Renaud celebrated at the Philharmonie de Paris

Renaud celebrated at the Philharmonie de Paris

Slang and verlan, political commitments galore and hits like “Winning Mistral” which have marked generations of French: the singer Renaud, with his popularity intact for more than 40 years, is in the spotlight of a retrospective, built around the major themes of his life.

“Fucking Expo”, a nod to the song “Fucking Truck” (1988) written after the death of his friend Coluche, starts Friday at the Philharmonie de Paris (until May 2). A retrospective imagined as “a celebration” of the life of the 68-year-old singer whose public appearances are now rare.

Renaud “is doing well and can’t wait to see the retrospective,” his twin brother, David Séchan, co-curator of the project with the associate of modern letters Johanna Copans, author of a thesis on the singer, told AFP.

More than an exhibition, this retrospective is an event in itself. And for good reason: few artists can boast of having been the subject of such a celebration … in their lifetime.

But here it is, Renaud is not just any artist: about twenty albums sold in total to more than twenty million copies, songs sung by several generations, from “Laisse concrete” to “Manhattan-Kaboul”, some of which are now taught at school.

Renaud is one of the most popular singers, almost “carried” by the tenderness and affection he inspires in many French people.

Intellectuals and workers

Nourished by his archives and personal objects, such as his writing notebooks, song manuscripts or drawings, the exhibition plunges the visitor into the artist’s “colorful and childish universe”, “gaulé like a sparrow”, in his own words.

“We imagined the course with visual graphic elements that draw from Renaud’s imagination”, explains Gérard Lo Monaco, creator of the stage sets for the singer’s concerts.

The exhibition does not follow the chronology but it begins with yellowed family photos. “The family does not explain everything Renaud but a good part of him”, underlines his twin brother.

Coming from a family of intellectuals on the paternal side and workers on the maternal side, Renaud very quickly developed a political conscience. This “social duality” will “anchor” him and develop in him a taste for militancy which will take him, during the student movement of May 1968, to the Sorbonne, completes his brother.

There, he joined the Gavroche committee, wrote, drew … Young Renaud was in full swing. Seven years later, he released his first album “Amoureux de Paname”.

The exhibition continues by evoking the struggles he led: social justice, anti-racism, the fight against apartheid … Hyperactive, Renaud is involved in all struggles, especially in the 80s and 90s.

Taken over by rappers

Battles he leads in songs with titles like “Dans mon HLM” (1980), “Banlieue rouge” (1981) or “Second Generation” (1983), but also in person, by supporting causes dear to his heart .

The exhibition sheds light on his “strong” relationship with François Mitterrand. “There was an attachment between the two. Renaud loved politics. He is a man of the left,” said his brother. But these two figures fall out in 1989 during the organization of the G7 in Paris, which coincides with the bicentenary of the French Revolution.

Old friend of the newspaper and the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo, which he had helped finance in 1992, several of his columns and front pages of the newspaper are highlighted in a space dedicated to the newspaper.

The exhibition highlights the relationship with the French language of this lover of words. “The verlan, the slang, he created a whole language which is today taken up by rappers”, points out David Séchan. Like Booba who covered a loop taken from “Mistral Gagnant” (1985), Renaud’s flagship ballad, for his song “Pitbull” (2006).

As a sign that the exhibition should attract a large audience, Universal and the Plon publishing house have designed an audio documentary and the exhibition catalog respectively.

Forty-five years after his debut, “his freedom, his impertinence still speak to the French,” said his brother.


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