Favorite French-Canadian Songs
Discover Some Amazing Quebec Artists and French Canadian Songs
Want to discover some great French Canadian songs? Wish to learn more about some artists behind French Canadian music? This page of favorite Quebec songs will highlights some of the biggest French Canadian artists that are virtually unknown outside the province of Quebec. French Canadian music is extremely diversified. It's impossible to to highlight every single best French Canadian songs, so I pick some of my favorites for you. Ready for new songs and singers?
You will discover an artist singing about mental illness and being locked up in an asylum. Another song is the result of smoking too much illicit stuff. Another, by a very young little boy, makes me cry. Discover the French-Canadian singer who could have been in the place of Celine Dion. Hear a classic Quebec folk tale about timbers who make a pact with the devil!
La Manifestation by Les Cowboys Fringants - Les Cowboys Fringants: a Quebec neo-trad rock group
Very funny song, you can really make your own story just by the lyrics. Les Cowboys Fringants "La manifestation" is a real funny take at those far right extremists that will join any kind of sit-ins and protests "just because", and then will go home as soon as it's not funny anymore (or too cold or raining) as the song explain:
"At the protest, we were dreaming of revolution!" " But I came to the conclusion that it will take a lot of sun or else there won't be a revolution anytime soon".
The reference to "le CEGEP du Vieux Montreal" is a nice poke at this Montreal college, well known since the early 70's for their constant protests and sit-ins.
"It's true we didn't change anything except causing traffic jam... but It's better than nothing!"
Compare the live and studio version, you'll see why their concert are so popular
Awikatchikaen is among my favorite Cowboys Fringants songs! There is no official music video for it, but many live performances and fan made clips. The best live version I have found is on dailymotion (you can check it here:
Awikatchikaen live!. You will understand why they are so hot live.
Awikatchikaen is a nonsense word by the way,
Here are the 2 versions: the live one and a studio version:
More Favorites From Les Cowboys Fringants - I do really love their songs!
Les Cowboys Fringants are a modern Quebec folk music group with a twist. Great texts, sometimes dark and depressing, with music inspired by Quebec tradition. They are one of the most famous neo-trad music group of Quebec. Their live performances are a real treat and made them famous overseas.
Here's some more favorites:
8 Secondes (English Subtitles)
Depressing, prophetic, song. With English subtitles. This is a fan made video, but with this kind of song only the lyrics matters really.
Plus Rien (nothing left)
I don't really love the video. I find the song depressing and scary because it so close to what may happen to our earth very soon if we don't change how we live. I cry every time I hear the song.
This is one of Les Cowboys Fringants classic. It is the story of a kid who has only a few minutes to live. He is the last human alive. He remembers what his ancestors told him about earth: a nice blue planet, with river and life. Now it looks like the moon, every one died an atrocious death because the human kind kill the earth for profit. Farewell Humanity.
Mon Pays (My Country): Why the French lost their North American colonies to the British according to Les Cowboys Fringants? They drank too much before Plains of Abraham battle and were so drunk they could not fight! For the real Plains of Abraham battle history see here: Plains of Abraham
Compter les corps
Vulgaires Machins: 4 Favorite Songs
Vulgaires Machins is a French-Canadian rock band. They have been around since 1995.Their songs criticize harshly modern society, capitalism, politics and dogma. They sing in French but you don't have to know the language to enjoy their music. It's a group worth discovering!
Here's a few favorites:
1- Aneantir le Dogme: Annihilate the dogma
The clip and song deals with hyper-sexualization of teenagers, something Much Music and all videos channels across the world make money out of..... In Quebec, Musique Plus (Quebec's Much Music) refused to air the clip even tho they have always back everything Vulgaire Machins had done in the past. Would have not been good money wise for them to air a clip that criticize their own practices.
From 2002, Indica records
"The music industry and radio stations are cashing in
Every time she whines, they hit the jackpot
Overdose on all channels
We are hammered with crappy music"
3- Puits sans fonds
Puits sans fond: bottomless wells/pits...meaning the stupidity of people have no end.
