Montreal-based singer-songwriter Marie-Pierre Arthur is the latest to perform a song for the Hall of Fame’s Covered Classics series. The songstress takes on Si j’avais un char (in English, the title translates as “If I Had a Car”) written by Stephen Faulkner and Sylvie Choquette, and most familiar to fans as a cut from Stephen Faulkner’s 1978 debut solo album Cassonade. The song is the first of 2017 to be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
A classic country song known throughout Québec, “Si j’avais un char” explores the notion of freedom through the simple dream of owning a car. Featuring the country twang of a slide guitar, and the back-up vocals of co-composer Sylvie Choquette, “Si j’avais un char” lies firmly in the Québec country music tradition of Willie Lamothe, Tex Lecor, and Lucille Starr. Recorded under Faulkner’s pseudonym Cassonade, the song launched his career as a singer-songwriter. It peaked at No. 7 and charted for 25 weeks, six of which were in the Top 30; it has also made the list of longest-charting hits in Québec.
“I’ve always alternated between writing country songs and rock. Country swings; it allows you to write lyrics that are more meaningful than in a rock song,” Faulkner told Montréal newspaper The Gazette in 1994. The lyrics to “Si j’avais un char” portray a character that audiences easily identify with: A young man, flat broke, who yearns for the freedom of having wheels.
Faulkner has performed the song at Montreal’s FrancoFolies and other music festivals, and it appears on the 2003 St-Tite, Quebec Western Festival album, as well as the compilation album 75 ans, 75 chansons. It has pride of place in the 2011 film documentary on Faulkner, J’m’en va r’viendre. Faulkner later wrote a follow-up song, “Du gaz dans mon char” (“Gas in my car”). “Si j’avais un char” has been recorded by Génération V.I.P., The Cloverland Band, Antoine Gratton, and Dominic Sylvain, and was even sung in Italian by Marco Calliari as “Se avessi una vespa.”
A collaboration between the CSHF and CBC/Radio-Canada, Covered Classics invites our nation’s finest musical talent to perform their version of a classic song to celebrate its induction into the Hall of Fame. For more 2016 Covered Classics sessions, click here.
In the video below, watch Marie-Pierre Arthur cover “Si j’avais un char.”