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.
Notable Canadian band manager Bruce Allen organized a project to record a charity single for African famine relief in response to Britain’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Jim Vallance in an interview told the story of how things came together in writing and recording the song “Tears Are Not Enough” sung by a supergroup of Canadian artists called Northern Lights.
…in 1985, David [Foster] returned to Vancouver for a year. He and his wife Rebecca bought a house in the same neighbourhood where Bryan Adams and I lived, but we didn’t see much of them. One day I ran into David in the lobby of Little Mountain Sound Studio, where he was producing an album for Paul Hyde and Bob Rock’s group, The Payolas. He approached me in a panic and said, “You have a home studio, right?” I replied that I did.
Visibly excited, David told me he’d just got off the phone with Quincy Jones, who’d just finished recording a Michael Jackson / Lionel Ritchie song for African famine relief called “We Are The World”. Quincy played the song for David over the phone, and said he wanted David to record a Canadian song for Africa — and it had to be finished in the next week or two so it could be included on the U.S. album release!
“We Are The World” was written in response to Bob Geldoff’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, recorded and released the year before (1984). Geldoff’s song raised millions of dollars for Africa, and had already made a significant difference to those suffering from drought and famine. Quincy hoped that a Canadian song might help make a difference too.
David already had a melody, borrowed from a song he’d been working on, and he had a title, “Tears Are Not Enough”, which had been provided by Paul Hyde and Bob Rock. It was nearly twenty years later (2004) when I finally heard the story behind the “title”:
Paul and Bob had been in the studio with Foster on the day that Quincy Jones called. Several weeks earlier they’d written a song called “Tears Are Not Enough”, and after the call from Quincy they played their song for David, thinking it might be suitable for the Famine Relief recording. “So, what do you think?” they asked, when they’d finished presenting the song. “Nice title”, David replied.
The next morning (Friday, February 1, 1985) David arrived at my home studio. He played me his melody on the piano. It was a pretty ballad with an interesting, circular chord progression. He also mentioned Paul and Bob’s title, “Tears Are Not Enough”, which I thought was excellent.
With the melody and the title we had enough to get started, so began recording the track right away. Using his Emulator synthesizer David laid down a piano, followed by a Moog bass, then a bell sound. I added drums and percussion. An hour or two later we had a “basic track” (it was only intended to be a quick “demo” recording, but it worked so well we ended up using it for the final recording).
Then we started working on the lyrics:
We can close the distance
Only we can make the difference
Don’t you know that tears are not enough
It was a good start, but David had to rush away for a session with The Payolas, promising to return the following day. I continued work on the lyrics while my wife Rachel [Paiement] wrote a few lines in French — after all, it was a Canadian song for Africa!
The next day Bryan Adams arrived from Los Angeles and hurried over to help. He looked at the lyrics I’d written so far and immediately suggested an improvement. “How about ‘we can BRIDGE the distance’?”, he said. It was perfect, and with that we were off and running.
We finished the lyric later that evening, then Bryan and Rachel recorded the vocals. The demo was completed at 4:00 a.m. the next morning.
Meanwhile, David enlisted Bryan’s manager Bruce Allen to help assemble a roster of performers. Bruce was well-connected in the music industry, and in quick succession Joni Mitchell and Neil Young agreed to participate. Then Kim Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot. Burton Cummings came on board, and so did Geddy Lee and Corey Hart.
Comedians John Candy and Catherine O’Hara offered their services, along with legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson and David Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer. Dan Hill, Jane Sibbery, Sylvia Tyson, Robert Charlebois … the list of participants grew by the hour.
I suggested we record the vocals at Manta Studios [in Toronto], where I’d recorded Bryan Adams’ first album (and also Barney Bentall, Lisa Dal Bello and Cano). The room was big enough to accommodate a large group, and I also knew that veteran engineer Hayward Parrott could handle the complex task of recording 30 soloists … plus a chorus of 50!
Michael Godin (A&M Records) contacted Manta owner Andy Hermant, who generously donated the studio. On Saturday (February 9, 1985) we flew to Toronto to prepare for the mammoth recording session planned for the following day.
