A figurehead of Quebec music, Jean-Pierre Ferland became one of the pillars of a new songwriting style in Quebec, one that struck a balance between poetry and contemporary sound.
Jean-Pierre Ferland was born in Montreal on June 24, 1934. After graduating from École des Hautes Études Commerciales, he worked as an accountant before joining Société Radio-Canada’s news service. He began writing songs with the intention of ‘being popular with the girls,’ and made his first television appearance on January 5, 1957, on À la romance. Encouraged by his newsroom colleagues, Ferland recorded four songs in February 1958, with London Records, including Marie-Ange la douce, Le Chasseur de baleine, L’amure est morte and Tristesse et guitar, and soon after quit his job to concentrate on songwriting.
On May 14, 1959, along with Claude Léveillée, Hervé Brousseau, Clémence DesRochers, Raymond Lévesque and pianist André Gagnon, Ferland opened Chez Bozo, one of Quebec’s first ‘boîtes à chanson,’ which became the meeting place for local and foreign artists in Montreal. The same year, Ferland recorded his first album and returned to Société Radio-Canada, this time as a composer for television.
Released in the fall of 1961, Ferland’s second album, which contains the song Ton Visage, brought him wider public recognition. That same year, he hosted the television show Visite aux chansonniers with his pianist, Paul De Margerie.
Following a tour of the Maritimes as part of Canada’s Centennial Celebrations, the songwriter released his eighth album, which contained the hit song Je reviens chez nous, still one of the most successful French songs of all time. At this point, Ferland decided to make a major shift, influenced by the renewal that was taking place in Quebec in 1968, with Robert Charlebois as a major influence, leading most chansonniers and folk singers to a more electric approach.
Ferland’s love for popular music and his strength of character carried him through a period of soul-searching, and after several months of studio work with Michel Robidoux, producer André Perry and his technical team, he finally released, in the fall of 1970, what would become one of the most influential works in Quebec’s musical history, the album Jaune. As with the Beatles’ recently released Abbey Road album, one full side of Jaune was made up of songs bound together. This album was followed a year later by the equally complex double album Soleil. Needless to say, ’Jay-Pee,’ as he is affectionately known, had successfully completed his creative rebirth, and became one of the pillars of a new songwriting style in Quebec, one that struck a balance between poetry and contemporary sound, bringing to an end the polarization that had existed on the music scene throughout the previous decade.
In 1976, Jean-Pierre Ferland participated in an event that would once again acquire epic proportions within the history of Quebec music – the collective show Une fois cinq, where he shared the stage with other major stars such as Robert Charlebois, Gilles Vigneault, Claude Léveillée and Yvon Deschamps. The event was immortalized on the Une fois cinq album, which received the Grand Prize of the French Charles Cros Academy the following year.
In 1989, Jean-Pierre Ferland joined creative forces with Paul Baillargeon to write Gala, a musical comedy extravaganza about Salvador Dali. He continued to write songs for artists such as Céline Dion, Catherine Lara, Ginette Reno, Claude Dubois and Nathalie Simard.
A figurehead of Quebec music, Jean-Pierre Ferland has received two major tributes from his peers over the years, the first one in February 2004 on the album Ferland – Le petit roi and, the following year, for the 35th anniversary of the release of his legendary Jaune album in 1970, the release of a special box-set entitled Jaune – 35 ans édition spéciale, containing five different versions of the original album’s content – original, digital remix, DVD audio 5.1, stereo and Jaune 2005.