"I don't care about quality content, I just want a lot of pages"
"We are seeing an all time low in the average IQ"
4- Compter les corps :Counting corpses
Buy the CD - Original cast
Emile Nelligan / La Romance Du Vin
Quebec tragic poet
Why do I pick a poet to feature on French-Canadian music? Just because I love his work, his life and his amazing and powerful poem "La Romance du Vin". "La Romance du vin" was nicely adapted in an opera where French Canadian actor Yves Soutiere played Nelligan.
Every country has at least one famous poet with a sad and tragic life. Emile Nelligan is one of them. He is the son of an Irish immigrant married to a French-Canadian woman. He was born in 1879 in Montreal , was locked in an asylum at age 20 and died there in 1941. He wrote 170 poems before suffering his nervous breakdown. Recent literary analyses conclude that he went insane because of his repressed homosexuality.
Nelligan was bilingual but choose French to wrote poetry for love of his mother and to antagonized his father. His mother was an artistic person, he was very fond of her and close to her. His father was strict and not very happy to see his son wasting his time instead of working hard as he did.
His most famous poem is "Le Vaisseau d'Or". You can hear it here if you want, sing by Michel Comeau in Opera Nelligan, the 1990 version: Opera Nelligan: Le Vaisseau d'Or
La Romance du vin (Song of Wine) is Nelligan's last poem before he was locked away. It was his last public read, and his most successful. La Romance du vin is an unveiled critic of his father's (and society) lack of appreciation for poetry. In the excerpt here, he is reciting La Romance du Vin in front of friends, poets and his family. I doubt that his father (we see him in this excerpt) went to any of his public read.
"Woman ! I drink to you who mock the path
where the rose-dream calls with arms flung wide;
I drink, too, to you men with brows of pride
Who first refuse my hand then scorn my life!"
A Best Of Quebec Progressive Rock
Octobre / La Maudite Machine - Classic 70s Quebec Progressive Rock
This is as good as any British or American band from the same period. Solid rock, excellent music. A classic. "La Maudite Machine" can be translated as "The Damn System". Their songs are very social oriented.
The band name "Octobre" (October) was a provocative choice following the October Crisis in Quebec. This crisis culminated in the use of the War Measures Act by the Canadian government.
Jean-Pierre Ferland / Le chat du cafe des artistes and God is an American
Released in 1970, "Jaune" is one of the most avant-gardist album ever recorded by a French-Canadian artist. This album is a masterpiece, and consider as one of the 100 best Canadian album ever recorded.
The song "God is an American" is really good, although it was never one of his greatest hit. It is about God getting fed up with the human race. He has enough of constant bickering and fighting: "God is an American", Nein Gott Ist Deutsch (no, God is German), Net, bog russkii (no, God is Russian), Dieu est Francais (God is French). So God end up telling us in a language we understand "F*** you". But humans keep bickering so in the end, God tells Saint Peter: "ok Saint Peter, turn them off (kill them).... I'll start all over with cats and dogs".
The music is amazing, the lyrics quite funny and original.
Also, really I couldn't make a choice, so I am also featuring this other "Jaune" track: "Le chat du cafe des artistes". A very haunting song, written by Jean-Pierre Ferland in the late 60's.
"Le chat du cafe des artistes" was covered recently by Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of famous French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg and British singer Jane Birkin. Listen to the cover song here.
Here's an incomplete try at translating this masterpiece:
Le chat du cafe des artistes English translation
"When we're dead, we're dead
When we stop laughing, we stop living
When I'll cut my string
Put me in the trash bin
Let me rot a full month
Then feed me to the cat
He'll ignore my spleen and liver
Time it well so he'll eat my heart
Then I can be with you
On your shoulders and knees
So I can be, for we need to exist
The cat of Cafe des Artistes"
Download Jean-Pierre Ferland "Jaune" Album - Here's your chance to sample some of his song and download your favorite
Make sure you listen to "Le petit roi" and "Quand on aime on a toujours vingt ans"
If you prefer, you can buy the CD
Sample or Download some of Diane Dufresne hits
Make sure to check out her live video of: Hymne a la beaute du monde. A beautiful song and one of her classic. You can also buy the MP3 here
Diane Dufresne / Le parc Belmont
No please, not the straitjacket
She is Quebec's queen of heart and an icon for the gay community. She is famous for her extravagant (to put it mildly) scene's costumes. She has been Luc Plamondon's muse for years and their success together are many. So many, that making a choice here was difficult. So once again, I went for a song that was neither a chart or commercial success. It is called "Parc Belmont", a powerful song written by luc Plamondon.
