Jean Ferrat may be the first singer I ever heard (yes, even before Bowie) because he was my parent’s favorite. He became my favourite too, albeit temporally, before I discovered Bowie, before I entered my rebellious period, and because he was a damn good songwriter and singer.
Later, I understood the real rebel opinion was to love Ferrat. He was politically committed, without ever losing his outspoken nature and his freedom of thought. He sang his own texts, including several poems by Louis Aragon, but not without many problems with censorship. Ma France was one of his songs forbidden on public television and radio in 1969 for the entire year.
Why reserve such a fate for a song whose title may suggest a patriotic celebration? Because Ferrat's France was the one of workers, of Jean Jaurès and Robespierre, of the recent May 68 demonstrations and of the Front Populaire. Certainly because the lyrics evoked half-words, the confiscated liberty of foreign populations and of the Algerian war that was still a strong taboo and has remained one for a very long time.
I bet that nowadays, Ferrat is unknown by the majority of persons under 50 years-except maybe for Nuit et brouillard, about deportation. His posterity is less obvious than Brassens or Brel's. But he presents the perfect balance between the faith in collective action and solidarity, and the personal creativity and opinions.