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Michel Louvain has had quite few weeks. A few weeks ago, his biography came out to great fanfare and earned a good deal of attention. He subsequently has be doing the talk-show circuit of late. Last night he was the subject of a documentary which aired nationally.
At 77, he is a couple (maybe three) generations older than me. I, like most people in their 20’s and 30’s (and even early 40’s) may not have really known much about him. But if you’re in your late 50’s, 60’s, and definitely if you’re in your 70’s and 80’s, you grew with him on your TV screen. If you’re a woman in your 70’s and 80’s, chances are you may have even had a crush on him when you were in your 20’s, or perhaps you were one of the screaming throngs of girls who chased him down the street when he went out in public.
You may recall my earlier post titled “And the winners are…” that I mentioned René Simard, and alluded to him as Québec’s own Donny Osmand. But if René had a processor from a prior generation, Michel Louvain would be it.
Without having known his background or the significance of his career, my own recollections of Louvain (like many from my generation) are mostly restricted to his noon television TV singing variety shows back in the mid-1990’s, Louvain à la Carte (but just as the Lawrence Welk show was not the style of show I would watch, Louvain à la Carte was so beyond the style what people my age watched, that I simply flicked pass it when changing TV channels). If I remember correctly, I think Louvain à la carte was actually filmed in the food court of a shopping mall of Québec City, of all places — with him in the middle, and elderly, white-haired ladies sitting at the tables drooling over him (like I said, not exactly the type of program which attracted the attention of younger generations). Since then, I had not seen or heard of him again, until the last few weeks when the homages began to pour in.
He came from humble beginnings, but In 1958, at the age of 21, he sang a song on television program, with no prior music career behind him, and he basically became an instant heart-throb for a huge portion of Québec’s younger ladies who tuned into the program. He was invited back to perform on television, and the rest is history – a star was born.
His songs were top of the charts for the remainder of the 1950s and early 1960s, and he never stopped performing. He came out with albums, gave concerts, and went on tours. He may have slowed down the last couple of decades, but he continued to give untelevised concerts for his fan base from the 1950s and 1960s.
His appeal and fan-base continues to be a much older demography, and it’s a bit difficult to describe his style. His mannerisms are similar to a cross of Lawrence Welk and Liberace (without the costumes), and his music styles are a cross between cabaret, crooner, and swing styles of music – earning him the title of the singer of charm. It’s a style which generally doesn’t attract fans outside of his demographic in Québec (music in Québec at that time was somewhat different than elsewhere in North America).
At the same time, because of his overall style, comedy acts in Québec were frequently unkind to him throughout the last 20 to 30 years – mocking him, his mannerisms and style to no small degree. In his documentary last night, he even admitted that he was brought to tears when he saw how he was mocked by comedians.
Nonetheless, Michel Louvain seems to have had the last laugh. The fact that such a unique style could lead to a 56 year career is a testament to his ability to connect with his fans – and to stay with those fans into their 70s and 80s (the documentary last night showed a clip from a recent sold-out theatre concert he gave – it was the first time I ever saw a concert full of people born in the 1930s – it was something which had to be seen to be believed). He has earned some of Montréwood’s and the Québec government’s highest honours — and I suppose that after everything he experienced, his honours are well deserved.