Joseph Pierre Claude Gauthier, singer, songwriter and actor (born 31 January 1939 in Lac-Saguay, Québec). Having made his début in the chanson world, he has had a successful career in both Québec and French-speaking Europe. A talented actor, he has also worked on some 20 films and television series.
Training and Early Career
Born in a land of pioneers to a father (Almazor Gauthier) who was a High Mass precentor and to a mother (Antonia Bélisle) who was a musician in her spare time, Claude Gauthier grew up surrounded by music. He left his native Hautes-Laurentides and moved to Montréal in 1954. That year, he wrote his first songs and took diction courses from Madame Jean-Louis Audet (Yvonne Duckett). His career began in 1959 when he won first prize in the Les étoiles de demain contest at CKVL radio station (in Verdun) with “Le soleil brillera demain.” He also began singing in the boîtes à chansons that were emerging at the time. In 1961, he recorded his first LP, Claude Gauthier chante Claude Gauthier, which included “Ton nom” and “Le grand six pieds.” The latter earned him the Grand prix du disque canadien from Montréal’s CKAC radio station (1961).
From Boîtes à chansons to 1960s Boom
In the 1960s, the young troubadour appeared throughout Québec and beyond. He took part in the Mariposa Folk Festival in Ontario and was invited to New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall in 1964, where he shared the stage withBuffy Sainte-Marie. The two co-wrote the hit song “T’es pas une autre” (“Until It’s Time For You To Go”), later covered by Michèle Richard, Pierre Lalonde and Renée Claude in French and by Elvis Presley and Neil Diamond in English. The following year, Gamma released 10 of Gauthier’s new songs, including “Geneviève,” which he sang in the film Entre la mer et l’eau douce (1967), directed by Michel Brault and written by Denys Arcand. His role opposite Geneviève Bujold marked his film début. In 1966-1967, he appeared in Guy Dufresne’s soap opera Septième nord on Radio-Canada.
In 1967, he sang with Gilles Vigneault, Pauline Julien and Clémence Desrochers at the Vive le Québec show at the Paris Olympia. He had been at the Olympia the previous year with Monique Leyrac, Les Jérolas (see Jean Lapointe) and Les Feux-Follets for the Pleins feux sur le Canada event. That same year, he and Louise Forestier performed at the Terre des Hommes Expo Theatre for Expo 67 (see also Music at Expo 67) and toured Canada for Centennial Year.
In 1969, Gauthier was awarded a Festival du disque award for his LP Cerfs-volants. In 1970, another tour took him to New Brunswick and into Québec colleges. In 1972, he represented Canada in Spa, Belgium, at the Festival international de la Francophonie and recorded an album, Le plus beau voyage, in France. A book by the same title and that contained the lyrics to 71 of his songs was published in Montréal in 1975.
Gauthier abandoned live shows for two years (1973–74) to pursue film. He acted in three movies: Les Ordres (Michel Brault), Partis pour la gloire (Clément Perron) and La piastre (Alain Chartrand), for which he also wrote the theme song “Les beaux instants,” included on his LP by the same name (1975). He returned to singing in October 1975 to a full house at the Outremont Theatre in Montréal. After a show at Théâtre Le Patriote, in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, journalist Johanne Mercier wrote that he still possessed “the facility and the poetry for singing of his roots, his wife, his childhood, his land, his life” (Montréal-Matin, 21 April 1976).
In 1977, he took part in the Grand gala de la chanson francophone de Strasbourg in France. He subsequently became a kind of cultural ambassador for Québec: in 1981, he toured Maisons de la culture in France and Belgium; in 1982, he was a guest artist at the inauguration of the Maison du Québec in Mexico; and in 1983, he was a guest artist at painter Jean Paul Riopelle’s retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, Venezuela (see Délégations du Québec).
From the mid-1980s onward, Claude Gauthier appeared on screen more frequently than on stage. He did make occasional concert appearances, participating in the “Trois fois chantera” tour with Claude Léveillée and Pierre Létourneau in 1985 and the Festival de la chanson québécoise in Saint-Malo, France, in 1989. He acted in François Labonté’s Henri (1986), Gilles Carle’s La Guêpe and Louise Carré’s Qui a tiré sur nos histoires d’amour? In 1988, he starred opposite Geneviève Bujold once again, in Michel Brault’s L’emprise.
In the early 1990s, Gauthier had roles in numerous TV movies, including Robert Ménard’s L’homme de rêve (1990) and Jean-Pierre Gariépy’s Le Violon d’Arthur (1991). He also appeared in Sylvie Payette’s popular soap opera Chambres en ville on TVA, as well as in François Labonté’s television series Bombardier (1991) and Les Bâtisseurs d’eau (1997). He returned to making music in 1991 and released his tenth album, Planète cœur, which included the song “Il était une fois, Félix,” a tribute to Félix Leclerc. It had been seven years since his last album was released.
