Montréal, July 2022— The great Sylvain Lelièvre will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame by Daniel Lavoie on August 7th as part of the show “Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait de nos rêves… hommage à Sylvain Lelièvre” which will take place at the Théâtre Jean Duceppe of Place-des-arts.
Sylvain Lelièvre was born in Limoilou in 1943, in the lower part of Québec City, a neighbourhood he would later describe in his own words. Fascinated by plastic arts from an early age, he first enrolled in the School of Architecture (1961-63) but changed his field and instead chose to study literature at Laval University, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1966. It was his aunt Lucette, a pianist, who gave him his first lesson on the instrument. Carrying on as a self-taught musician, he learned a classical repertoire: Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven, etc. His passion for music was triggered by the film The Eddy Duchin Story, which he saw when he was 13, and was a reconstruction of the life of the American pianist. From that moment on, the piano would be the heart of his existence.
In 1963, at the age of 20, Lelièvre won the first prize in the Concours international de Chanson sur mesure de la Communauté radiophonique des programmes de langue française with Les amours anciennes, which was performed by the great Monique Leyrac. The next five years saw him study, but also teach, literature, and he also wrote songs, theatre and poetry for radio, notably on the weekly Radio-Canada Québec program, Porte Saint-Louis, hosted by his father Roland. In the mid-1960s, Lelièvre began performing in Québec City’s boîtes à chansons, where he met his friends Gilles Vigneault, Vic Angelillo, Clairette, Danielle Oddera, and Frank Furtado, his future agent.
In 1968, he moved to Montréal to teach literature at Collège de Maisonneuve and created Québec’s first songwriting course. He went on to publish two collections of poetry with Éditions de l’Arc: Les trottoirs discontinus, in 1969, and Les sept portes, in 1972. In 1975, he triumphed in front of a crowd of 12,000 people at the Festival de la Chant’Août in Québec. That same year, he released an LP whose title song, Petit matin, climbed the charts; Marie-Hélène (1976), Lettre de Toronto (1978), Moman est là (1979) and Venir au monde (1981), to name but a few, confirmed his immense talent as a singer-songwriter. He became the first recipient of the Jacques Blanchet Medal in 1983, whose jury underlined “the persistence in the quality of his work”.
In December 1984, accompanied by harmonica player Alain Lamontagne, Lelièvre made a great impression on the stage of the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris. In 1986, he released the album Lignes de cœur and two of its songs charted in Québec. That year also marked the beginning of his precious collaboration with Daniel Lavoie, embodied on the album Vue sur la mer with the songs Je voudrais voir New York and Que cherche-t-elle?, which they co-wrote with Thierry Séchan. At the end of the ’80s, Lelièvre released Un aller simple, a collection of songs with a social, political and environmental scope.
In addition to his involvement in the defence and promotion of copyright, Lelièvre wrote the music for the 1993 radio series Un fleuve et des gens and the lyrics for the title song of Marcel Simard’s film Les mots perdus. In 1994, Lelièvre released an important live album, Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait de nos rêves?, which foreshadowed his love of jazz by featuring his talent as a member of a trio alongside Vic Angelillo (bass, double bass) and Gérard Masse (percussions). This album went on to win the Félix Award for the Best Songwriter. In 1996, he added another achievement to his list of accomplishments by publishing the novel Le troisième orchestre (Éditions Québec Amérique), which was met with critical and public acclaim. In 1998, Lelièvre returned to the recording studio with a resolutely jazz-oriented album, Les choses inutiles, which was unanimously acclaimed by the critics and débuted in Montréal at the Corona Theatre.
On July 1, 2000, Lelièvre presented a show at the Montréal International Jazz Festival featuring songs, instrumental pieces and his favourite jazz standards. The public and critics alike were over the moon, and he took this as a sign to continue his jazz endeavours. This is how his last show, Versant Jazz, took shape, which in turn gave birth to the album Versant Jazz live au Lion d’Or, his twelfth release, which came out in February 2002 and won the Félix Award for Jazz Album of the Year.
Two months later, on April 28, 2002, Sylvain Lelièvre fell ill on a plane returning from the Magdalen Islands to Montréal. He died two days later at the age of 59, following a severe cerebral gas embolism. Since his death, he has been the object of many commemorations: a park in Québec, a playground in Mirabel, two performance halls (at Cégep Limoilou and at Collège de Maisonneuve) and three streets (Repentigny, Vaudreuil-Dorion and Rimouski) bear his name. In 2015, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame announced the induction of his henceforth classic Marie-Hélène.
In a September 1998 interview on Radio-Canada, Lelièvre said that artistic endeavours, such as writing a song, were useless: “Art only serves to create joy and happiness; in this sense, it is as useless as children’s games. . .”; yet, in its tribute published a few days after his death, the magazine Voir took exception to this: “Sylvain is one of those too rare artists who make songwriting a major and important art, a living and accessible form of poetry.”
Media contact and interviews: SIX media marketing Inc. (for the CSHF)
Source: Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame
Text: François Couture
Info : Simon Fauteux
Clip : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGwbQ-OOWow&ab_channel=%C3%89ricLeli%C3%A8vre