During the flight we reviewed the lyric sheet and the list of artists and determined who would sing which line. We decided the song should begin with Canadian legend Gordon Lightfoot (“As everyday goes by …”), then move to Burton Cummings (“How can we close our eyes …”), then to Anne Murray, Joni Mitchell, and so on.
The session took place on Sunday, February 10, 1985. It was a bitter cold day, but hundreds of fans gathered outside Manta to watch the “stars” arrive. Gordon Lightfoot drove himself to the studio in a pick-up truck. Neil Young and Joni Mitchell arrived by taxi. Platinum Blonde arrived in a white stretch limo.
Just as Quincy Jones had done in Los Angeles, Foster taped a poster in the studio lobby that said, “Leave your egos at the door”. Everyone gave 200 percent, and at the end of the day we had the makings of a magical record.
One of the funniest moments happened during Neil Young’s performance. He’d sung his line once or twice already, but Foster still wasn’t happy and asked Neil to try again. When Neil asked why, David told him he was out of tune. “That’s my style, man”, Neil shot back.
For me, one of the highlights was sitting on the studio floor a few feet from Joni Mitchell while she carved graceful lines in the air with her hands as she sang. Another special moment was meeting Richard Manuel, singer and pianist for “The Band”. In fact, Joni Mitchell and “The Band” are two of my biggest musical influences. I was in “fan heaven”, meeting them and hearing them sing lyrics I’d written!
After completing the vocal session in Toronto, David and I returned to Vancouver and booked time at Pinewood Studios and Little Mountain Sound where more instruments were added to the track, including Loverboy’s Doug Johnson and Paul Dean, who contributed keyboards and guitar. Steven Denroche, a member of the Vancouver Symphony, was called in to play French Horn…
One important Canadian artist unable to attend the Toronto recording session was Bruce Cockburn, who was performing in Germany at the time. Cockburn ‘s manager, Bernie Finkelstein, wondered if there wasn’t a way Bruce could record his vocal at a studio in Germany and have it edited into the finished product at a later date. It was a nice idea, but to meet our deadline Bruce’s contribution would have to be filmed and recorded sometime in the next 48 hours. In a moment of weakness I volunteered to fly to Germany!
The good news is, Air Canada provided a free ticket. The bad news is, there were no direct fights — so I had to fly from Vancouver to Toronto, Toronto to London, London to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt to Hamburg … a 44-hour round-trip. I arrived in Hamburg just in time to catch Bruce’s performance at a club on Tuesday evening. I met him backstage, for the first time, after the show.
I’d brought a cassette tape of the song, which Bruce hadn’t heard yet. But before I could even play the tape, Bruce dropped a bomb. He said he hadn’t yet decided if he wanted to participate in the project!
Bernie had neglected to tell me that Bruce hadn’t made up his mind yet — and I’d just spent 22 hours on a #$&@ airplane! In my sleep-deprived, jet-lagged stupor my first reaction was to reach across the table and grab Bruce by the throat with both hands. Instead, I used every ounce of diplomacy I could muster. I told Bruce how magical the session in Toronto had been … how it was truly a special project, and that everyone was looking forward to his involvement, which was true!
Bruce eventually came around, and he agreed to meet me at a Hamburg recording studio the following morning. It took less than an hour to complete Bruce’s audio and video recording, then it was back to the airport for the 22-hour return flight to Vancouver (via Frankfurt, London and Toronto).
I met one of the film people at the airport in Toronto during my two-hour lay-over, and I handed him the Cockburn footage to edit into the video. After spending a much-needed night in my own bed in Vancouver, I flew to Los Angeles the next morning to deliver Bruce’s audio track. Foster and his assistant Chris Earthy met me at the airport, and we rushed over to Kenny Roger’s “Lion’s Share” studio where Cockburn’s vocal was edited into the audio mix that engineer Humberto Gatica had nearly completed.
