Monaco is tiny and crowded and very, very rich–or at least it wants you to think so. The picturesque little principality that consists of less than a square mile of land on the Mediterranean coast of France, not too far from the Italian border, has always been a coveted spot, starting a long time ago when, according to legend, the Greek god Hercules passed through and dispensed with the local gods. In the 1850s the Principality of Monaco was in financial peril and decided to invest in the opening of what seemed to some to be an irrational and overly expensive project to bring in funds–an ambitious casino-resort. By 1869 the gamble (heh heh) had paid off; casino was so extraordinarily profitable Monaco’s rulers stopped collecting income tax from their residents. Rich Europeans who vacationed at the casino realized that if they stayed in Monaco, more of their money would too. Over the next several decades Monaco fashioned itself as a tax-free playground for the rich and famous, and today still thrives as a resort, a casino and a place for the rich to play.
The most famous Monegasque musician of the 20th century, and one of the top French language singer/songwriters of all time, poet and singer Léo Ferré, may have been the son of a casino director, but he was not always a friend to the global jet-setters that made his country rich. Though Ferré attained great wealth and fame, he was also and anarchist and eventually a communist who sang protest songs in the late ’60s and who worked closely with Paris-based free radio broadcast network, Radio Liberaire.