Education and Early Career
Lynda Lemay began to seriously pursue her development as a musician after studying humanities at the Sainte-Foy CEGEP. In 1988, she took first place in the Québec en chanson competition organized by radio station CHOI-FM in Québec City. The following year, at the age of 22, she won first prize in the singer-songwriter category at the International Granby Song Festival, beating out Nelson Minville.
A few months later, while playing mainly in the Québec City area, she met with managers at Productions Lied and signed a contract with international firm Warner Music Group. In October 1990, she released her first album, Nos rêves, which includes “L’abri” and “La veilleuse,” two songs that helped her win the Granby song competition.
From Y to Lynda Lemay Live
Lynda Lemay made her mark on Québec’s musical landscape with her second album, titled Y (1994), which sold over 200,000 copies and, in March 1998, was certified double platinum. Tracks such as “Jamais fidèle,” “Drôle de mine,” “L’œil magique” and “Le plus fort, c’est mon père” were hugely popular with audiences.
In 1996, she took part in the Tremplin de la chanson des Hauts-de-Seine festival in France, where she won the General Council’s Special Prize and the People’s Choice Award. During a tribute to Charles Trenet at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July of the same year, she was talent-spotted by Charles Aznavour, who was impressed by her ballads and decided to take her under his wing at Éditions Raoul Breton. The singer’s third album, simply titled Lynda Lemay (1998), was recorded in France. It took only a few weeks to sell more than 50,000 copies and the album was certified gold in Canada. Lemay repeated her success the following year with Lynda Lemay Live, which garnered platinum certification in France after topping the sales charts. The live album also marked the beginning of a successful career in Europe’s French-speaking countries.
Between Du coq à l’âme and Feutres et pastels
In 2000, Lynda Lemay released the album Du coq à l’âme, produced by keyboardist Claude Lemay in collaboration with bassist Alain Caron, formerly a member of jazz-fusion group UZEB. She then embarked on a year-long tour that took her to France, Belgium and Switzerland, including six sold-out shows at the Olympia in Paris.
Lemay released another live album, Les lettres rouges, in 2002. A few short weeks after it appeared in Québec and France, the album was certified gold in Canada and platinum in France (300,000 copies sold), and made a good showing in Switzerland. Lemay also won Female Artist of the Year at the Victoires de la musique in Paris in 2003. In Canada, she was nominated for several Juno Awards (1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002) in different categories ranging from Francophone Album of the Year to Best-Selling Album and Female Artist of the Year.
In November 2003, Lemay came out with Les secrets des oiseaux (certified platinum in France), followed closely by Un paradis quelque part in February 2005. Meanwhile, she appeared in Un éternel hiver, a folk opera she wrote and performed alongside Fabiola Toupin, Manon Brunet, Daniel Jean and Yvan Pedneault. In 2006, she was back with her 10th album, Ma signature (certified platinum in France), made with American producer Michael Weisinger, who is also her husband. In April 2007, she marked her 40th birthday with her 40th appearance at the Olympia in Paris. The concert was filmed and released as a DVD titled Lynda Lemay 40/40.
From 2008 to 2013, Lemay released three albums (Allô, c’est moi, Blessée and Feutres et pastels) in addition to the Best of compilation that includes a few previously unreleased tracks. She also contributed to the debut album and early success of Québec artist Maxime Landry as the songwriter behind “Cache-cache,” which was a real breakthrough and became the most played French-language song on Canadian radio. Lemay was rewarded with a Félix Award for Song of the Year in 2010 and a SOCAN award in 2011. In the fall of 2015, she set off on an all-new Québec and European tour, Décibels et des silences.
Success Throughout the French-speaking World
Over the years, Lynda Lemay has carved out a substantial place for herself on the music scene in Québec and French-speaking countries in Europe. She has also become a regular at Switzerland’s Festival Pully Lavaux à l’heure du Québec, which also hosts performances by Mario Brassard, the singer-songwriter whose career influenced Lemay’s early days in Québec City.
The Portneuf native has sold over four million albums in her career, combining a cappella with the two-four rhythm of popular ballads and rather clever harmonies on the keyboards and saxophone. She uses slightly refined language to parody married life and housework, updating female discourse in light of the new realities and issues relevant to the lives of liberated women. Lemay covers a wide range of topics with astonishing lucidity: a snoring husband, a fit of jealousy and an affair (recounted hilariously in “Les souliers verts”), euthanasia, solitude (“Les filles seules”) and even relations between the Québécois and the French (“Les maudits Français”).
See also Chanson in Québec.
Honours and Awards
First Prize, Singer-Songwriter, International Granby Song Festival (1989)
General Council’s Special Prize and People’s Choice Award, Tremplin de la chanson des Hauts-de-Seine (1996)
Félix Award, Most Successful Québec Artist Outside Québec, ADISQ (2000)
Female Artist of the Year, Victoires de la musique (2003)
Prix Montfort for enhancing the influence of the Francophonie internationally, Government of Canada (2004)
Knight of the Ordre de la Pléiade, Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie (2010)
Prix Robert-Charlebois, Société professionnelle des auteurs et compositeurs du Québec (SPACQ) (2010)
Félix Award, Song of the Year (Cache-cache, performed by Maxime Landry), ADISQ (2010)
Most Performed Francophone Song in Québec (Cache-cache,performed by Maxime Landry), SOCAN (2011)
Knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Government of France (2012)