Chansonniers

Chansonniers, singer-songwriters of Québec active after WWII, particularly during the 1960s. Their songs served a common social ideal and shared a style characterized by simplicity and intimacy favouring poetic expression. The predecessors of this movement include La BOLDUC, often cited as Québec's first chansonnière, but Félix LECLERC and Raymond LÉVESQUE were in fact its true originators. Leclerc prepared the way for this popular vogue of the solitary singer who usually accompanied her or himself on the guitar.

In 1959 Jacques Blanchet, Clémence Desrochers, Jean-Pierre FERLAND, Claude LÉVEILLÉE, Raymond Lévesque and others formed an informal collective of chansonniers called Les Bozos, which led to the emergence of the chansonnier as a dominant force in Québec music during the 1960s, with such names as Hervé Brousseau, Pierre Calvé, Georges Dor, Claude Gauthier, Jacqueline Lemay, Pierre Létourneau, Monique Miville-Deschênes and Gilles VIGNEAULT, in addition to those already cited. With this movement coincided the founding of the boîtes à chansons, intimate spaces in which the chansonniers traditionally performed and which soon sprang up everywhere in Québec.

The chansonniers became the spokespersons for a young generation eager for community and liberation in the wake of Québec's Quiet Revolution and its vast movement of economic and cultural emancipation. The role of the chansonniers became essential to social evolution and gradually assumed a collective meaning: that of presenting the spirit of one's native environment in song.

Around the end of the decade came the realization that the boîtes à chansons and the old chords repeated over and over were no longer sufficient. The opening of large concert halls and the requirements of the recording industry had impacts on the second generation of chansonniers, and a new breed of singer-songwriter thus emerged during the 1970s, led predominantly by Robert CHARLEBOIS. He was the first to use the electric guitar and to sing with a group. Claude Dubois, Jacques Michel and many others followed. Thereafter, though remaining firmly anchored in Québec culture, the Québec chanson welcomed more diverse influences and acquired a more international style.