Abstract

This thesis seeks to understand the significance of the delinquent figure in the early songs of Renaud. Renaud conceived this figure during May 1968, when the radical, predominantly middle-class student movement to which he belonged found an unlikely ally in the blousons noirs, young delinquents from the suburban housing estates of outer Paris. The violence and visceral antiauthoritarianism of the blousons noirs appealed to students whose exclusion from traditional, authoritarian working-class institutions precipitated their quest for a revolutionary identity. The contempt which both the French Government and Communist Party expressed towards the "underworld" incarnated by the blousons noirs made the latter seem even more alluring to many student revolutionaries. During the first half of the 1970s, Renaud immersed himself in the marginal culture of a group of delinquents whom he befriended at a Latin Quarter bar. Here he also rediscovered the old-fashioned genre of chanson réaliste (realist song) which portrayed the delinquents of a bygone era, that of the Belle Epoque and interwar years. After reviving the realist classics and writing a number of original songs in a similar style, Renaud reinvented the realist genre during the second half of the 1970s by singing about zonards (latter-day equivalents of the blousons noirs) in their own language. He established a place for these zonards in the realm of popular culture, liberating them from stereotypical images disseminated by the media and unleashing them, figuratively, upon bourgeois audiences. This dual aspect of Renaud’s oeuvre was encapsulated in a concert program which he wrote to accompany his recital at the Bobino music hall in March 1980, a whimsical pastiche of the satirical newspaper Le Canard enchaîné entitled "Le Zonard déchaîné" ("The Unchained Delinquent"). The delinquent figure in Renaud’s songs represented both a topical cause célèbre and a way of preserving the heritage of May 1968.


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