A larger than life character, writer, poet, playwright and songwriter, Félix Leclerc is an icon in Quebec, known to many as the originator of the “chansonnier” tradition. His original style made him a trailblazer for French-language Canadian songwriters.
Born in La Tuque, Quebec in 1914, Leclerc was the sixth of 11 children, but this did not stop him from pursuing literature studies at the University of Ottawa.
At 18, he began his academic studies at the University of Ottawa, where he wrote his first song, Notre Sentier. Forced to abandon his schooling in 1933 because of the Depression, he went to work as a farmhand at Ste-Marthe. He was to draw on this experience for several of his songs.
During the Great Depression, Leclerc left school and began his career as a radio announcer in 1934 in Quebec City. He acted in various radio shows and gained himself a spot in Les Compagnons de St-Laurent of Père Emile Legault. From 1939 to 1945, he worked as an actor on Radio-Canada’s “Vie de famille” and “Un home et son pêché.”
On December 28, 1950, he made his debut as a singer at the Théatre de l’ABC in Paris: he was an overnight sensation. Leclerc was a three-time recipient of Le Grand Prix du Disque de L’Academie Charles-Cros, the highest music award in France.
Leclerc’s songs dealt mostly with nature, dreams, solitude, love and death. His most successful works include: Le p’tit Bonheur, Moi, mes souliers, Bozo and Le train du Nord. Through his singular qualities, Leclerc became a major creative influence on George Brassens, Jacques Brel, Gilles Vigneault and Jean-Pierre Ferland, amongst many others.
Throughout his career, Leclerc received a number of honours: the Calixa Lavallée award of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste of Montreal and in 1976, he was given the Award of the Canadian Conference of the Arts. In 1977, ADISQ named its Félix trophy after him. He was inducted into the Order of Canada in 1971 and made a Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec in 1985 and a Chevalier of the French Légion d’honneur in 1986.
2018 marks the 30th anniversary of Leclerc’s death, which has been remembered throughout the French-speaking world.