Quebec singer Jean-Pierre Ferland dead at 89

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Quebec singer-songwriter Jean-Pierre Ferland has died at the age of 89, leaving behind a vast musical legacy.

Born and raised in Montreal’s Plateau Mont-Royal borough, Ferland wrote over 450 songs and released some 30 albums.

His career began in the announcers’ office at Radio-Canada, where he was a scheduling clerk in the late 1950s. In his spare time, he wrote poems and sang.

In 1961, Ferland first won a singing contest on the Chansons sur mesure TV show. A year later, his song Feuilles de gui won the grand prize at the Gala international de la chanson in Brussels.

At the time, Montreal songwriters were struggling to make themselves heard.

Ferland and some colleagues opened a club, Chez Bozo, on Crescent Street in 1959 where French and Quebec singers could get their big break.

In the early 1960s, like many singer-songwriters in Quebec, he moved to Paris where he stayed for five years and wrote several hits.

In 1968, he wrote Je reviens chez nous, which won him the Prix de l’Académie Charles-Cros.

Both the song and its author were inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007, along with Ton visage, Le petit roi, Un peu plus haut, un peu plus loin, and his famous duet with Ginette Reno T’es mon amour, t’es ma maîtresse.

Je reviens chez nous brought Ferland back to Quebec, where he wrote his magnum opus, Jaune. French singer Charlotte Gainsbourg covered one of the songs from the album in 2009.

Four men and one woman pose for a group picture
Claude Léveillée, Jacques Blanchet, Clémence DesRochers, Hervé Brousseau and Jean-Pierre Ferland on Oct. 16, 1961. (Henri Paul/Radio-Canada)

In 2018, Jaune received the Polaris Heritage Award for artistic merit. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, writing on X, described Ferland as a “giant” of francophone music.

“He wrote and sang songs that will be a part of Quebec culture forever,” Trudeau wrote. “He will be dearly missed.”

Quebec Premier François Legault described Ferland as a “great builder of Quebec-French song,” adding that he’d listened to Jaune on repeat.

During the 1980s, Ferland went back to his roots in broadcast, with Station soleil on Télé-Québec and L’autobus du showbusiness on Radio-Canada, but kept releasing albums.

The artist was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1996 and a Knight of the National Order of Quebec in 2003.

In 2006, while rehearsing for a final show at the Bell Centre, he suffered a minor stroke. Ferland nevertheless completed his tour a few months later, the first of many farewells he would make to his public.

He released a few more albums in the years that followed and became a coach for the French iteration of The Voice in 2013.

In 2015, he celebrated his 80th birthday with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. 

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