay a last tribute to French music icon Johnny Hallyday before his burial during the public wake at the Saint John Funeral Home on Dec 10, 2017. PHOTO: AFP
The funeral cortege with the coffin of late French rocker Johnny Hallyday drives down the Champs Elysees avenue to the Concorde Square ahead of the tribute ceremony in Paris, France, on Dec 9, 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

GUSTAVIA (AFP) - The body of French rocker Johnny Hallyday was greeted by mournful fans late Sunday on the Caribbean island of St Barts, the paradise bolthole where the millionaire singer owned a cherished home and asked to be buried.

The star, who died of lung cancer on Wednesday aged 74, asked to be laid to rest there in a choice that has disappointed some fans who would have preferred his grave to be more accessible on the mainland.

The coffin was flown to St Barts on a Boeing 757 with 62 passengers onboard, including his wife Laeticia and their two children who will lead a private burial ceremony on Monday.

Several hundred fans - some of whom had travelled from mainland France - gathered to greet their musical hero at a vigil on the Caribbean island.

One by one they filed past the white, flower-decked coffin to bid good-bye, some posing for photos, others sipping from cans of beer.

"I used to see him in my store, he was a sweetheart," one mourner from St Barts told AFP. "To see his coffin, it hurts." Jean Pierre and Chantal, both fans dressed in Johnny T-shirts, took an eight hour flight from Paris to see off their idol in the tropical paradise.

"We understand why he wants to be buried here where things were good with his family," Chantal told AFP. "Even though it cost us, we did not hesitate." Veteran fan Fred Bouton, 54, added: "I wanted to be with him right to the end because he always gave everything." Hallyday was given a state funeral in all but name on Saturday. His death prompted an outpouring of emotion for a singer not seen since the passing of Edith Piaf.

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Hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets of Paris to watch his white coffin, escorted by some 700 bikers, travel down the Champs Elysees.

Hallyday, once condemned as the rock 'n' roll "corrupter of youth" who went on to become a very French cultural icon, died of lung cancer on Wednesday.

With an untipped Gitanes cigarette often at his lip, he held France entranced for five decades with his spectacular stage shows and equally colourful private life, reinventing himself for each generation.

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