Jim Corcoran (pseudonym of James Corcoran), singer-songwriter, guitarist (born 10 February 1949 in Sherbrooke, Québec). Deftly handling the French language, this anglophone lyricist enjoys playing with words and their sounds.
Education and Early Career
Jim Corcoran, an English-speaking Quebecer of Irish descent, first studied at a Boston seminary. He returned to Québec in the fall of 1970 and enrolled at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, obtaining a B.A. in philosophy in 1973. Throughout his studies, sometimes performing in Sherbrooke cafés and bars, he developed a show inspired by Leonard Cohen’s first three albums. During this time, he was introduced to fellow musician Bertrand Gosselin. The pair took the stage for the first time at a poetry night at the Cégep de Sherbrooke.
Jim et Bertrand
In the early 1970s, traditional songs enjoyed a surge in popularity. It was against this backdrop that, in 1972, Corcoran and Gosselin created Jim et Bertrand, a folk duo known for the sober style and musicality of its compositions. From 1973 to 1979, Jim et Bertrand recorded five albums: Jim Corcoran et Bertrand Gosselin (1973), Île d’entrée (1975), La tête en gigue (1977), Le meilleur de Jim Corcoran et Bertrand Gosselin (1978) and À l’abri de la tempête (1979). The duo gained popularity with the hit “Welcome Soleil,” off the album La tête en gigue, which won Best Folk Album in 1978 at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. In 1982, the album was certified gold (with 50,000 copies sold) by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (now Music Canada).
The pair separated after the release of their last album, and Corcoran rejoined the group Lennox (made up of Charlie Cover, Jean-Guy Robert, Dave Lapp and Bruce Jackson). In 1981, after a brief stint with Lennox, a few trips to Europe and various shows in Sherbrooke bars, Corcoran released his first solo album, Têtu. It won a Félix Award for Folk Album of the Year. In 1983, at the Festival de Spa in Belgium, he met Carl Marsh, who went on to produce Corcoran’s second solo album, Plaisirs, recorded in Memphis, Tennessee. It was in this American music hub that Corcoran also recorded — in another collaboration with Marsh — Miss Kalabash (1986), accompanied by the American group The Memphis Horns.
In 1984, Corcoran participated in the Festival de Spa, where “J’ai fait mon chemin seul” won the award for Best Francophone Song. He took part in the Asilah Festival in Morocco in 1987. His album entitled simply Corcoran (1989) revealed a versatile artist who had nevertheless often been described as marginal and anachronistic. At least five tracks from the album, including “Ton amour est trop lourd” and “Je me tutoie,” were made into music videos. Corcoran’s involvement in this new music medium began in 1986, with the music video “En chair et en os (Djeddy Duvah),” which featured stop motion animation.
In 1990, Corcoran was part of the original cast of Nelligan, a romantic opera created by André Gagnon and Michel Tremblay. He played David Nelligan, father of the famed and tragic Montréal poet. That same year, he performed at the Paris Olympia and took part in the FrancoFolies de Montréal.
After Zola à vélo in 1994, he released Portraits (1996), a compilation celebrating his 25 years as an artist and featuring acoustic-guitar versions of some of his best-known songs, such as “Perdus dans le même décor,” “Fallait s’y attendre,” and “C’est pour ça que je t’aime.” The album earned him a second Félix Award for Folk Album of the Year. Corcoran then remained relatively quiet until the release of his next album in 2000. Entre tout et moi blends acoustic pieces with those that have more of a pop-rock sound. Stand-out titles include “On aurait dit l’amour,” “Madame Poupart” (about the adventures of a transsexual) and “L’aube tarde” (about the disappearance of Canadian sailor Gerry Roufs).
In 2005, Corcoran released his eighth solo album, entitled Pages blanches. Three of the tracks were recorded with members of the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, but most feature only one or two guitars. The album won the Juno Award for Francophone Album of the Year at the 2006 gala.
Throughout the years, Corcoran collaborated on writing lyrics for the music of three Cirque du Soleil shows: Quidam (which has been touring since 1996), KÀ (which has been performed since 2004 at the Las Vegas MGM Grand), and Wintuk (which was a seasonal show at Madison Square Gardens in New York from 2007 to 2011). The song “Let Me Fall,” written with Benoît Jutras for Quidam, was popularized by American singer Josh Groban.
Since 2009, both in the recording studio and on stage, Jim Corcoran has been involved in the project 12 hommes rapaillés, in which male artists (including Michel Rivard, Richard Séguin, Daniel Lavoie, Yann Perrault and Vincent Vallières) pay musical tribute to poet Gaston Miron. The first edition of the performance premiered at the FrancoFolies de Montréal in the summer of 2009. The second, on the bill since 2011, won the Félix Award for Best Show in 2012. The two volumes of 12 hommes rapaillés, in which Miron’s poems are set to music by Gilles Bélanger under the musical direction of Louis-Jean Cormier, have sold 70,000 copies. The second volume, which includes Corcoran singing the poem “Sentant la glaise,” won the Félix Award for Folk Album of the Year in 2011. Three years later, the album Symphonie rapaillée (2014) was released. Recorded with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Blair Thomson, who also arranged the music, the album reimagines 13 titles from the first two volumes, including “Mon bel amour,” sung by Corcoran.
Corcoran has also collaborated with young artists. In 2007, he adapted Chris De Burgh’s hit “Lonely Sky” into French (“Loin de moi”) for Marie-Élain Thibert’s album Comme ça. In 2012, he co-wrote lyrics for “Chanson pour Dan,” on the album Aux alentours, with Marie-Pierre Arthur. This project earned him a nomination at the ADISQ gala that year in the category of Author or Composer of the Year. In 2010, four of his songs won the SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) Classic Award, which honours songs that have been played 25,000 times on Canadian radio.
Since 1988, Corcoran has been the host of the CBC radio show “À propos,” devoted to Québecois music and chanson. The show celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2013.
Félix Award, Folk Album of the Year (Têtu), ADISQ (1981)
Best French Song (“J’ai fait mon chemin seul”), Festival de Spa, Belgium (1984)
CIEL-Raymond Lévesque Award (1987)
Félix Award, Singer-songwriter of the Year (Corcoran), ADISQ (1990)
Félix Award, Folk Album of the Year (Portraits), ADISQ (1996)
SOCAN Classic Award (“C’est pour ça que je t’aime,” “J’ai la tête en gigue,” “Ton amour est trop lourd,” “Je vais changer le monde”), SOCAN (2010)
With Bertrand Gosselin
Jim Corcoran et Bertrand Gosselin (1973). Disques Zodiaque ZOX-6010 [republished in 1978: Disques Total DT-22012].
Île d’Entrée (1975). Disques Total, SAGE 1.
La tête en gigue (1977). Kébec-Disc KD-921 [republished in 1999: Audiogram ADCD-10124].
Le meilleur de Jim Corcoran et Bertrand Gosselin (1978). Disques Total, DT-22026.
À l’abri de la tempête (1979). Kébec-Disc KDL-965.
Têtu (1981). Kébec-Disc KD-506.
Plaisirs (1983). Kébec-Disc KD-595.
Miss Kalabash (1986). Audiogram AD-10-002 and ADCD-10-002.
Corcoran (1989). Audiogram AD-10-035.
Zola à vélo (1994). Audiogram ADCD-10077.
Portraits (1996). Audiogram ADCD-10091.
Entre tout et moi (2000). Audiogram ADCD-10133.
Pages blanches (2005). Audiogram ADCD-10180.