Francois Béranger (1937-2003)

14. 12. 2007 | Rubriky: Articles,Lives

[by Ken Hunt, London] Chanson is often construed as literate song. Even German, the language that brought us Schubert’s Lieder, treats chanson as a class apart from Lied. Just like Czech invokes chanson’s spirit in the phrase Česky Šanson. Chanson offers other species of commentary on the human condition and for one of the finest examples of chanson’s otherness, hearken to the exemplary work of Francois Béranger. He made his mark as what can only be described as a protest chansonnier.

He described the life of the average workingman, the iniquities and injustices of the system in songs of rare power and political virility like Tranche de vie (Slice of life) and his unimpressed take on Mitterrand’s socialist election victory, Le vrai changement c’est quand (The real change is coming when?). Born on 28 August 1937 in Amilly, he wound up a conscript in France’s last colonial crusade and was outraged by the excesses he saw committed in Algeria. Factor in the Spirit of 1968, a commitment to trade unionism and communist ideals and you get a slice of chanson seldom reported on. He died in Sauve in France on 14 October 2003 aged 66. A minor chansonnier in the scheme of chanson, he is nevertheless worth remembering.

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