Born: 1963, St. Basile, New Brunswick
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Pop
- Diamond Album in France: Hélène, 1989
– 66th biggest-selling artist of all-time in France (4th best-selling Canadian)
– Francophone Album of the year award at France’s Victoires de la musique
– 8 million albums sold worldwide
– 4 Multi-Platinum and 3 Platinum albums in Canada
– Male Artist of the Year Juno Award, 1994
– Five Major Felix Awards
Major Félix Awards
- Song of the Year, 1989: “Hélène”
– Male Artist of the Year, 1989
– Album Artist of the Year, 1990
– Song of the Year, 1993: “La légende Oochigeas”
– Male Artist of the Year, 1995
Studio Albums and Hit Singles¹
1986: Sweet Songs
1987: Roch Voisine
- 3x Platinum
– Diamond in France
– Hit Singles: “Hélène“, “Pourtant”, “Avant de partir”
- 2x Platinum (Canada and France)
– Hit Singles: “Darlin’”, “La berceuse du petit diable”, “La promesse”, “Pretty Face”, “On the Outside”, “Waiting”, “A Fishing Day”
1993: I’ll Always Be There
- 4x Platinum
– Hit Singles: “Oochigeas (Indian Song)”³, “I’ll Always Be There“, “There’s No Easy Way”, “Lost Without You”, Shout Out Loud”, “Am I Wrong”, “She Picked on Me”, “For Adam’s Sake”, “Heaven or Hell”
1994: Coup de tête
– Hit Singles: “Laisse-la rêver”, “Jean Johnny Jean”.
1996: Kissing Rain
– Hit Singles: “Kissing Rain”, “Deliver Me”, “Shed a Light”, “With These Eyes”, “Love Never Dies”
1999: Chaque feu…
2000: L’album de Noël
2000: Christmas is Calling
2001: Éponyme Roch Voisine
2003: Je te serai fidèle⁴
2005: Sauf si l’amour…
2009: Americana II
2010: Americana III
¹ As he had hits on various charts—French, English, Quebec, Canada, France, Pop, AC, country, etc.—we’re not listing the peak positions
² This was a double bilingual album. Disc 1 contained French songs, Disc 2 English songs. A self-titled (single) album was also released which had the same content as the English disc of Double. This English-only album was certified 3x Platinum in Canada.
³ The French version, “La légende Oochigeas”, was a hit single from an earlier live album
⁴ Contains six new songs and nine revamped hits
Coming from Quebec, we had known several popular singers, and even some headliners. With Roch Voisine, for the first time, we have a star. A real star. Of the kind that unleashes uncontrolled and simultaneous commotion in thousands of teenage girls.
—Louis-Bernard Robitaille, La Presse, Montreal (on Voisine’s success in Europe)
It had always been easier for Canadian artists to do well in the U.S. than the United Kingdom, despite Canada’s belonging to the Commonwealth. Europe had often been a tough nut to crack. It was even harder for Francophone artists. Canada’s hypocrisy in calling itself bilingual and then refusing to give airplay to French Canadian songs on English radio stations meant that Francophone artists could only sell records to the few million people in Québec. Although Quebecers tended to support their artists magnanimously by buying more records than their Anglophone counterparts, it was still a market not large enough to earn a decent living. Many Quebec artists branched out by publishing books, acting, and putting on extra shows and concerts.
A number of Francophone artists released English albums for English Canada to savour. Unfortunately, for unknown reasons, English Canada, with the odd exception, paid little attention to these. It would have been more strategic for them to release their debuts in English first and, once they saw success, release a French album. But it took a long time, through experimentations and failures, for such a truth to come to light.
Like Anglophones, Francophones were also finding it difficult to break out in Europe. But they didn’t have the option of making names for themselves in the United States. To make decent money, they needed to sell lots of albums in France (not to mention Switzerland, Belgium, etc.) whose population was eight times that of Quebec’s. The chances of a French Canadian album going Platinum in France were remote; going Diamond was a pipe dream.
But everything changed in 1989. A fluently bilingual Canadian born in New Brunswick, raised in Quebec, and university-educated in Ottawa released a French language album. It was a hit in Quebec, a hit in Belgium, a hit in Switzerland, and was certified Diamond in France. Later on, he became one of the few Canadian artists to match his success in English Canada with English language albums and singles. His name is Roch Voisine.
