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Left-wing singer Jean Ferrat dies

Jean Ferrat
Jean Ferrat AFP
2 min

French singer Jean Ferrat, a long-time fellow traveller of the Communist Party, died on Saturday in the mountain village he had made his home. Ferrat, whose father was deported by the Nazis in World War II, paid tribute to the Communists who saved him and also to his homeland in his songs.


Ferrat died at the age of 79 in Aubenas, in the southern region of l'Ardèche,  on Saturday.

He was born Jean Tenenbaum and his father was deported to the death camps when he was 11-years-old. He was saved by Communist activists, which made him loyal to the left throughout his life.

But in France a left-winger can also be a patriot and one of Ferrat's hits was Ma France, a tribute to the land of his birth.

Many of his other songs took up themes less popular with the authorities. He pulled out of television broadcasts on several occasions because he was asked not to sing political material.

That included Potemkine, a song about the sailors' mutiny which helped spark off Russia's 1905 revolution - also the subject of a film by Sergei Eisenstein - and  another which  took the right-wing  newspaper Le Figaro to task for its opposition to Vietnamese  Communist leader Ho Chi Minh.

Ferrat never joined the Communist Party and in 1980 song Bilan (Toll) he distanced himself from its support for the Soviet Union and "zealous Stalinists".

"He wanted to live the same as all the villagers and not the life of a start," said Michel Sesenti, the mayor of Antraigues, the village where Ferrat lived for 30 years. "But, if Antraigues is at all known, it's thanks to him."

The village inspired one of Ferrat's best-known songs La Montagne.

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