“Tears Are Not Enough” reached #1 on the Canadian charts and helped raise more than $3-million for African Famine Relief.
Lyrics and Vocalists
As every day goes by, how can we close our eyes (Gordon Lightfoot)
Until we open up our hearts (Burton Cummings)
We can learn to share and show how much we care (Anne Murray)
Right from the moment that we start (Joni Mitchell)
Seems like overnight, we see the world in a different light (Dan Hill)
Somehow our innocence is lost (Neil Young)
How can we look away, ’cause every single day (Bryan Adams)
We’ve got to help at any cost (Liberty Silver and Loverboy’s Mike Reno)
Chorus (sung by the nine singers above):
We can bridge the distance
Only we can make the difference
Don’t ya know that tears are not enough
If we can pull together
We could change the world forever
Heaven knows that tears are not enough
It’s up to me and you to make the dream come true (Carroll Baker, Ronnie Hawkins, and Murray McLauchlan)
It’s time to take our message everywhere (Corey Hart)
C’est l’amour qui nous rassemble
d’ici a l’autre bout du monde (Véronique Béliveau, Robert Charlebois, and Claude Dubois)
Let’s show them Canada still cares (Bruce Cockburn)
You know that we’ll be there (Rush’s Geddy Lee)
(Chorus – all 18 singers above)
And if we could try (Bryan Adams and Don Gerrard)
Together you and I (All 44 Singers)
Maybe we could understand the reasons why (Zappacosta and Dalbello)
If we take a stand (Rough Trade’s Carole Pope and The Payola$ Paul Hyde)
Every woman, child and man (Salome Bey, Platinum Blonde’s Mark Holmes, and The Parachute Club’s Lorraine Segato)
We can make it work for God’s sake lend a hand (Loverboy’s Mike Reno)
(Chorus – all the above singers plus Paul Anka, Liona Boyd, actor John Candy, Tom Cochrane, Tommy Hunter, Martha Johnson (M+M), actor Eugene Levy, pop pianist Frank Mills, Kim Mitchell, jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, David Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer, Jane Siberry, Sylvia Tyson (Ian & Sylvia), dj Barry Harris, actress Catherine O’Hara, and Wayne St. John)
The “Tears Are Not Enough” project was one of the finest moments in Canadian music history.
Les Yeux de la Faim
It didn’t receive much attention outside of Quebec but Francophone artists banded together to record an additional charity single for African famine relief. Celine Dion, Rene & Nathalie Simard and others lent their voices to the beautiful “Les Yeux de la Faim“.
In the early 80s, dance music became less popular in the English-speaking world. It was to be reborn several years later. Punk rock whose appeal was confined for the most part to the United Kingdom morphed into new wave. The synthesizer, Bob Moog’s 1963 invention, had made appearances in rock throughout the 70s, but a number of British artists began experimenting with using the synthesizer as the lead and sometimes only instrument. This new electronic rock helped spawn a second British Invasion. Arguably, with acts like Images in Vogue, Strange Advance, Rational Youth, Blue Peter, Moev, The Spoons, and Rough Trade, Canada was more keen on developing synthesizer-driven pop than the United States. The most popular new wave act was perhaps Vancouver-based The Payola$.
With the new styles in music, radio was friendlier to some artists than to others. The so-called underground music scene became exceptionally popular as did college radio which picked up the slack. In order to help promote and recognize more experimental music, the CASBY awards were established in 1981 to honour excellence in independent or “alternative” music and artists.
Guitar-oriented new wave group Corbeau was somewhat successful in Québec. When it disbanded in 1984, female singer Marjo embarked on a solo career. Québec never grew tired of dance music. With the new interest in synthesizers, electronics were added to the genre care of acts like Trans X and the hugely successful Men Without Hats. English Canada experimented with dancier new wave and came up with male/female combo outfits like The Parachute Club and Martha and the Muffins, which later became known as M+M.
After new wave, the second most popular genre in the early 80s, which did not receive as much radio airplay, was heavy metal. A few artists in Canada dabbled in this, like Helix, Toronto, and Chilliwack spin-off The Headpins, and some combined electronics with hard rock, like Aldo Nova and supergroup Loverboy.
