There are more families in rock than those named Partridge. We’ve seen acts composed of husband-wife teams, like Ian & Sylvia, children follow in the footsteps of their parents, like Tal Bachman (son of Guess Who / B.T.O. rocker Randy), and brothers form bands together with friends, like Men Without Hats’ Doroschuks.
A family relationship in music we’ll explore here is that of siblings, specifically a brother-sister duo. Husbands and wives can end their marriage but a brother and a sister are in a relationship for life. They can perform as a duo as well as individually. People are normally attracted to a brother-sister team because it’s a pure relationship offering the contrast of male-female voices and their performances are tied by blood. What happens when sibling rivalry becomes sibling coalition? Pure magic! The United States got their Donnie & Marie Osmond in the 70s and enjoyed their TV variety shows (of course they had other siblings of theirs to join in from time to time).
Canada had the Simard siblings … and the Seguin siblings … any name beginning with an S would do.
René & Nathalie Simard
“René Simard has sold more records in Quebec than Elvis Presley and The Beatles.”
Rene, seven years older than his little sister, was born in Chicoutimi, QC in 1961, so his career got going first. Nathalie was born in Île d’Orléans (near Quebec City), 1969. Their father was a choirmaster. A singing competition was held on the Montreal program “Les Découvertes de Jen Roger” and nine year-old Rene won, bringing him to the attention of impresario Guy Cloutier who turned him into an international singing sensation. He appeared in television commercials, gave a performance at Pace des Arts, and made his first records, singing “Ave Maria”, “Un enfant comme les autres”, and “L’Oiseau”.
In 1974, Rene represented Canada at Tokyo’s International Festival of Song, winning first prize. He was presented with the Frank Sinatra trophy by Ol’ Blue Eyes himself. The following year he made his debut at the Olympia in Paris, after which he embarked on a tour of the English-speaking world, making frequent appearances on American television with the likes of Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Liza Minnelli, and Bob Hope. He performed with Liberace in Las Vegas.
He carefully selected the songs he performed and recorded, new compositions as well as classics, maintaining a variety that appealed to all audiences—adult contemporary melodies, traditional songs, rock numbers, pop ballads, and disco tunes. Some of his hits were “Ma mère est un ange” (composed by his brother Régis), “Les dimanches après-midi”, “Bébé bleu”, “Maman, laisse-moi sortir ce soir”, and “Fernando”. He also performed the theme song of the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, “Bienvenue à Montréal”. Fortunately, he passed through the voice-change transition into adolescence smoothly and went from child star to teen star.
In 1977, he performed in 25 Quebec localities and launched the Vancouver-based, CBC-televised, English-language series, “The Rene Simard Show”. His songs “Never Know the Reason Why” and “You’re My Everything” were popular.
Cloutier took notice of Nathalie whose angelic voice was as captivating as Rene’s and had her record the song “Tous les enfants du monde” with Rene when she was 10 and Rene 17. The song was used for a Unicef fund-raising campaign. At Christmas 1979, she recorded her first album Joyeux Noël. Nathalie chante pour ses amis sold 30, 000 copies and she starred in the TV special, “Une journée dans la vie de Nathalie”. She and her big brother went on tour performing, among other places, in Montreal, Quebec City, and Ottawa.
At the beginning of the 1980s, René shed his teen idol image for a more charming rock persona and hosted, with Nathalie, a couple of live TV shows from the two Disneylands in the U.S. He also participated in the Jerry Lewis (American comedian) telethon in Las Vegas to raise money for muscular dystrophy.
In 1981, child-star Nathalie’s La Rentrée sold 75 000 copies in three weeks. She accompanied her brother to the Song Festival in Tokyo. When she returned to Canada she was asked to tape several television shows in honour of the Prime Minister. For the next three years, she hosted the children’s program “Le Village de Nathalie” which won her an award.
Nathalie’s rendition of the ever-popular “La Danse des canards” sold over 200 000 copies and won the 1983 Felix award for Best-Selling Recording of the Year. In 1984, Rene’s “Comment ça va” snatched the Felix award for Best-Selling single. In 1988, the Rene-Nathalie duet “Tourne la page” won the award for Best-Selling single. “Tout si tu m’aimes” was also popular.
The recording output of both of them became intermittent in the 90s. Nathalie released only a couple of recordings. Rene released E=MC2 in 1993, a couple of albums in 1996, and a 2003 album of jazz versions of French standards, Hier… Encore, featuring guest appearances by Jean-Pierre Ferland and Céline Dion. Nathalie released her final recording “Il y avait un jardin” in 2007 and then officially called it quits.
Richard and Marie-Claire Séguin
The twin Seguin siblings were not as glamorous nor as popular as the Simards and, as a performing duo in the 70s, were more folky. Nevertheless they, especially Richard in the 80s and early 90s, were a solid musical force in La Belle Province. They were born in 1952 in Montreal. Richard took up the guitar in his teens and in 1967 they began performing together as Marie et Richard. They founded the group La Nouvelle Frontiere which released an album in 1970. From 1971 to 1976, they were an official duo called Seguin, coming out with four albums for three record companies. After this, they went their separate ways as soloists. Marie-Claire released three albums. Richard collaborated with Harmonium’s Serge Fiori on the album Deux Cents Nuits a L’heure winning some Felix awards in 1979. After a couple of albums in the early 80s and some vocal training, he recorded the album Double Vie. The following year (1986), he received three Felix awards. Journee D’amerique and Aux Portes De Matin followed. The latter’s title track won the Felix Song of the Year award in 1992 and Richard was named Male Artist of the Year two years in a row. He has released several albums since then.