During his lifetime Johnny Hallyday sold 110 million records, and 10 months after his death his posthumous album is on course to sell a million more.
In a sales record for France, Mon pays c’est l’amour (My country is love) has sold 780,177 copies in one week.
That number, described by his record company as historic, tops even the US sales for the biggest album of 2018, Drake’s Scorpion.
The Canadian rapper sold 732,000 albums in a single week in July.
Last year, Taylor Swift attracted the biggest sales in one week in the US since 2015 with Reputation, with more than 1.2m copies.
Performing beyond the grave
Hallyday recorded Mon pays c’est l’amour in 2017 while he was dying of lung cancer.
He died before he was able to put the finishing touches to the album. That task was taken on by his widow, Laeticia.
Described as “vintage Johnny”, it is a mix of American-style rock’n roll, blues and country.
Writer Philippe Labro, who was a friend of the so-called French Elvis, told the BBC: “It’s typical Johnny and since he has died, all the lyrics have a different dimension.”
The release of his 51st record became a national event in France, with queues forming outside record stores shortly before midnight last Thursday. Some 300,000 copies, on CD and vinyl, were sold that Friday alone.
As a measure of the record’s success, Hallyday also had the previous record for the most copies sold in France in one week, according to his record label, Warner Music France. In 2002, he sold 305,634 copies.
His latest album went diamond (half a million copies sold) in just three days.
“It’s been a long time since CD manufacturers have had such a stiff test in meeting such massive public demand,” said Stug Bergen of Warner Music Group.
David Bowie’s final album Blackstar was released just two days before he died in January 2016. It sold almost 150,000 copies in its first week on sale in the UK.
Who benefits from the sales?
The record became the subject of a legal battle over the singer’s legacy when his older children fought to have a stake in his estate, of which the album was a significant part.
The singer, whose real name was Jean-Philippe Smet, left everything to his widow Laeticia and their adopted children.
A French court put a temporary freeze on many of his assets and a ruling is expected next month.