Born: 1957, Québec City
Gone are the wooden clogs and prehistoric skirts, gone are the homespun recordings where spontaneity covered up for lack of technique, gone is the musical macrame and the political guilt feelings: Diane Tell heralds the era of technocrats and professionals, image-makers and career-builders.
—Nathalie Petrowski, Le Devoir, Montréal
Diane was born to a Canadian father and American mother and travelled, during her childhood, among cities Montréal, Paris, and Val-d’Or, Quebec. She first learned the violin and classical guitar and then jazz guitar at Saint-Laurent College in Montréal. She started composing songs when she was 12 and signed her first recording contract in her late teens. She began her career by hosting radio shows and performing in bars in Montréal’s west end before recording her first self-titled album in 1978. This debut failed to create much of a splash but her singing eventually earned her opening spots for Chris de Burgh and Leo Sayer. Some have said that Diane Tell was the first French Canadian singer-songwriter to record exclusively her own compositions. Her songs were influenced by Latin and jazz techniques and her lyrics were deeply romantic. This combination wooed critics immediately. She spent a year in New York after which she released her sophomore effort Entre nous and scored a minor hit with “Gilberto”.
But it was “Si j’étais un homme” off her third album En flèche in 1980 that served as her big breakthrough. It was a huge hit in Europe as well as in Québec. The song won her a host of Félix awards including song of the year, album artist, and female artist of the year. The MIDEM in Cannes awarded the song a trophy. Tell was bestowed the honour of representing Québec at the Spa Festival in Belgium and was the only female artist participating. En fleche sold over 175,000 copies in Québec.
Diane began singing with the jazz group UZEB, touring Canada and France. In 1983, she relocated to France, putting on a show at the Olympia in Paris and launched the album On a besoin d’amour. She received a Juno Awards nomination in 1984 for the most promising female vocalist in Canada. Faire à nouveau connaissance won the Victoire trophy for French-language album of the year in 1986. She began writing songs with a number of French artists and took part in three original musicals. She starred in La Légende de Jimmy, a rock opera by Luc Plamondon and Michel Berger on the life of James Dean. It played for five months in Paris in 1990, and the recording sold over 100 000 copies.
Diane Tell now lives in Biarritz, France.