It's a terrifying story about mental illness and being locked up in an asylum. Rumor says it's a tribute to one of her family member who was placed in mental institution.
"What did I do to the world to get walled in here.
What did I do to the world?
Some days I forget who and where I am.
I was like everybody else, living my folly without hurting anyone.
I made the choice to live my life inside my head.
What is my purpose in this world, I am not Van Gogh or Da Vinci.
Mona Lisa's eye are following me in the night.
When they came for me,
I knew where they were taking me,
but I had no other escape then this mental institution,
a long organized trip to the end of the night"
Another Diane Dufresne Greatest Hits Album - 1975 to 1987
Ginette Reno / Un peu plus haut - The best voice of Quebec
A song by Jean-Pierre Ferland, from 1969. He is indeed a very prolific songwriter. But his song "un peu plus haut" sing here by Ginette Reno is so more powerful than the original (as sing by Ferland here). It will give you shivers. The second video is Ferland, Celine Dion and Ginette Reno, the ultimate trio singing "Un Peu Plus Haut" in 2008 for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City.
Ginette Reno has probably the most powerful voice of all French-Canadian singers. She could have been "Celine Dion ". What I mean here is that she was approached first by Rene Angelil (Celine Dion manager) to be his muse. But she has always refuse to sacrifice her family and life over an international career. Too bad, she has such a fabulous voice.
I choose this song just because it is so powerful and moving.
Robert Charlebois and Louise Forestier / Lindberg
Warning, even if you speak French please don't try to make any sense of this classic Quebec song. Charlebois probably did smokesome illicit substance (think Beatles / Lucy in the sky).
Here's a couple of lines:
"My friend Sophie took a ride on a flying carpet, while I ride on a camel's back
But I still prefer Transworld, Northern, Eastern, Western and Pan-American
I don't really know where I am anymore
Then I fall from so high
Only to find Sophie in bed with my best buddy, and worst of all, she took my maple cookies!"
If you have to make a top 10 of Quebec song, Lindberg should be on it. There are many other songs I like from him (especially Je reviendrais a Montreal), but this duo with Louise Forestier (another impressive Quebec artist) is really amazing. This song was originally released on the 1968 album "Lindberg". This album also includes "La marche du President", a song written by Gilles Vigneault.
In 2009 Charlebois was immortalized on a Canadian postage stamp.
Robert Charlebois Live CD - Some of Charlebois Greatest Hits
This CD features a great selection of Robert Charlebois songs spanning from the mid 60's to the early 1990s. Great classics as well as a few medley songs. It's a live album. This tour (tournee) was named La Maudite Tournee in reference to La Maudite beer from Unibroue brewery that used to be partly owned by Charlebois.
Beau Dommage / Picbois - My favorite Beau Dommage song
I am going to spare you the "La complainte du phoque en Alaska" cliché. Yes it is one of Quebec's classic song and usually the one song assosiate with Beau Dommage. That is the reason I pick another Beau Dommage success, but still from their eponymous album "Beau Dommage". It's called "Picbois". It is a feeling good kinda of song.
My aunt Marie was a real "peace and love" kinda girl and I discovered Beau Dommage while i visited my grandmother. I would get the permission to listen to her records, and I always ended up with Beau Dommage. All the album is amazing.
Best of Beau Dommage - A must have album
Beau Dommage eponymous album from 1974 is probably THE most popular ever album in Quebec history (triple platinum). Almost all the songs on the album were hits. Picking a favorite on such a great album is just impossible. Harmonie du Soir a Chateauguay, La Complainte du Phoque en Alaska, Tous Les Palmiers, Le Picbois...
Paul Piche / Heureux d'un Printemps - From album: A qui appartient l'beau temps?
