PARIS (Reuters) - Jean Ferrat, a left-wing French singer and songwriter whose communist convictions went along with a talent for poetic love songs that were some of the best loved in France, died on Saturday at the age of 79.
Ferrat, born Jean Tenenbaum in 1930, saw his father sent to Auschwitz during World War Two and commemorated the deportation in one of his earliest successes, “Nuit et brouillard” (Night and Fog).
He began his career in the cabarets of the postwar Left Bank before making his name in the 1960s and 70s with a succession of lyrical love songs and political chansons, one of which was banned from French television.
Among his best-known songs were “La Montagne” (The Mountain), “Potemkine,” “Ma France” and “La femme est l’avenir de l’homme” (Woman is the future of man). He was also known for his adaptations of works by the communist poet Louis Aragon.
President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement praising the singer’s “unyielding conception of French song” and Ferrat’s death headlined evening news bulletins.
“A whole part of France, a whole generation is mourning today,” Michel Drucker, one of France’s most popular television presenters and a friend of the singer, told France Info radio, comparing Ferrat to some of the greats of French chanson.
“There was (Jacques) Brel, (Georges) Brassens, (Leo) Ferre and then there was Jean. He was the last of the Mohicans.”
Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Myra MacDonald