Was on my way to work and flipping radio channels in the car. Suddenly hearing Richard Séguin’s “Journée d’Amérique”:
Couldn’t believe it. Pivotal song from a pivotal album of the same title, from the 1980s. Getting into Richard Séguin originally via his duo work with his sister, as Séguin, and thereafter with Serge Fiori as Fiori-Séguin. There was a period of time in the 1970s and 1980s, when there was a particular openness among Canadian anglophones (I am one, despite my surname–another story) to francophone music. This was the time of CANO, the most successful Franco-Ontarian band in Canadian history, originally from Sturgeon Falls, Ontario:
Richard Séguin was particularly important during this period and afterwords. Two albums in particular, Journée D’Amérique and Double Vie seemed to create these incredible, universal moods. In Journée d’Amérique, and in particular in the song “L’ange vagabond”, he reminded us that Jack Kerouac was a francophone whose Quebec family settled in Lowell, Massachusetts, but who maintained their Quebec roots. Séguin wrote about visiting Lowell, where his only English words on the album were “on the road again”, after On The Road, the name of the novel that made Kerouac’s literary career.
When Journée d’Amérique came out, in 1988, there was a freshness and a particularly unique lens through which Richard Séguin saw things. I once saw a documentary on him, reflecting on so much more that he had done, and so much more with which I was not familiar. Unlike Céline Dion or Michel Pagliaro, Séguin has never recorded, to the best of my knowledge, in English, in pursuit of crossover success.
I was hearing Richard Séguin on Capitale Rock, an Outaouais radio station, crossing the Ottawa and Gatineau markets. Caused me to wonder about all the people who perhaps haven’t heard Richard Séguin on the basis that it is only French stations in Canada that will mix English and French music, while English stations seem to almost entirely avoid mixing the two official languages of the country. Even with someone as internationally popular as Céline Dion, it means that many, if not most, anglophones, are not familiar with her showstopping performance, much earlier in her career, as recorded in the Live à Paris concert film. Or so many of her superb songs in French, including one that will rip anyone to pieces, “Pour que tu m’aimes encore” (So that you will love me again). Fortunately, she includes it in her concerts before anglophone audiences:
In my view, an appreciation of Canadian music requires that one hear more French music on English radio. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Richard Séguin. Neither had I.
Postscript, July 1, 2011: Don’t know where the balance is. Watching the Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill, and the first hour of performances, in front of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is almost entirely in French, in my impression. This doesn’t seem right, either.
Postscript, July 5, 2011: It appears that I’m not the only one with concerns about the Canada Day performances, judging from this article and related comments. Most of the concerns are not explicitly referenced to the positioning of the acts, but rather to the general quality of the acts.