René Simard | The Canadian Encyclopedia


René Simard

René Simard. Singer, TV show host, b Chicoutimi, Que, 28 Feb 1961. René Simard's father was a choirmaster on Île d'Orléans, where he spent his childhood. At nine René was the prize winner on the program 'Les Découvertes de Jen Roger' (CFTM-TV, Montreal).

Simard, René

René Simard. Singer, TV show host, b Chicoutimi, Que, 28 Feb 1961. René Simard's father was a choirmaster on Île d'Orléans, where he spent his childhood. At nine René was the prize winner on the program 'Les Découvertes de Jen Roger' (CFTM-TV, Montreal). This brought him to the attention of the impresario Guy Cloutier, who quickly made the boy soprano an international pop music star. With his first show at Place des Arts in 1971, the 'p'tit Simard' (famous for a pudding ad) captured the hearts of Quebec audiences, as did his first hit recordings: 'Ave Maria,' 'L'Oiseau,' and 'Un enfant comme les autres,' all for Nobel, Cloutier's production company. In 1974 he represented Canada at the International Festival of Song in Tokyo, where he won first prize for performance and the Frank Sinatra trophy, which was presented by Sinatra himself. Acclaimed in Japan and also in Paris, where he made his debut at the Olympia in 1975, Simard embarked on a career in the English-speaking world. He appeared frequently on the US TV networks, with artists such as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Liza Minnelli, and Andy Williams, and with Liberace both in Las Vegas and in 1977 on tour. That year he returned to Quebec to sing in 25 towns. He was host 1977-9 of 'The René Simard Show,' a CBC English-language TV variety series produced in Vancouver and showing a preference for a US style of performance.

René Simard passed smoothly through the voice-change period, and he maintained his popularity, the result of a carefully selected repertoire consisting of sentimental ballads such as 'Ma mère est un ange' (written by his brother Régis), disco songs, and rock melodies that easily appealed to a wide audience of all ages. Among his other major hits of that period are 'Les dimanches après-midi' (1974), 'Maman, laisse-moi sortir ce soir' (1975), 'Bébé bleu' (1975), 'Fernando' (1976), 'Bienvenue à Montréal' (theme song of the 1976 Montreal Olympics), 'Never Know the Reason Why' (1977), and 'You're My Everything' (1978). At the beginning of the 1980s, René Simard abandoned his teenage image for that of a seductive young man with more of a rock look. With his sister Nathalie Simard, he hosted two live TV programs from Disneyworld in Florida and Disneyland in California. He subsequently participated in Jerry Lewis's telethon in Las Vegas. Simard won a Félix Award in 1984 for his best-selling single, "Comment Ça Va." In 1984-5, he hosted 'R.S.V.P.' at Télé-Métropole. His record Tourne la page (1987), recorded with Nathalie, helped to confirm his change of image, earning him Félixes in 1988 for best video and best-selling single. In 1988 he hosted the CBC TV program 'Laser 33-45,' where he became a promoter of songs in the French language.

Later Recordings

René Simard's appearances in the studio became intermittent at this point; he did not record again until 1993, when he released E=MC2. Two additional albums appeared in 1996, 1971-1996 and Les Ballades. With Nathalie and Régis, he recorded two versions of Mon Village, responding to the flooding in their home town of Saguenay. Another long hiatus transpired before Simard released Hier... Encore in 2003, a recording of jazz versions of 13 French and Quebec standards, featuring guest appearances by Céline Dion and Jean-Pierre Ferland.

Acting Career

Simard appeared in the documentary films Un Enfant comme les autres (1972) and René Simard au Japon (1974) and took part in the Quebec feature film J'ai mon voyage (1974) and CFTM-TV's teleplay 'Les Berger.' As an adult, René Simard has enjoyed an extremely successful stage, television and film career. He hosted the Gala de l'ADISQ for 1991-2 and the television show Qu'est-ce qui fait courir Dramis Ener? in 1992. After studying dramatic arts in Toronto in 1993, he earned the lead in the Andrew Lloyd Webber show Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but the production was suspended. In 1996, he starred with Judith Bérand in Jeanne-la-Pucelle at Place des Arts, following this up with the lead role in the Toronto production of The Phantom of the Opera in 1999. Additional credits include hosting a morning radio show, the summer 2001 production of Cyclone with various French and Quebec comedians, the annual Génération Motown musical at Théâtre Capitole, and the 2004 production of Dalida, une vie. He also earned the lead role in a television soap opera, Les Parfaits, during 2001-2.

Assessing Simard's popularity, Patrick Conlon wrote: 'Simard's impish onstage exuberance appeals particularly to young girls (who want to marry him) and older women (who want to mother him)... He works the audience to the limit, strutting and grinning across the stage (Maclean's, 3 Nov 1975). After his second engagement at Place des Arts Linda Nantel wrote in Photo-Journal (19 Dec 1977) that 'his superior talent and great facility of expression have made him ''great'' in every sense that word encompasses of professionalism.' Writing in the Winnipeg Free Press in June 2005, Patricia Bailey reported that René Simard has sold more records in Quebec than Elvis Presley and The Beatles.

Further Reading