Paul Piche is a well known activist for many causes. His album "A qui appartient l'beau temps?" (1977) was an instant success and contains some classic, timeless pieces. If you travel to Quebec you are almost certain to hear some of his songs: in parties, concerts and around campfire (the ultimate campfire song in Quebec is probably Piche's "Mon Joe"). No self respecting June 24th Saint-Jean Baptiste day (Quebec day) is complete without some Paul Piche.
Download Paul Piche songs from A Qui Appartient Le Beau Temps Album - Click play to listen to samples
A classic album. It doesn't get old at all.
Or Buy the CD
Rene Simard / l'oiseau - My first idol
Still today, this song makes me cry. Not the song itself, but his interpretation. He has such a voice! Rene Simard was a huge star as a kid, not only in Quebec but also in Japan. Japanese were just hysterical over him in the early 1970s.
L'oiseau became my parent pet peeve when I was 5 years old. You see my father gave me his old record player so I could play "le p'tit Simard" record in my room. What he didn't know is that I would play l'oiseau for hours at a time...over and over and over and over!
L'oiseau is a cover song by Simard. The original song was done by Bruno Polius and was the theme for a French TV serie named "Sebastien parmi les hommes". You can hear the original here: BRUNO POLIUS l'oiseau
La Chasse Galerie - The bewitched canoe: in Satan's home, you will burn for eternity
La chasse-galerie is a Quebec folktale: around New Year, isolated timbers want to visit their lovers faraway. The only way to travel so far is to run "la chasse-galerie": make a pact with the devil so a canoe can fly.
There are many versions of the story and many songs have been adapted from the tale. I pick the version here mainly because there is an attempt at translation (not the best, but enough to understand) and it's an excellent interpretation.
This version is sing by 3 of the most important figure in Quebec rock scene: Claude Dubois, Eric Lapointe and Garou. It is an interpretation of the original Claude Dubois "Chasse Galerie"
Here are 2 other excellent versions of this folk tale:
la chasse-galerie by Claude Dubois. In this version, the pact was to not miss the boat once the party was over. One of them looked back, missed the boat and they were damned. They were saved by the youngest, who said a prayed powerful enough to kill any devil.
Martin de la Chasse-Galerie by folk group La Bottine Souriante. The lyrics are from Michel Rivard (Beau Dommage). It's a more modern take on the tale. But the music is classic Quebec folk. It tells the story of Martin who ran the chasse- galerie. He is the youngest of the ten damned timbers. In this story, the pact was "do not touch any girls", they could drink and dance and eat and see their family, but they were forbidden to touch any girl. But Martin was very drunk and kissed Marion. The devil saw him, and they were all damned. God was mad, at the foolishness of these young men, but still saved them. Instead of going to hell, they will spend eternity floating in their canoe over Montreal.
Download Your Favorite Chasse Galerie MP3 - By Garou, Claude Dubois and Eric Lapointe or by La Bottine Souriante
Click to play a sample of both versions.
Starmania / Le Monde est Stone, Le Blues du Businessman
I cannot make a page on Quebec music without a place for the Rock opera Starmania.
"Starmania is a French/Quebecois rock opera written in 1976 with music by Michel Berger and lyrics by Luc Plamondon. Some of its songs have passed into mainstream Francophone pop culture.
In the near future, Monopolis, the capital of the recently-united Occident, is terrorized by the Black Stars, a gang headed by Johnny Rockfort, who dances to the tune of Sadia, a student-agitator, originally from the upper crust, who cross-dresses at night and descends into the underground to hand out orders. They meet at the Underground Cafe, under the amused gaze of Marie-Jeanne, the robotic waitress." -Wikipedia
I have picked 2 Starmania classic, both from the original cast. First, "le monde est stone" (The world is stone) sung by Fabienne Thibeault. And then "Le blues du businessman" by Claude Dubois.
"I am successful in business.
I am lucky in love: I have many secretaries.
I always travel first class.
I rent expensive room in hotels, cause I cannot be bothered by misery.
I am not happy, but I look happy.
I lost my sense of humor when I became a business man.
I wanted to be an artist!"
Starmania, Original Cast
Daniel Balavoine, Claude Dubois, Diane Dufresne, Nanette Workman, France Gall, Eric Esteve and Fabienne Thibeault
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© 2010 Nathalie Roy