The deep creative and musical friendship between Gérald Leblanc, Roland Gauvin and Pierre Robichaud—the main creative forces behind 1755’s repertoire, began in the ’70s.
It was during a house party that Roland Gauvin and Pierre Robichaud ended up playing music alongside a dozen people… in the bathroom! Gauvin was jamming with another musician and when his peer took a short break, Pierre grabbed his guitar and started playing with Roland. “Sparks were flying when we started playing together in that bathroom!” Robichaud remembers fondly. “Our voices harmonized so well—Roland is quite the signer! A great chemistry quickly happened between us.”
By January 1977, feeling their repertoire was solid enough, 1755 played Chris Rock Tavern, Moncton’s most staunchly Loyalist establishment, where they’d be bullied and physically threatened for singing in French. . . “People were waiting for us in the parking lot after the show to give us a hard time. Luckily, after two or three nights, those Anglos understood we weren’t a threat and that our music was universal,” Roland Gauvin told Le Devoir on August 14, 2009.
With its lively folk, country and rock-tinged songs about the daily reality of French-speaking New Brunswickers in their own language, 1755 triggered an awareness of the Francophone identity in the Maritimes. “1755 contributed greatly to the reinvention of Acadian identity by constructing a narrative that reflected the contemporary reality of Acadians and by renegotiating what was considered ‘Acadian’ music. Thus, Acadian consumers placed an ideological importance on this music, which they perceived not as commercial music per se, but rather as a symbol of their cultural emancipation,” argues Sylvie Leblanc in her dissertation, “The World We Know: The Music of 1755 and the Construction of Acadian Identity.”
One day, Robichaud and Gauvin asked the late great Acadian poet Gérald Leblanc, whose work they had discovered in college, to send them some of his poems so that they could set them to music. Leblanc agreed and sent them several poems—the rest is history: “I’m sitting in my living room reading this poem titled Le monde a bien changé. I spontaneously had this melodic line come to me: Le monde a bien changé, changé, changé! Roland and I burst out laughing, which was a good sign! As far as I remember, I think we actually wrote two more songs that afternoon!”
“The 1755 adventure gained so much momentum at breakneck speed! We went from a barroom band to selling out New Brunswick’s biggest arenas! We were playing six nights a week and we rehearsed Monday to Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. We had to write a lot of songs in a very short period of time—we’d write it during the day and test it in front of an audience the same night. If the reaction wasn’t great, we’d just drop it and move on,” Pierre Robichaud reminisces.
Le monde a bien changé is the story of a man who changes his life for the better thanks to the love of the woman he met. “But it’s not so much the world around him that changes but the way he looks at it through the prism of love,” says Pierre Robichaud. And since it’s at its core a love song, the singer-songwriter drew inspiration for the chord progression from some of the great hits of the early 1960s, including Wayne Cochran’s Last Kiss.
The creative dynamic that existed between Gérald Leblanc, Roland Gauvin and Pierre Robichaud gave birth to nearly half of 1755’s repertoire, many songs being among the band’s most popular and memorable.
Gérald Leblanc, a native of Bouctouche, New Brunswick, died on May 30, 2005, at the age of 59. He was a prolific poet, author and lyricist who greatly influenced Acadian cultural life. In addition to 1755, groups and artists such as Idée du Nord and Marie-Jo Thério have performed his songs. “As a writer, he has published some fifteen collections of poetry and has also contributed to plays, translations, radio scripts and anthologies. His unapologetic poetry asserts the presence of Acadie in the modern world and within the Francophonie as a unique and cosmopolitan culture, an approach that, one might say, echoes that of 1755 and its modern fusion of 70s rock and Acadian folklore,” Sarah Brideau writes in her book L’Œuvre de Gérald Leblanc, Le Groupe 1755 Ltée, Les Chansons du groupe 1755.
Even today, 45 years after its creation, when 1755 performs Le monde a bien changé on stage, audiences spanning four generations know its words by heart. Isn’t it what great songs are supposed to do, ultimately?