Era Inducted To: Modern Era
Lyricist(s):Marc Gélinas, Gilles Richer
The moving song Mommy Daddy is well-known throughout French Canada for its beautiful lullaby-like melody, and for lyrics that address sensitive issues regarding the French language and culture in Quebec. Mommy Daddy is a bilingual dialogue song, in a minor key, usually performed at a leisurely tempo. The song describes a conversation between a child and the parents; through this device the child questions them in English about the past, and the parents reply in French. The melancholy character of the tune creates a poignant setting for a serious message.
The initial recording of Mommy Daddy was released as a 45-rpm single, produced by Franco Disques Inc. on the Trans-Canada label, in late 1971. It featured a piano introduction reminiscent of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, followed by a children’s chorus singing the child’s questions; the parents’ responses were sung as a duet by singer-actress Dominique Michel and composer Marc Gélinas. An instrumental version of the tune, featuring orchestra with piano and conducted by François Dompierre, appeared on the B side. The duet version charted for six weeks, reaching No. 10 in early 1972; from this modest initial success, Mommy Daddy became a musical symbol for a wider social movement.
In her autobiography, Dominique Michel called Mommy Daddy “a marvellous song.” She wrote that she knew Gilles Richer as the script-writer for her earlier TV show, “Moi et l’autre,” and that Richer and Gélinas co-wrote the song to be used at the end of Richer’s 1971 film script, “Tiens-toi bien après les oreilles à papa.” Gélinas was already known for the Quebec nationalist song Demain and had won several music awards. Both the instrumental and Gélinas/Michel recordings are heard on the film soundtrack (on Trans-Canada Records), and the duet was included on the Gélinas compilation album “Lorsque le Rideau Tombe” (2001) and on “Dominique Michel: 28 Chansons Souvenirs” (2007).
Pauline Julien (“la Pasionaria du Québec”), a singer known for her sovereigntist views, became closely identified with the song. She adapted the lyrics slightly to leave out the word “daddy,” and many subsequent cover versions use her adaptation. Her version, titled Mommy, may be heard on “Pauline Julien en scène” (1975), as well as on 1982’s “Charade.” She also sings it on the 1975 album “L’Automne Show” and several Julien retrospectives and compilations.
Mommy Daddy has had a wide reach, and is meaningful for French-speaking Canadians in Quebec as well as other provinces. It has been studied in schools, and its lyrics are discussed on numerous websites and blogs.
Mommy Daddy has been performed or recorded by such singers as: Lise Paiement on “Tour de trapèze;” Anne Dorval on “Elles chantent” (2000); Stephen Faulkner, with mournful pared-down instrumentation on “Train de Vie” (2006); Catherine Gentilcore; Céline Faucher; Luce Dufault on “Femmes de feu” (2013); Karine Pion on the TV show “Belle et Bum” in 2013; and by the composer’s daughter Anne-Marie Gélinas with Jacques Rochon. The song also was chosen for the 2008 compilation album “Cinéma Cinéma: Les Plus Belles Chansons du Cinéma Québécois” and “Je me souviens – coffret commémoratif de la chanson québécoise” (for the 50th anniversary of Quebec’s fleur-de-lis emblem).
Gilles Richer (1938 – 1999) went on to write another film script (“J’ai mon voyage!”), while scripting New Year’s reviews for Radio-Canada, and running a summer theatre. Soon after Mommy Daddy was released, Marc Gélinas (1937 – 2001) devoted himself to the theatre and acting. Their numerous collaborations include the TV series “Poivre et Sel” (1983 – 1987).