Marjo | Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame
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Marjo

Year of Induction: 2023
Origin: Montréal, Québec

A true Canadian icon, Marjo is a singer-songwriter and performer with a powerhouse voice and strong personality. Her career, studded with a series of landmark successes, exceptional lyrics and unforgettable live performances, helped shape the world of francophone rock.

Born on August 2, 1953, in Montréal, Québec, as Marjolène Morin, Marjo was immersed in music from a young age. At barely two years old, she earned 25 cents every morning singing Le p’tit cœur après 9 heures at the mechanic’s next door. Her father is her biggest fan and he even called home from work just to hear her sing. As a teenager, she began recording on a tape recorder that her father brought home. Most of the time, she sang out the open window for him to hear when working in his cabinetmaking shop.

After working as a secretary, an assistant photographer and as a stylist, she began performing on stage. She can be seen and heard on the shows Tout chaud, tout show (directed by Paul Buissonneau in 1975) and L’île en ville (1978) by François Guy.

In 1979, she joined rock group Corbeau as a performer, composer and songwriter, notably Cash -moé, after singer-songwriter Pierre Harel had left the band. Her distinctive voice and poetic yet straightforward lyrics quickly attract the attention of critics and the public, swiftly making Corbeau one of the most influential bands on Québec’s rock scene in the ’80s. Nearly everyone knows and loves her hits Illégal, Ailleurs and J’lâche pas, written and composed with Jean Millaire, who became her life partner around the time Corbeau’s second album, Fou, was released. Merging rock with elements of blues and folk, Marjo and Corbeau paved the way for a new era of Québécois rock and left a lasting impression on the francophone music scene.

After leaving Corbeau in 1984, Marjo sang in the many blues bars on Saint-Denis Street in Montréal. The following year, she co-wrote and performed the song Touch Me with Yves Laferrière and Paule Baillargeon. The number won the Genie Award for Best Original Song for the film La femme de l’hôtel, directed by Léa Pool. Simultaneously, she wrote and composed her first solo album, Celle qui va, with Jean Millaire. The album was a resounding success in Canada and France with over 200,000 copies sold. The album won the Félix Award for Rock Album of the Year and Female Artist of the Year at the 1987 ADISQ Gala. Her songs Chats sauvages, Impoésie and Doux became foundational to her discography and, in 1988, her duet with Gerry Boulet on Les yeux du cœur became an instant classic of “chanson Québécoise”.

Her second solo album Tant qu’il y aura des enfants (1990) demonstrated her ability to write and sing about social themes at a deep level, which was complemented by her impeccable performances where she imbued raw emotion in each song. Y’a des matins, À bout de ciel, Provocante and her cover of Corbeau’s hit Ailleurs were added to her growing list of chart toppers. The platinum-selling album and accompanying tour won four Félix awards in 1991.

Four years later, Marjo returned to the studio to record the album Bohémienne. She followed that with the tour Marjo chante le blues where she performed classics by Billie Holiday, Chuck Berry, Leroy Carr, and more. In 1997, during her performance at the Vieux-Clocher in Sherbrooke, she recorded Bootleg Blues.

She paused her songwriting for several years until she returned with Turquoise, in late 2005. In the summer of 2007, she took a bad fall during a performance in Jonquière and seriously injured her foot, setting her on a long rehabilitation process. Two years later, on July 2, 2009, for her return to the stage, she gave a bedazzling performance in front of an 80,000-strong audience at the Woodstock en Beauce Festival.

She then received a proposal for a new concept album featuring duets with male performers. Together with Martin Deschamps, Les Respectables, Jonathan Painchaud, Yann Perreau, Gilles Vigneault, Richard Séguin and Gregory Charles, to name but a few, she released Marjo et ses hommes Volume 1 and 2 a few months apart, in late 2009 and early 2010.

Since then, the singer has tirelessly performed on stage throughout Québec. She was also a judge on La Voix during the 2022–2023 season.

Marjo has managed her own brand and company since 2014. A free-spirited feminist without openly calling herself so, Marjo has helped a whole generation of women learn to accept and emancipate themselves. As a singer-songwriter, she has constantly sought to broaden the horizons of her art by experimenting with different genres while remaining rooted in the rock tradition. Having sold more than a million albums over her career, and with more than sixty songwriting credits under her belt—many of them hits—that have earned her 14 Félix awards, she has not only left her mark on Canadian musical history, but also paved the way for numerous artists including Anik Jean, Marie-Chantal Toupin and Marie-Mai. Her commitment to authenticity, power and emotion in music and lyrics has left a lasting legacy for generations to come.

Simply put, she embodies the spirit of rock.

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