Quebec Singer-Songwriter Jean-Pierre Ferland Dies at 89

Photo: Hussein Abdallah via Flickr

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Apr 29, 2024

Jean-Pierre Ferland — the decorated Quebec singer-songwriter who released over 30 albums in a career of over six decades — has died. The agency representing the artist confirmed to The Canadian Press that Ferland passed away Saturday (April 27) of natural causes after being hospitalized earlier this year. He was 89.

Born in Montreal in 1934, Ferland wrote poetry and sang when not working as an accountant, and scheduling clerk for Radio-Canada. He would release his debut album Jean-Pierre in 1959, and following the release of 1961 follow-up Rendez-vous à La Coda, Ferland would continue writing music and recording albums in Europe, including a five-year stay in Paris.

In 1968, Ferland immortalized his hometown with "Je reviens chez nous." Written on Christmas Day, 1968, he shared of the piece [via the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame], "I wrote the words and the music in a 16th Arrondissement hotel in Paris thinking about Montreal. I was homesick. You don't write a song like this without a reason." It earned Ferland an Académie Charles Cros award in 1968.

Ferland would return to Quebec come the end of the decade to craft his most enduring full-length in 1970's Jaune. Notably, Ferland was joined by session star guitarist David Spinozza and bassist Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel). French singer Charlotte Gainsbourg would cover the album's "Le Chat du café des artistes" on her 2009 album IRM. In 2018, Jaune was awarded the Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize for 1960–1975, as voted by a jury.

Outside his recording career, Ferland was also an actor, writer and television host of several popular Quebec programs. Despite a 2006 stroke leading him to announce his retirement, he continued performing and recording until 2021.

Ferland is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Knight of the National Order of Quebec. He was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007.

Calling Ferland "a giant of francophone music," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote, "He wrote and sang songs which will forever be a part of Quebec culture. We will miss him greatly."

Premier François Legault called Ferland an architect of Quebec songwriting, sharing that the province would move to organize a state funeral for the artist should his family accept.

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