Roch Voisine was born as the oldest of three children in New Brunswick and grew up speaking both English and French. His parents divorced when he was four and his paternal grandparents helped raise him. He moved in with his father when he was eight. When he was 12, the family moved to Notre-Dame-du-Lac, northeast of Quebec City. He pursued a career in hockey, joining Quebec City’s Remparts, but a knee injury during a baseball game in 1981 dashed his hopes. He began studying physiotherapy at the University of Ottawa and wrote songs with former hockey buddy Stephan Lessard. Lessard’s uncle, Paul Vincent, was a disc jockey, so they called him up for help in recording a demo tape. Vincent had the right connections and they were able to complete the demo for only $50 because the recording engineer was amused by two former hockey players performing music.
Vincent listened to the result and wanted to sign Voisine but felt he was too young and should finish school first. Voisine graduated in 1985 after writing more songs. Two English albums were made of his material but were ignored by the industry. He gave his first public performance during Canada Day in 1986 before a crowd of 50,000 at La Ronde amusement park in Montreal. In 1988, a television station asked him to host “Top jeunesse”, a variety show for teen-agers.
Roch called Vincent and asked him for further assistance, as he wanted to take the next step and make a hit single. Vincent took on the role of Voisine’s manager. Les Disque Star in Quebec was mesmerized with him but suggested that he stick to French language records and try to tackle Quebec and possibly France first.
In 1989, Voisine spent 500 hours recording the romantic ballad “Hélène” on acoustic guitar for his forthcoming album. He had co-written the song with his old hockey buddy Lessard. Les Disque Star heavily promoted the song and, before it was released to the public, it already had 40,000 advance orders in Quebec. The record company, excited with this, pressed Voisine into finishing the recording of the album in three weeks. The single was launched in Quebec and France. It won the Felix Song of the Year award, and helped the album top the singles chart in France (not to mention Belgium, Switzerland, and Norway) for nine straight weeks, sell 3x Platinum in Canada and become the first Canadian album in history to be certified Diamond in France. Not bad for a debut.
Roch wanted to conquer the English market in Canada but had to play it safe. It had been attempted before with little success. The strategy implemented was releasing a double album with one disc of French songs and a second of English songs. If English Canada didn’t respond to the English songs, at least the Francophones would buy the album for the French songs. The album was entitled Double. The strategy proved wise. He did get airplay in English Canada but on the AC (and country) radio stations. On their charts, his biggest hit was “On the Outside” (#5). This was enough success to release only the English disc as a separate album; it was self-titled. Double was certified 2x Platinum, selling 700,000 copies in Europe, and Roch Voisine 3x Platinum. Roch was offered a role in the CBC TV mini-series “Lance et compte” (“He Shoots, He Scores”).
He proceeded to France becoming the first Canadian French performer to do a four-night run at the Zénith in Paris. He held 38 concerts in Europe in 1991 including appearances in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy. Roch returned to Europe in 1992 for three months that included a show at the Eiffel Tower grounds (Champ de Mars) before a crowd of 75,000. The show was broadcast live and reached 14 million viewers. He took part in the Canada Day celebrations in 1992, joining producer David Foster on Parliament Hill. They co-wrote a song together called “I’ll Always Be There” and performed it in front of Queen Elizabeth II in honour of Canada’s 125th birthday
In 1993, Voisine’s English breakthrough album, I’ll Always Be There, came out. It included the title-track song with Foster which made the RPM year-end charts for both 1993 and 1994. “Lost Without You” also made the year-end chart. The album was certified 4x Platinum. He had now conquered English Canada.
He returned to doing a French album: Coup de Tete came out in 1994 and spawned two hit singles. Two years later he signed a lucrative recording contract with BMG and, after settling in Los Angeles, recorded and released the English album Kissing Rain. The title-track was another big hit in Canada. He married Myriam Saint-Jean in 2002 and had two children. The couple separated in 2007, the same year that Voisine was given an honourary doctorate in music by the Univerity of Moncton.
Although Roch’s popularity has eased up since the Kissing Rain years, he has continued releasing albums, alternating between French and English. His French language work has continued to enjoy airplay in Europe (especially France) and Quebec, while his English-language recordings are a staple of Canadian adult contemporary radio.
Why was Roch Voisine so successful?
Voisine was one of the few bilingual artists successful in French Canada, English Canada, and France / Europe. Why was he able to outdo other artists and accomplish such widespread popularity? Here are the results of our analysis:
1. He has an amazingly beautiful voice.
2. He was born outside of Quebec perhaps giving his English music more credibility in English Canada
3. His songs are lighter, more on the adult contemporary side, making them appealing to people of all ages
4. He is fluently bilingual with no accent in either language giving him more credibility when interviewed
5. He collaborated with big-name producer David Foster
Roch Voisine’s Official Website is HERE.
Copyright 2011 Canadian Music Blog