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Artist biography: Renaud

French folk-rock singer Renaud Séchan was born in Paris on 11 May 1952. His early work is characterised by left-wing politics and distaste for the French bourgeoisie. Despite achieving immense popularity among French audiences, his material is largely unknown outside the French-speaking world. Renowned for the political content of his lyrics, Renauds music is also mainly influenced by the likes of poet-rebel Georges Brassens and other socialist thinkers.

In 1975 Renaud released his first album, titled Amoureux de Paname. This collection of songs addressed the lifestyles of suburban Paris and the disaffected youth of 1970s society. Despite this early venture into the music business, Renauds real passion was for acting. In 1977 he gave nightly performances in a play by Martin Lamotte called Le Secret de Zonga, alongside his singing gigs at the Blanc Manteaux in Paris. His second album, Laisse Béton, was released in October that year, and in 1978 the title track hit the number one spot in the charts. The song also popularised Verlan, a form of Parisian slang where syllables are swapped round.

In 1979 Renauds third offering, Ma Gonzesse, was released. This album adopted a more intimate tone, stripped of the realism of his previous recordings. Renauds fourth album came out in 1980, entitled Marche à lombre, which contained the smash hits Dans mon HLM and Les Aventures de Gérard Lambert. A month-long live stint at the Bobino theatre in Paris led to the release of two live albums, Live à Bobino and Le ptit bal du samedi soir, which also included some of his more politically-influenced work from his busking days.

In 1983 Renaud released his fourth studio album, Morgane de toi. This record marked a real change in musical direction, appealing to fans of the more popular French variety music than the rock-based roots of his earlier material. This album proved to be Renauds most successful to date. Dès que le vent soufflera was particularly well received, selling 1.2 million copies within the first few months of its release.

1985 saw the release of the satirical Mistral Gagnant, and included Miss Maggie, a fierce critique of the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In 1988 he released Putain de Camion, which won several awards. After the Gulf War, Renaud released the Irish-influenced Marchand de Cailloux in 1991. Later that year, he starred in film maker Claude Berris French production of Zolas novel Germinal. The location for the shoot in Northern France inspired the release of Renaud cante el' nord in 1993, an album devoted to the traditional music of the region and sung entirely in the local dialect. 1994 saw the release of Ala Belle de Mai, a tribute to the French city of Marseille. In 1997 he suffered a nervous breakdown, and turned to alcohol for comfort.

Bouncing back In October 1999, Renaud went on a nationwide acoustic Tour de France, which was so successful that it lasted until March 2001. That same year he received a lifetime achievement award for his work at the Victoires de la Musique ceremony. In 2002 Renaud returned to the studio and recorded Boucan dEnfer, a dark album reflecting on the anger and sadness of his former alcohol-soaked years.

At the end of 2005 Rneaud published a childrens book called Le petit oiseau qui chantait faux, a fairytale allegory about freedom, and in 2006 he recorded Rouge Sang, which saw a return to Renauds politically-motivated lyrical themes. The song Elle est facho attracted particular controversy from the media, with its parody of a woman voting for the right-wing Front National, and the final line "elle vote Sarko, a reference to the right-wing politician and then presidential candidate Nicholas Sarkozy. Despite the UMP partys denouncement of the song, the album went platinum on the first day of release, selling over 500,000 copies.