Return to Singing and Narration
In 1993, Gauthier performed a series of shows in Montréal and Québec City, debuting new songs, including some from the album L’Agenda (released that December), and touring the area. In 1997, he performed at a Les FrancoFolies de Montréal show. The following year, he released the album Jardins, produced by Daniel Lavoie, and a previously unheard live recording from 1962, entitled Au temps des boîtes à chansons. In 1998, he won a Genie Award for the song “Est-ce si loin Québec?” from Jean-Pierre Lefebvre’s film Aujourd’hui ou jamais.
In 1999, he appeared on screen one last time in Michel Brault’s film Quand je serai parti... vous vivrez encore, which tells the story of theRebellion in Lower Canada in 1837–38. Starting in the mid-1990s, Gauthier narrated various film productions, such as Mireille Dansereau’s Les Marchés de Londres (1996), André Gladu’s La Conquête du grand écran (1996) and Michel Brault’s La Manic (2003). In 1981, he had narrated André Gladu’s Le dompteur de vent for the National Film Board.
Gauthier released a new album in 2001, L’homme qui passait par là, and toured the province. In subsequent years, he mainly released retrospectives of his work and re-releases, with the exception of his 2008 album Pour la suite du monde, an implicit tribute to Michel Brault. The following year, at Robert Charlebois’s invitation, he embarked on the adventure of the Il était une fois… la boîte à chansons show with Pierre Létourneau, Pierre Calvé and Jean-Guy Moreau. Despite the show’s success, he made the difficult decision in 2011 to leave the tour for health reasons. However, he returned to music in late 2012 with the album 50 ans plus loin.
Gauthier was the first French Canadian to record with Columbia (1961, 1963) — preceding Claude Léveillée, Pauline Julien, Gilles Vigneault, Pierre Calvé and Monique Leyrac — as well as with Gamma (1965, 1967, 1969, 1972) and Presqu’île (1975, 1977). He has written over 100 songs, many of which were performed by Renée Claude, Louise Forestier, Pauline Julien, Pierre Lalonde, Monique Leyrac and Michèle Richard. Among his greatest hits, other than those already mentioned, are “Marie-Noël,” “Sur la rue du Palais,” “Parlez-moi de vous” and “La tête en fleurs.”
The chansonniers of the 1960s, such as Georges Dor and Claude Gauthier, sang out on behalf of the alienated Québécois, much like the poems of Gaston Miron, who became a leading literary influence with the publication of L’homme rapaillé in 1970.
Claude Gauthier chante Claude Gauthier, 1961 (Columbia FL-284/FS-531 [V])
Claude Gauthier, 1962 (Columbia FL-295/FS-541 [V])
Claude Gauthier, 1965 (Gamma GS-101 [V])
Claude Gauthier, 1967 (Gamma GS-110 [V])
Cerfs-volants, 1969 (Gamma GS-119 [V], re-released in 2002 UBK-4143 [CD])
Le plus beau voyage, 1972 (Gamma GS-158 [V], re-released in 2002 UBK-4144 [CD])
Album-souvenir, compilation, 1975 (Alta LT-807 [V], re-released in 2002 AGEK-2365 [CD])
Les grands succès de Claude Gauthier, compilation, 1975 (Gamma GS-2-1006 [V], GC2-1006 [K7], re-released in 2002 AGEK-2364 [CD])
Les beaux instants, performed at the Outremont Theatre, 1976 (Presqu’île PE-7500 [V], Transit TRCD-9104 [CD])
Ça prend des racines, 1977 (Presqu’île PE-7506 [V])
Tendresses.o.s., 1984 (Son Hi-Fi C-184 [V])
Collection souvenir, compilation, 1988 (DMI CS-2-6104 [CD], CS-4-6104 [K7])
Collection souvenir, compilation, 1988 (DMI CS-4-6114 [K7])
Planète cœur, 1991 (Transit TRCD-9101 [CD])
L’agenda, 1993 (Transit TRCD-9105 [CD])
Québec Love : La collection, compilation, 1993 (Gamma GCD-504 [CD], re-released in 1998 Unidisc AGEK-2204 [CD])
Jardins, 1998 (GSI Musique GSIC-989 [CD])
Au temps des boîtes à chansons, recorded live in 1962, released in 1998 (Analekta AN2-7012 [CD])
L’homme qui passait par là, 2001 (GSI Musique GSIC-978 [CD]
Collection souvenir, compilation, 2002 (Gamma AGEK-2365 [CD])
Le plus beau voyage de mes chansons (1959-1972), 2003 (GSI Musique GSIC-905 [CD])
Pour la suite du monde, 2008 (GSI Musique GSIC-2-567 [CD et DVD])
50 ans plus loin, 2012 (La Tribu TRICD7328 [CD])
Honours and Awards
First Prize (“Le soleil brillera demain”), Les étoiles de demain contest at CKVL (1959)
Grand Prix du disque canadien (“Le grand six pieds”), CKAC (1962)
Festival du disque award (Cerfs-volants LP) (1969)
Médaille Jacques-Blanchet (1992)
Genie Award, Best Original Song (“Est-ce si loin Québec?” from the film Aujourd’hui ou jamais), Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television (1998)
Special Achievement Award, SOCAN (2000)
Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Pléiade, Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie (2004)
Prix Sylvain-Lelièvre, Société professionnelle des auteurs et compositeurs du Québec (2006)
See also Québec Cinema.