“A song is a small bridge between the banks of a river, between two people, or two cultures. [It] is most useful when it inspires someone to plant a tree, when it becomes a subtle device of seduction, or when it becomes a lullaby. These are all little bridges.”—Gilles Vigneault
Tag Archives: Gilles Vigneault
Born: 1928, Natashquan, Quebec
Most Well-Known Songs:
- “Jos Monferrand”
- “Jack Monnoloy”
- “Mon Pays”
- “Les gens de mon pays”
- “Gens du pays”
- “Pendant que”
- “Si les bateaux”
With the soul of a poet and bearing social, political, and environmental issues close to his heart, Gilles Vigneault was one of the principal figures who sculpted Québec folk music. He began crafting verse and composing music in the 50s during his studies. He supported himself by working as a library assistant and archivist. He also served as an algebra and French teacher. At the end of the decade he founded his own publishing house to distribute his works. Singer Jacques Labrecque covered Vigneault’s first song, “Jos Monferrand”.
In the early 60s, Gilles worked as a writer and host for CBC radio and TV in Québec City. In the summer of 1960, at a music festival in the city, the audience, asked him to sing some of his songs. He sang in public for the first time which was well-received. He, thus, began singing regularly at public events. This led to the release of his debut album in 1962. For this, he was awarded the Grand prix du disque from Montréal radio station CKAC.
He wrote songs for other singers and reserved some for himself. Pauline Julien sung his song “Jack Monnoloy” which won second prize at the International Song Festival in Poland, 1964. Monique Leyrac performed his song “Mon Pays” written for the film Il a Neigé sur la Manicougan, winning first prize at the same festival the following year.
“Mon Pays” was the song that really catapulted Vigneault to superstardom, prompting the city of Montréal to dedicate a float to him (and Leyrac) during the annual St-Jean Baptiste parade. Thereafter, he began touring Canada and Europe and appeared in a number of shows including Expo ’67 in Montréal and ’70 in Osaka.
In 1970, Gilles was deeply affected by the October Crisis and wrote a number of songs about it. Four years later, he participated in the Superfrancofête show on the Plains of Abraham with fellow singers Robert Charlebois (representing the younger generation) and Félix Leclerc (representing the older generation). The outdoor concert was attended by some 130,000 people. The highlight of the concert was the three of them singing together Raymond Lévesque’s “Quand les hommes vivront d’amour”.
In the late 70s, Vigneault developed an interest in children’s music and released a few albums, one which won him an award. In the 80s he performed mostly in France. Montreal’s 350-year birthday party occurred in 1992, at which Gilles performed before an audience of 70,000. In 2005, he released his first instrumental album.
Over the years, Gilles Vigneault has received a number of honourary doctorates and won a number of awards at home and abroad. A school in Marseilles, France is named for him. His songs have been covered by scores of Canadian and European singers.