Covered Classics: “Marie-Hélène” by Alexandre Désilets

Iconic song by Quebec’s Sylvain Lelièvre inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and honoured with tribute performance

 

Photo of Alexandre Désilets

Photo credit: Mathieu Lavoie

The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) today announced the induction of 70’s jazz song Marie-Hélène, written and originally recorded by Quebec singer-songwriter, author and poet Sylvain Lelièvre. The song’s induction is celebrated with an electric-pop rendition performed by singer-songwriter and SOCAN member Alexandre Désilets as part of the Hall of Fame’s Covered Classics series.
 

Marie-Hélène
Written by Sylvain Lelièvre
Performed by Alexandre Désilets

Marie-Hélène helped launch the career of Sylvain Lelièvre, the Félix Award-winning songwriter adored throughout Quebec and France for his skill with the French language. Although Lelièvre was already known for his earlier hit Petit Matin, his 1976 album “Programme double” and the catchy single Marie-Hélène, helped establish the composer as a future giant of Quebec songwriting.

Marie-Hélène is an intriguing character study of an “everywoman” figure starting her adult life in the big city. Lelièvre paints his appealing title character in deft, sparing strokes: Marie-Hélène is twenty, jobless, and doesn’t a lover yet; she is uncertain. Pop-culture references situate Marie-Hélène in time and place, such as references to Montreal (“rue Saint-Denis”; “en métro”), British rock band Genesis, Quebec band Harmonium (“Cinquième saison”), and The Beatles’ Let it Be.

The song’s laid-back jazz groove made Marie-Hélène a favourite of Quebec radio stations and its popularity has endured; in 2001 it earned Lelièvre a SOCAN Classic Award for 25,000 radio plays. Sadly, Lelièvre passed away suddenly the following year at the age of 59. Shortly thereafter and to commemorate the life and legacy of the late chansonnier, Quebec musicians joined together to sing Marie-Hélène and his other hits at a tribute concert.

For more information on the song ‘Marie-Hélène’

Alexandre Désilets
Gifted melodist, Alexandre Désilets creates a refined and undeniably irresistible pop. His finely crafted writing is beautifully staged and his virtuoso voice like no other, Alexandre offers a unique universe in the French musical landscape! The experience can’t be complete without the show! Accompanied by his talented musicians, Désilets maintains a balance between passion and sensitivity, sometimes worn with a calm wind, sometimes by a squall. Completely in tune with his audience, the experience is downright physical… the performer captivates!