Singer Jean Ferrat dead at 79

2010-03-13 18:55

Privas -Jean Ferrat, a French singer-songwriter whose communist views saw many of his compositions banned from broadcast in the 1960s, died on Saturday, officials said. He was 79.

"He died in hospital in Aubenas," where he had been admitted a few days earlier, the sub-prefecture in Tournon-sur-Rhone told AFP.

As prolific as he was discreet, Ferrat wrote and performed about 200 songs which reflected his political views, his affection for the poet and novelist Louis Aragon, and his love for his adopted Ardeche region.

Born in a Parisian suburb as Jean Tenenbaum, the moustachioed Ferrat traced his left-wing sympathies to a communist resistance fighter who saved him during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II.

His father was not so lucky: a Jewish emigre from Russia, the elder Tenenbaum was deported to Auschwitz when his son was 11, never to return.

Ferrat sang with a deep, soft voice, but songs like "Potemkine" (Potemkin) and "Ma France" (My France) were banned from the airwaves in the 1960s, a period when the French government kept a firm hand on radio and television.

In 1967, Ferrat - who never performed in Soviet-controlled eastern Europe - travelled to Cuba, returning with a song called "Cuba si" (Yes Cuba) in which he described the island under Fidel Castro as "poor" but "free".

Despite his left-wing views, Ferrat never joined the French Communist Party member, and in a 1980 song titled "Bilan" (Toll) he distanced himself from its favorable view of the Soviet Union and "zealous Stalinists".

"If I break silence, it is in order to avoid asphyxiation," he once said, reflecting on a career that spanned a half-century.