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This is a post on Robert Charlebois, part of The Mythic Three series. The introduction to this series gave context for the golden years of Charlebois’ career – a period which defined him and launched the remainder of his career.
From the public’s viewpoint, there are very few musical artists who can stand on the central podium together. Celine Dion is one of them, Ginette Reno is another, as is Robert Charlebois.
I would characterize his genre of music as a “founding genre Québecois-folk-rock”. I use the word “founding”, because he set the bar, tone, and genre for folk-rock in Québec, from the 1970s until today (including much of the Québec’s chart-topping music, period). Francophone artists, not only in Québec, but elsewhere in Francophone Canada, have also largely adopted this style of music as a national template.
Notable characteristics are
- strong lyrics with regional context,
- concentration on vocals (letting vocals carry the music, rather than music necessarily carrying the vocals),
- the use of joual, and the integration of a local accent into the music (as with English music, regional and national accents in French can often disappear when lyrics are sung – but Charlebois’ music very much preserves his Montréal accent (rolled “Rs”, drawn and drowled vowels, local joual). It was Charlebois who made it acceptable and commonplace to sing in a style using everyday colloquial speech,
- a combination of abstract songs, abstract rythms and folk rythms (based on Québec’s unique mix of celtic rythms from pre-republican Celtic-France and Ireland – discussed somewhat in the earlier post “Country Music = Québec”),
- lyrics (often nationalistic) with specific appeal to a localized audience (in the narrowest context, lyrics which Montréalers can related to — and in a slightly larger context, those striking a chord with Québécois at large).
A key factor in his career is that he grew-up and lived in Montréal during some of the most prominent periods in Québec’s modern history (with their epicentre being Montréal), and that his lyrics coincided with these events. I’m not sure he would have achieved the same degree of success if he was physically removed from these events (ie: if he were to have spent the 60s and 70s singing and building a career from Trois-Rivières or Sherbrooke for example).
I’m not going to go into the list and honours he has received… just take my word that you can’t get much more decorated than Charlebois.
But I will give you a very small must-know list of his music. Although these are only a few songs in a long line of super-hits, Québec without these songs simply would not be Québec. Everyone has memories or aspects of their lives they can relate to these songs – they’re pretty much hollow ground.
- Je reviendrai à Montréal
- Tout écartillé
- Les Ailes d’un ange.
He’s also starred in several films.
His career has never stopped – spanning the early 1960s until today. His song and album releases span 40 years, and he has also appeared in numerous films over five decades. We see him at concerts, national festivals, on television, interviews, events, and his albums continue to sell.
When searching for his work, please do not pirate. Robert Charlebois’ smile and heart for his music and fans is as big as anything. Please stick to official sites and support our artists (they form part of our cultural fabric).
Charlebois’ Official website: http://www.robertcharlebois.com/
This is the first in a four-part post series titled “The Mythic Three”.
We’ll look at three of Québec’s biggest music icons, Robert Charlebois, Beau Dommage, and Harmonium – all hugely popular during the post-Quiet Revolution and nationalist re-affirmation years of the 1970s.
Although there are other cultural icons whose careers spanned this era (Félix Leclerc, Gilles Vigneault, Claude Léveillée, Jean-Pierre-Ferland, Michel Tremblay, Richard Séguin and Yvon Déchamps, to name a few), these three icons of contemporary music together formed a core rallying point of a generation which marked Québec’s period of self-empowerment, re-affirmation, and modern transformation, embodied through music. Apart from their music, they represented a wave of sovereignist nationalist fervor in the 1970s. Even for certain aspects of society to this day, they continue to embody a certain degree of nationalist aspirations.
Irrespective of one’s age, Robert Charlebois, Beau Dommage, and Harmonium are viewed and treated more as revered cultural institutions of Québec society, rather than mere pop-stars.
However, what I believe has changed, in the context of modern politics, is the de-politicization of their fan base. I believe their modern fan base of today, myself included, is more attracted to their music, for the sake of music, than to their role in the politics of yesteryear.
Below is a timeline which places things into context (click to enlarge).
As you can see, the music composed and sung by Charlebois, Beau Dommage and Harmonium came in an age charged with emotion, intensity, and rapid changes for Québec. It gave their music a special meaning and significance, as well as an association to society as a whole. Often their songs had charged words, reflecting the political climate and tendencies of the day – as well as nationalist and sovereignist political aspirations of the artists.
It’s a fascinating story of how culture, music, politics, change and social upheaval meld together, and the associations people continue to make when they hear such period music today. Their songs continue to be played on the radio – quite often in fact. When played now, however, they’re played as popular songs – no longer as a nationalist statement in themselves (but that in no way takes away from their significance in history 30-40+ years ago).
Charlebois’ career has continued strong into the present. Beau Dommage, as a group, has intermittently come back together for special events, recordings and performances. 2014 Québec is a very different era than it was in the 1970s. With hindsight, society as a whole continues to appreciate their musical contributions, and cherishes the role they played in history.
The next three posts will touch a bit upon each of these three symbols of an era.
No, the subject of this post is not about the classic 1975 song from France, sung by Joe Dassin “L’Été indien” (one of the most famous and greatest known French songs of all time).
Rather, this is about Julie Snyder having pulled off another big one… and this time she did it big! “L’Été Indien” (Indian Summer) is a 4-part Television series airing every Sunday in September. It’s the largest ever Québec-France co-production variety show being shown to both publics on television on both sides of the ocean. However it is almost completely filmed in Québec.
It aired in August in France. Sneak-peak views at the ratings indicate that during August, it was the #1 viewed program in France with about 4 million views. The first two airings have already taken place in Canada, and it was the #1 watched program on TVA at the time, with an audience of 2 million the 1st episode, and 1.6 million the second episode.
