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Jean-Pierre Ferland

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Biography

Jean-Pierre Ferland is one of the great singer/songwriter Quebec has produced, second only to Félix Leclerc and Gilles Vigneault. First a singer/songwriter in the French tradition of Léo Ferré and Georges Moustaki, he turned to art pop/rock in the early '70s, releasing his most-acclaimed albums (Jaune, 1970; Soleil, 1971). His inspiration watered down in the late '70s, so he turned to television work. After some time out of the spotlight, he came back to music in the mid -'90s, releasing the career-crowning Écoute Pas Ça in 1995 and enjoying a renewed relationship with a wider public ever since. Ferland was the first Quebec singer/songwriter to sing about the woman as a source of eroticism (leaving the housewife prototype behind).

Ferland (born June 24, 1934) worked as an accountant before joining the news service of the Société Radio Canada (the French-Canadian public radio/television) in 1956. At that time he started taking guitar lessons and writing songs. Two years later, he quit his job and recorded his first sides. In May 1959, together with a group of other songwriters, he opened Chez Bozo, the first folk cabaret in Montreal. It became an important venue, attracting French singers, and was instrumental in establishing his standing.

Between 1959 and 1969, Ferland released nine LPs of songs in the style of French chanson. Some of them were recorded in Paris, as early on Ferland enjoyed an important following there. His ease on-stage, crooner attitude, and occasionally a bit naughty lyrics endeared him to the press. His eighth record, eponymous, contained the song "Je Reviens Chez Nous," one of the classics of the French-speaking world. Yet, something was wrong. A youngster, Robert Charlebois, who had started as a folk singer and admitted being at first inspired by Ferland, had just broke free and turned into a psychedelic rocker. Not willing to go to the extremes the widely costumed, surrealistic-speaking Charlebois was exploring, Ferland still wanted to update his sound to please a younger generation looking in the direction of San Francisco. In late 1970, he released Jaune, a brilliant art rock album that redefined the Quebec recording industry; it is Quebec's own Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The same year he sang at the World Fair in Osaka, Japan.

After a couple of rockier albums and a live LP in the mid-'70s, plus an appearance at the concert 1 Fois 5 (with Charlebois, Vigneault, Claude Léveillé, and Yvon Deschamps), Ferland's output started to slow down. His early-'80s attempts to follow the latest music trends yielded a couple of hits but were artistically awful, the 1984 Androgyne hitting an all-time low. He gradually focused on his career as a TV personality, hosting a number of popular variety shows including Station Soleil (1981-1987).

He came back with Bleu Blanc Blues in 1992. It was met with skepticism, although it re-established him as an entertainer. Critical acclaim had to wait for the 1995 Écoute Pas Ça, an enormous artistic and commercial success. Ferland toured for the next four years with the acoustic quartet that recorded this album. ~ François Couture, Rovi

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