Singers: Malady of Paris

His collected songs add up to a painful diagnosis of the chill of modern life, and in France that makes Léo Ferré a kind of poet laureate. He hates, among other things, the church, most governments, radio, television and the Academic Franchise, and he hates them with the droll expertise Frenchmen instinctively admire. In a country that nourishes the cult of the dinner-table anarchist, Ferre is almost a government in exile.

Ever since he began singing in the caves around St. Germain-des-Prés in the late '40s, Ferre has been the reigning voice of...

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