Curiously, a backlash against this new-fangled music emerged in parallel. A number of groups performing more traditional blues rose to prominence, the most notable of which were The Powder Blues Band, Doug and the Slugs, and a cappella group The Nylons. Medicine Hat (Alberta) risqué country band Showdown debuted in 1980 and Montréal fusion-jazz outfit UZEB in 1981. Scottish import Eric Robertson, a composer, pianist and organist scored a multi-platinum album entitled Magic Melodies.
A number of acts did not deviate from straight-forward pop: The Kings, Teenage Head, Straight Lines, Sheriff, and Red Rider (whom we’ll feature later in conjunction with front man Tom Cochrane’s solo career). But it was primarily the solo artists who performed mainstream pop and a few of them were to become the biggest names in Canadian music history.
Diane Tell (who also performed with aforementioned UZEB), Véronique Béliveau, and Martine Saint-Clair made headways in French Canada. René‘s little sister Nathalie Simard became a child star in the early 80s. In 1983, Céline Dion emerged and blew everyone in the province away. We’ll talk about her later when she achieved international superstardom.
In English Canada, debuts from women were notably absent during this period. For the men, however, it was a very different story. From Montréal, an English singer who liked to wear sunglasses at night released a sleeper hit album in 1983. No one knew just how popular he was to become by the middle of the decade. His name was Corey Hart. An ex-Sweeney Todd Vancouverite singer got some attention with his “Let Me Take You Dancing” in 1979. But, frustrated with his lack of big success, he teamed up with songwriter Jim Vallance, changed his singing style from smooth to gravelly, and released Cuts Like a Knife in early 1983. For Bryan Adams all hell broke loose, and he captivated the nation eventually becoming the most successful Canadian artist of all-time. The biggest male name in French songs was perhaps Manitoba-born Daniel Lavoie. Although he started out in the 70s, his popularity skyrocketed in the early 80s, and he garnered a few Félix Awards. In 1998, he teamed up with two other singers and released the third best-selling single of all time in France.
The best-selling albums during the period were those from Anne Murray, Loverboy, Ginette Reno, and the aforementioned Eric Robertson. Another big-seller was the novelty comedy record Bob & Doug McKenzie‘s Great White North responsible for a couple of hit songs, including the Geddy Lee (Rush) led “Take Off”.
It is also worth noting that, outside of Québec, which had a very productive year, significant Canadian music was practically non-existent in 1984. Sherry Kean scored a Top 20 hit with “I Want You Back” and Italy-born Zappacosta became known in some circles with his debut release. But no Canadian song made the weekly Top 10 in the RPM charts throughout the entire year. Furthermore, no Canadian song made the year-end CHUM chart, and the Juno Awards were delayed. What happened in 1985, however, was to more than make up for it.
With the ever-increasing popularity of music videos, Canada launched a national channel called MuchMusic at the end of August in 1984. Although criticized for focussing too much on music from and that appealed to Torontonians (where the station was based), and showcasing too much American-style black and Spanish music, it enabled a number of Canadian artists to gain exposure and make breakthroughs. Two years later, a French language version was aired called MusiquePlus.
MuchMusic was also criticized for airing too many movies, game and reality shows when most people tuned in to see the MVs. The channel responded to all the criticism by launching MuchMoreMusic in 1998 which played more MVs and music that appealed more to adult Canadians.
Eventually, MuchMusic replaced CBC’s Good Rockin’ Tonite which was broadcast from Vancouver.
Coming up, we’ll provide a list of significant Canadian songs in the early 80s, followed by a special feature on Bob & Doug McKenzie’s The Great White North album, and then mini-profiles on semi-major acts Martha and the Muffins, The Parachute Club, Martine St-Clair, and Toronto, and finally individual profiles on major artists Men Without Hats, The Payola$, Loverboy, Diane Tell, Véronique Béliveau, Corey Hart, Daniel Lavoie, and Bryan Adams.