Jean-Pierre Ferland and linguistic seduction

Following the death of Jean-Pierre Ferland, Radio-Canada published an extract from the archives on its website⁠1 where Ferland explains the motivations which led to YELLOW. He says something surprising that we should ponder today. Why do you feel the need to make this album? Because French-speaking music needed to be renewed.

The Americans and the British were innovating, it was high time we got up to speed. At the time of Pet Sounds, Led Zeppelin III Or Strange DaysFrench-speaking music could no longer be satisfied with the melodies of Leclerc or the mischievous lyrics of Brassens: at the end of the path traced by Lindberg, it was necessary YELLOWan album which even today is measured by its quality, its breadth and its ingenuity against the other greats of the repertoire.

And after YELLOWit was the surge of Quebec musical genius: The Heptad, Great damage, Crossing, Hold on, I’m coming! So much so that at the end of the 1970s, Quebec music lovers had nothing to be ashamed of the harmonies of their country. He had nothing to envy of the music from south of the border or France.

As Ferland proudly remarked, from YELLOW, Quebec became a source of inspiration for the French, we could envisage an initiatory journey in the other direction, from France to Quebec. Emancipation was musical.

Carried by its rhythms and harmonies – I saw the wolf, the fox, the lion, 1 time 5 –, Quebec seemed to be heading towards something big. Charlebois sang Ducharme. No more excuses: through its art and its courage, Quebec seduced, it became magnetic. He asserted himself by extending the hand of culture.

The allure of power

The craze for English and America is only the latest illustration; humans have this strange habit of gravitating around power, whether it is legitimate or not. To get closer to it, we try to emulate and copy it. We adopt the style, morals and culture of the winner: we listen to Bruce Springsteen while wearing blue jeans and drinking Budweiser. Here we are listening to Taylor Swift, a Starbucks coffee in hand on the way to Sephora. Now we buy an SUV and make Costco a secular religion. We begin to speak English and blush at a culture – ours – which always seems smaller, failing, the ersatz of the “real deal”. American splendor is like another sun on the globe. It’s hard to fight against gravity. But we have others Sun (Ferland, 1971).

Some are worried about the decline of our culture, which involves a decline of our language on our territory. We are therefore announcing yet another Plan for the French language, which is yet another defense and resistance strategy. The latter contains plenty of millions of dollars which will be used, it is said, to promote our culture and “franchise newcomers” or ensure that they are predominantly French-speaking.

We are trying, once again, to erect a dike against the English-speaking and Anglophile tide. Once again we are taking the problem the wrong way. What does “speaking French” mean if it means living in English?

What good is French if its use is limited to recommending this or that American series, such and such? single of Billboard Hot 100 ? Why work to Frenchify if young French speakers themselves turn away from our culture and do not know it?

We must finally grasp, with courage and vision, the other side of the problem, the one which conceals a real solution: we must work to make French attractive and desirable. Not to constrain, but to seduce. Its learning must appear obvious to those who live in Quebec. May, like what it was in the golden age of our music, in the 1970s and 1980s, French become the sun around which our people will revolve. And besides, it was at the height of American imperialism that we were able to resist and grow best. God is an Americansang Ferland. It ain’t done. Maybe but If we got started (taken over by Hubert Lenoir)?

Help French?

So you want to help French in Quebec? Subsidize concert, theater and cinema tickets for French-speaking cultural productions, create a new annual prize for French-speaking literature with a $500,000 grant, do the same thing for cinema and theater, invest in power of attraction of our culture. These millions that you want to invest in francization, give them directly to singers, screenwriters, directors and writers.

Do not try to force individuals to love Quebec culture, but work to create the social conditions which will produce new YELLOW. Make French not the obligatory language, but the language of success and beauty, here.

Ferland knew how to sing about the love of women, he also understood, in this interview with Radio-Canada, the love of a language: make it beautiful, make it big, make it better. How can you not want to live in French after having, for the first time, heard YELLOW ? How can we remain indifferent to the fate of French Quebec after having listened Since the fall ?

1. Consult the Radio-Canada article “The unforgettable Jean-Pierre Ferland is no more”

What do you think ? Participate in the dialogue


Leave a Comment