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50 years of great research

Part 2: Quebec music scene, a bit of history

For an extensive history of the evolution of music in the province of Québec, you can refer to this article of the Canadian Encyclopedia. But here are some of the great artists who have shaped Quebec's music scene.


La Bolduc (1894-1941)

Mary Rose-Anne Bolduc, born Travers, (1894-1941) was a musician and singer of French Canadian music. She was known as “Madame Bolduc” or “La Bolduc and is often considered to be Quebec's first singer-songwriter. Her style combined the traditional folk music of Ireland and Quebec, usually in upbeat, comedic songs. Her music relied heavily upon the harmonica and the fiddle, and her singing often featured “turlutte”, wordless variations on certain phonetic connections, which derives from Irish and Scottish musical traditions. During the peak of her popularity in the 1930s, she was known as the Queen of Canadian Folk Singers. The song “Ça va venir découragez-vous pas » (loose translation “It will come, don’t be discouraged”) was written and published in the context of the Great Depression of the 1930s in Canada. The message is to keep hope alive, and the chorus has a part of “turlutte”. 

Félix Leclerc (1914-1988)

Félix Leclerc was a French-Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, novelist, playwright, actor, broadcaster. He was a revolutionary artist whose work in several fields marked a turning point in Quebec culture. He greatly influenced the course of the Québec chanson and paved the way for the popular chansonnier movement and was a pioneer who opened the way for the concept of “songs with content”, and in fact gave legitimacy to this way of singing which would become so popular in France, in Québec and all across French Canada. A vocal proponent of Quebec nationalism, he helped galvanize the collective identity of the people of Quebec. His song “Le p’tit bonheur” (l.t. “A Small Delight”), first sung by him in 1948 and recorded in 1951, is one of his best-known songs. It is a cheerful music telling a sad story, a song that incites us to enjoy all the happiness knowing the impermanence of things.

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

Leonard Cohen was a poet, novelist, singer, songwriter born in Montreal. He was one of the most iconic Canadian artists of the 20th century. A sage, mystic, bohemian and romantic, he built an acclaimed body of literary work and a revered career in pop music. In his poetry, novels and music, he constantly probed the human condition, exploring themes of love, loss, death and his commitment to his art. As a poetic and unlikely pop star, his narrow-ranged, gruff voice, which deepened and darkened with age, and his reliance on simple, singsong melodies were complimented by the intense imagery and depth of his lyrics. His song “Hallelujah”, released in 1984 and since then covered extensively by artists from around the world, including Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright and Alexandra Burke, has become his “signature song” and a hymn. But his vast discography, which spams from 1967 to 2016, is full of gems to discover, as “Famous Blue Raincoat” released in 1971 and filmed here in 2013 in London.

The 1970s: The emergence of chansonnier rock and cult groups 

Robert Charlebois

The mixing of styles became more deliberate in the 1970s. Quebec and French-Canadian musicians in that decade and later employed a hybrid artistic approach, and the influence of rock and psychedelic music on the chansonniers was more noticeable, especially with the success of Robert Charlebois. Here is a performance or “California” and "Lindberg", with Louise Forestier. 


The 1970s was also the decade of cult groups in Quebec. In 1974, the group Harmonium recorded an eponymous album of popular songs that were accessible and artistically researched, a mix of pop and progressive rock that brought the band popularity in English Canada, the US, and Europe. Here is a live performance of “Comme un fou”, filmed in 1976.

Beau Dommage

Also in 1970 the group Beau Dommage achieved success in Quebec and France in the 1970s. Their musical style included rich vocal harmonies and elements borrowed from folk and country music. Here is their “Le Blues d’la métropole”, released in 1975 but filmed live in 1976.

Céline Dion

Céline Dion (born in 1968 in Charlemagne, Quebec) is a singer renowned for her powerful, technically skilled vocals, and is one of the best-selling artists of all time. Her career started at an early age in the 1980s, after her brother sent a recording to René Angélil, who became her first and only manager. She achieved worldwide fame and scored a series of international number-one hits, singing in French and English. She is credited for introducing francophone music to many non-francophone countries around the globe and is viewed in Quebec as a representative on the world stage. Her album D'eux, released in 1995 and mainly written and produced by Jean-Jacques Goldman, became the best-selling French album in history. The song “Pour que tu m’aimes encore” is one of the signature songs of this Québec beloved child.

Jean Leloup

Jean Leclerc, a.k.a. Jean Leloup, is a singer-songwriter and novelist born in 1961 in Québec City. Leloup’s talent and genius first made him a hit with young francophones in the 1990s, and ever since, he has continued to develop his art and captivate French-speaking audiences. Regarded as an anticonformist artist, he has projected an eccentric persona and gone by many names, but despite his extravagance, Leloup has proven an authentic, complex individual and remains a relevant artist much appreciated of the public after decades of creation. Here he is in 1991 with his song “Cookie”, one of his early hits.

This playlist, made by Michel Després from IAPS, is a sample of Québec traditional reels and "Rigodon".

Jazz music scene​

There is a great history of jazz in Montreal.

Here is a glimpse of the most renowned events and musicians of the metropole. 

Montreal International Jazz Festival, established in 1980, is one of Canada's largest music festival, and one of the leading jazz events in the world.

Oscar Peterson (1925-2007) was a Montreal native jazz pianist, composer and educator. He is one of Canada’s most honoured musicians, and widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. He was renowned for his remarkable speed and dexterity, meticulous and ornate technique, and dazzling, swinging style. Here he is in 1985 with guitarist Joe Pass and bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, with whom he had won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance by a Group.

Oliver Jones is a pianist, organist, composer, arranger and educator, born in 1934 in Montréal. A musical prodigy, Oliver Jones made jazz a way of life. Performing on the world’s top stages, he became, in a sense, a musical ambassador for Québec. Here he is in 2004 at the Montreal International Jazz Festival 2004, with Dave Young (bass) and

Norm Marshall Villeneuve (drums) with the well known standard “Over the Rainbow”.




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