All About The French Singer Songwriter Renaud.

960 words - 4 pages

Over the past twenty-five years, French singer-songwriter Renaud has emerged as his country's leading exponent of chanson sociale, a rich and diverse tradition of popular song which has helped to rally, educate and galvanise dispossessed groups in French society since the first half of the nineteenth century. Renaud became well-known in the second half of the 1970s by singing about zonards (delinquent youths) from the housing estates of suburban Paris. Since then, he has tackled a range of themes, from military service and heroin addiction to the destruction of the environment and capitalist imperialism in the Third World. His repertoire includes love songs, chansons idiotes (a comical, risqué genre), traditional chansons réalistes from the Belle Epoque and interwar years, and songs by his idol, Georges Brassens.1 He has produced a series of charmingly naive illustrations to accompany his own songs. He has also performed as an actor, most notably in the role of Etienne Lantier, in Claude Berry's 1993 screen adaptation of Zola's Germinal. He has written a children's book entitled La Petite vague qui avait le mal de mer (1989) as well as a regular column for the satirical, left-wing weekly, Charlie-Hebdo. An outspoken supporter of numerous minority causes, he recently joined the Régions et Peuples Solidaires list led by the Corsican autonomist Max Simeoni at the 1994 European elections.Renaud is known primarily for the provocative anarchism and linguistic inventiveness which characterise his songwriting. He has roused the ire of politicians on both the Left and the Right. Some of his songs have been banned outright; others have simply been given little or no airplay. However, he has achieved spectacular commercial and critical success. By 1981, his album sales generated 45% of Polydor's annual profits.2 His lyrics are studied in university French departments all over the world and were extensively used as a primary source by the authors of the Dictionnaire de l'argot, published by Larousse in 1990.3 His songs have been turned into bandes dessinées (comic books) by the leading exponents of the genre.4 Thirty-one per cent of respondents to a Sofres-Le Nouvel observateur survey conducted among 16 to 22 year-olds during the student demonstrations of December 1986 chose Renaud from a list of public personalities as their preferred role model.5 Courted by the French Socialist Party and feted by the former Minister for Culture Jack Lang, Renaud has nonetheless been reviled by a number of left as well as right-wing intellectuals, for whom his success exemplifies the decline of high culture and the dumbing down of French youth.6This thesis seeks to understand the significance of the delinquent figure in Renaud's early songs, from the heady days of May 1968 to his consecration as a popular star at the end of the 1970s. These songs were shaped by the confluence of various factors, including Renaud's family background, his...

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