This post is for the Americans out there who are following along.
(I’m going to keep this one simple because I have an 8:00 am, 4-hour flight flight to Saskatchewan in a few minutes.
Ironically, Québec’s French-language “Disco Queen”, from the tale-end of the disco movement in late 1970s, was actually not Francophone… she was not even Canadian or Québécoise. Rather she was an Anglophone American!
Her name was Nanette Workman, from Mississippi. But I believe she now has dual Canadian / American citizenship (although I get the impression she lives back-and-forth between both countries).
Despite being huge in the late 1970s & early 1980s, her career began in the 1960s, and she it is still going strong with regular concerts. We have seen her as a regular feature on TV many times over the past couple of decades.
I would label some of her songs as the later French-language “Disco hits” of Québec, because some of her biggest hits came at the tail-end of the disco movement. However, her style of music was much wider than, say, Donna Summers’. Some of her best known earlier music was a mix of disco-meets-early-1980s. Regardless, she gave Montréal its own boogie-night fever! Still today, her hits of the era are just as big as ever today.
What I can’t believe is that, despite a very public career going back as far as 1975, she has never really let up (kind of like Tina Turner in that sense). Many of her songs are now classics.
In the same way that Anglophones regularly hear old songs by Madonna, Cher, Freddie Mercury, the Eagles, and Bon Jovi on the radio – to the point that their songs have never become “old” — we (in Francophone Canada & Québec) hear Nanette Workman’s French songs. I’ve heard them my whole life – and it would be very strange to think of a world without them or her.
Her career has mostly centred on Québec, but she also spent significant time building her career in France, and she developed aspects of her career back in her native United States (the governor of her home state of Mississippi has even given her a state award).
When people think of Nanette Workman, they often associate her with some of the other greatest-of-the-great Québec musicians & songwriters with whom she has worked closely with over the years (Claude Dubois, Luc Plamondon – who is also largely responsible for many of Celine Dion’s greatest hits, Robert Charlebois, and Serge Fiori).
Workman has never really stopped pumping out the albums (her last one was in 2012, and there must have been 20 or so since the 1960s, through the 70s, 80, 90s and 2000s).
Her musical style changed quite significantly in the 1980s and into the 1990s… with more a folk-country-rock-soul beat, but strangely with a Tina Turner type of vibe. It’s very difficult to explain. Her style is quite unique, and it is as contemporary as it is timeless (I love it!). You’ll have to listen to it to understand what I mean. Needless to say, it’s the type of music that sits well with everyone.
She also has had numerous Montréwood acting rolls in French-language movies over the past few decades, including some of Québec’s & Canada’s most successful movies, like Bon Cop, Bad Cop.
I just checked her official website, and I can’t believe she’s giving so many regular concerts after all these years (her 2015 winter / spring concert line-up has her giving two or three concerts a week across Québec and into Ottawa). I had no idea she was still going this hard!
Check out her website. After opening her website, leave it open for a half an hour or so to listen to her latest songs… it automatically streams some of her more contemporary songs: http://nanetteworkman.com/
From her official website’s music, you’ll notice she also sings in English, but I’m not sure that her English songs are as well known in Québec as her classic French songs (the vast majority of her career has been in French). If you leave her website open for any length of time, the French songs will start to automatically stream after about 20 minutes.
Anglophones and Francophones know her for two different songs.
- Anglophones know her best for her 1975 song “Lady Marmalade”; the “Voulez Vous Couchez Avec Moi” song.
- But Francophones by far know Nanette Workman best for her iconic French song DONNE DONNE (you can easily find this one online, videos n’all – check it out – you’ll love it!). We still hear it often on the radio, in the clubs and in bars. Running into a Francophone who does not know Donne Donne is like running into an American who does not know “Hotel California” (totally different genre, but this puts it in perspective).
Other classic songs she is very well known for (which are still heard quite often) are
- Danser Danser from 1975,
- Ce Soir On Danse à Naziland from 1980 (Horrible name for a song!! Boy, have times changed).
“Ain’t No Sunshine” is one of her earlier English songs, from 1972 (it has a flower-power feel to it).
Here is a song which perfectly shows how flexible her voice is: “I lost my baby” (it’s a French-language song from the 1990s, but here Workman has a Patricia Kass type of range and depth – it’s amazing! — you’ll for sure be able to find videos of it).
If you truly want to add a “big dose” of hard-core Québec & Francophone music culture in your life, consider purchasing Nanette Workman’s music (en français, bien sûr!). She’s our favorite American Québécoise!! (Hats off to all my American friends! You did great thing by lending her to us. We owe you – big time!!)
And if you’re wondering, her French is very good… she has our accent to go with it!
(Please stick to official websites when searching for her music and videos and do not pirate. Our artists are part of our cultural heritage).