Vigneault apparently wrote Gens du pays after the singer Louise Forestier and the comedian Yvon Deschamps challenged him to write a song to supplant Happy Birthday. In rapid order, the new song was part of all family, social and political events in Quebec. When the casket of former Quebec premier René Lévesque was carried out of the church where his funeral had just been held, the crowd waiting outside spontaneously broke into Gens du pays, which is linked to the Quebec sovereignty option and has become a rallying cry. It is Quebec’s unofficial national anthem.
According to René Lévesque, Gens du pays remains “the most beautiful Quebec song in the minds of all Quebecers.”