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Dossier - French Popular Music

The Career of Léo Ferré : A Bourdieusian Analysis

Peter Hawkins

Résumé : This arti­cle attempts a retros­pec­tive of the pro­li­fic, forty-seven year career of Léo Ferré, French anar­chist singer-song­wri­ter, poet and com­po­ser, some ten years after his death in 1993. The approach used, ins­pi­red by the cultu­ral socio­logy of Pierre Bourdieu, applies the notions of the field of cultu­ral pro­duc­tion, sym­bo­lic capi­tal and sym­bo­lic vio­lence to ana­lyse Ferré’s artis­tic pro­duc­tion, iden­ti­fied as inter­ve­ning in three main fields : popu­lar chan­son, clas­si­cal music and poetry. Five prin­ci­pal stages in his career are iden­ti­fied as those of bohe­mian poverty, cult status as a caba­ret singer, esta­bli­shed star­dom, post-1968 expe­ri­men­ta­tion and the return to clas­si­cal com­po­si­tion after 1973. This approach leaves out of account, howe­ver, Ferré’s widely-publi­ci­zed poli­ti­cal views, which are revie­wed sepa­ra­tely : his anar­chism was a per­so­nal creed, not a pro­gramme of poli­ti­cal action, and his views were in prac­tice broadly left-wing and sym­pa­the­tic to the French Communist Party. The arti­cle conclu­des that the Bourdieusian metho­do­logy shows some limi­ta­tions as it leaves out of account the poli­ti­cal dimen­sion of his work and tends to obs­cure the pos­thu­mous influence of Ferré and the signi­fi­cance of his attempts to fuse the three sepa­rate fields iden­ti­fied ear­lier.

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Thèmes et/ou mots-clés
Poésie – 
Anarchisme –