It is set on a giant outdoor stage in the old port of Montréal, with the Montréal downtown skyline as a backdrop. It is co-hosted by Julie Snyder representing us on this side of the ocean, and Michel Drucker (arguably one of France’s best known TV hosts / presenters / interviewers spanning a 40 year career) representing France. It is broadcast on TVA in Québec and Canada, and TV5 in France. It is also being broadcast in 200 countries via TV5 monde.
The invitees include the biggest of the big Francophone celebrities, both throughout the decades, and some more recent — from Québec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Belgium, France, and even one from the UK. It’s clear it took a gigantic international endeavour to make this show. 200 employees are involved, and I can’t even imagine how many flights needed to be booked to pull this one off.
Not only do the celebrities participate in one-on-one and group interviews with Snyder and Drucker, but in addition to providing performances on the large outdoor stage, they also participate in various activities around Québec in a fun and relaxed environment. This might be the first time some of these celebrities have ever been seen before in such a light. The show also projects and image of Québec not often seen by the public around the world.
Originally an idea between René Angelil (Celine’s husband) and Michel Drucker, Julie took the reigns and has brought us this star-studded line-up that has everyone talking. When you read the line-up of invitees below, all appearing in just 4 episodes, all on stage in Montréal, and then crisscrossing Québec in groups on numerous mini-adventures, you’ll understand just how big of an undertaking L’Éte Indien actually is — and what the international media frenzy and fuss has all been about…
- Celine Dion – Québec – (Julie’s personal good friend): She and Julie kicked off the first episode by water skiing together down the St. Lawerence, right onto the stage (that set the tone for the entire show, right from the get-go).
- Stromae – Belgium – One of the current chart-topping singers across the Francophone world (including in Québec)
- Roch Voisine – Nouveau-Brunswick/Acadie – One of Canada’s long-time famous singers in both French and English.
- Véronique DiCaire – Ontario – Famous Montréwood and Ontaroise singer, having performed with some of the biggest names in the industry, and having become a star in her own right.
- Fred Pellerin – Québec – a famous (and rather young) story-teller, bringing his stories to life through song and oral story recitals. His tiny home village of St-Elie-de-Claxton (Québec), has become a tourist attraction because of the attention Pellerin has brought to it through his stories.
- Francis Cabrel – France – one of France’s most famous singers, whose career has spanned decades (Fred Pellerin took Cabrel home to his small village of St-Elie in one of the episodes).
- Marc Labreche – Québec – topic of a former blog post. Famous comedian.
- Martin Matte – Québec – Famous TV sitcom actor and comedian (the last post on the Gémeaux Awards mentioned he cleaned house at the gala this week).
- Garou – Québec – For almost two decades, he has been one of the most famous and best known singers in Québec and France.
- Mika – UK (originally from Lebanon) – Well known to an Anglophone public with several English language hits a few years ago. He is now singing in French and cleaning up the charts in numerous Francophone countries (he has Lebanese Francophone roots, lived a few years in France as a child, but has mostly grown up in the UK).
- Cœur de Pirate – Québec – Famous (and quite young) singer who has attained huge musical achievements, success and fame in a very short period of time (both in Québec and France).
- Xavier Dolan – Québec – Internationally award winning movie director. In the history of movies, he is one of the youngest people in his profession to have ever achieved so much international acclaim at such as young age.
- Vincent Niclo – France – Famous singer and actor.
- Patrick Bruel – France – One France’s most famous singers, whose career has spanned decades.
- Karim Ouellet – Québec – A relatively newer chart-topping singer, he has won some of Québec and Canada’s biggest awards in music (a Juno, le Prix Félix-Leclerc). He grew up in numerous countries (his father was a Canadian diplomat), but calls Québec home.
- Corneille – Québec – A wildly popular singer in Québec with a funk-R’n’B sound. His personal story (having survived the Rwandan Genocide, while his family did not) has captured the hearts of the public.
- Ginette Reno – Québec – The subject of a previous post — a super star.
- Robert Charlebois – Québec – Considered one of the legends and “founding fathers” of contemporary Québec music, in terms of style, language, and tone. His career has brought him from the 1960s to today, and it continues to go strong.
- Marie-Mai – Ontario – The subject of a previous post. A wildly popular singer.
- Isabelle Boulay – Québec – Mentioned in the post “Québec = Country”. A celebrity singer who’s music has been popular for around 15 years.
- Rachid Badouri – Québec – A very popular comedian, performing both at home in Québec, and also in France, on stage and on television.
- Mylène Paquette – Québec – She was the first North American female to row solo across the Atlantic ocean. She has achieved celebrity status in Québec as a result, and was named as 2013 personality of the year by various media.
- Stéphane Rousseau – Québec – A very famous actor and comedian, he is often seen on television and movies in many roles. If he’s not acting in a certain role, he is being interviewed, doing stand-up comedy, or seen in advertisements.
- Anne Roumanoff – France – A very famous French comedian.
- (An honourable mention for) Denis Coderre – Québec – the Mayor of Montréal (and long-term MP and former Liberal cabinet minister), he participated in the program by presenting the keys to the city to Michel Drucker.
- Linda Lemay – Québec – A famous celebrity singer with a long career in both Québec and France.
With such a celebrity line up and interesting program format, this is one show you might not want to miss. The last two episodes will air Sunday, September 21st and 28th at 7:00pm on TVA (which is carried in many regions across Canada).
The official website is http://tva.canoe.ca/emissions/eteindien/.
TVA has posted numerous official footage out-takes on YouTube. You can begin your search for them by clicking HERE. (please stick to official footage only).