François Cousineau, composer, pianist, accompanist, arranger, producer, conductor (born 10 May 1942 in Montréal, QC). François Cousineau has been a prominent figure in the Québec music scene for more than four decades. A highly versatile artist, his work spans various musical genres and mediums, including musical theatre, film and television, and popular music. He has written songs for many of Québec’s biggest stars, such as Clémence Desrochers, Robert Charlebois, Céline Dion and Ginette Reno. His collaborations with lyricist Luc Plamondon for singer Diane Dufresne are credited with transforming the sound of the Québec chanson in the 1970s. He has won a Félix and multiple SOCAN Awards, and was made a Knight of the National Order of Québec.
Education and Early Career
The brother of Jean Cousineau and Luc Cousineau, François Cousineau began studying piano at age five.He completed a music degree at the École Vincent-d'Indy in 1961.While studying law in the early 1960s, he accompanied young chansonniers to pay for his studies. His first song, “La robe de soie,” was composed for Clémence Desrochers. After Pauline Julien noticed him during a presentation of silent films, he became her accompanist for seven years, travelling with her to France, the former USSR, and the Festivals in Sopot (Poland) and Cuba. He arranged many of her songs and composed “Le temps des vivants,” “Le voyage à Miami” and “Un gars pour moi,” among many others for her.
In 1966, the year he passed the Québec Bar, Marcel Dubé commissioned Cousineau to write the incidental music for the plays Pauvre amour and Les beaux dimanches. Cousineau has since participated in numerous Radio-Canada programs, including Jeunesse oblige (1967), Zoom (1968, 1969 and 1970), Place aux femmes (1970) and Studio 11 (1971). He also became known in France for the program Champs Élysées (1980). He composed the music for the program Prévert, rose ou bleu (1979), produced for the International Year of the Child, which won a Clio award in New York.
He wrote two musical comedies with Louis-Georges Carrier — Crackpot (1970) and Mascarade (1971) — and also provided music for eight feature films, including Denis Héroux’s L'Initiation (1970) and L'Amour humain (1970). The single for the theme song from L’Initiation, “Un jour il viendra mon amour,” written withMarcel Lefebvre, sold more than 100,000 copies. Cousineau composed the music for the musical comedy Les Girls for Clémence Desrochers, through whom he met the young, then little-known singer Diane Dufresne. With the lyricist Luc Plamondon, he composed dozens of songs for her, some of which have become classics, such as “J'ai rencontré l'homme de ma vie,” “En écoutant Elton John,” “Pars pas sans me dire bye-bye” and “Chanson pour Elvis.” Using the blues, jazz, or rock, this “daemonic trio” transformed the sound of the Québec chanson of the 1970s.
Aside from his arrangements, Cousineau composed more than 200 songs for Robert Charlebois, Renée Claude, Céline Dion, Georges Dor, Claude Dubois, Louise Forestier, Daniel Lavoie, Pierre Létourneau, Danielle Oderra, Ginette Reno, Martine St-Clair, Fabienne Thibeault and others. He was also arranger, conductor and producer of the program Chantez-nous la paix (1987) with Daniel Lavoie, Jean Lapointe, Ginette Reno, Yvon Deschamps, the Bolshoi dancers and the Red Army Chorus.
In 1984, he composed “Ohé Ohé,” the theme song for the 450th anniversary of the arrival of Jacques Cartier in Canada; and in 1985, he conducted the orchestra during the famous “Shamrock Summit” between Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and US President Ronald Regan in Québec City. Over the course of his career he also composed more than 500 advertising jingles. His first solo album, François Cousineau (1999), won the 2000 Félix Award for Instrumental Album of the Year.
A strong advocate of copyright in Canada, Cousineau was a founding member of the Professional Society of Authors and Composers of Québec (SPACQ) and the founding president of the Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada (SODRAC). He also served as president of the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) from 1994 to 1996, and vice-president of the Music Promotion Foundation of Toronto.
Honours and Significance
Cousineau’s most notable quality as both a composer and musician is his impressive versatility. As Nathalie Petrowski wrote in Le Devoir in 1979, “Cousineau is the type of musician of whom it is said that he can play anything. His musical vocabulary makes him a real walking encyclopedia, passing in two beats three movements, from jazz to boogie, from classic to contemporary.”
In 2003, Cousineau was awarded the National Francophone Award from SOCAN for his body of work; and in 2005, the Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec (SPACQ) created the annual François Cousineau Award to honour the career of notable Québec songwriters. In 2011, Cousineau was named a Knight of the National Order of Quebec.
Best Musical Theme in a Canadian Film (L’Initiation), Gala Méritas (1970)
SOCAN Classics Award (“Pars pas sans m’dire bye bye”), SOCAN (1994)
SOCAN Classics Award (“J’ai rencontré l’homme de mavie”), SOCAN (1994)
SOCAN Classics Award (“En écoutant Elton John”), SOCAN (1994)
SOCAN Classics Award (“Les hauts et les bas d’une hôtesse de l’air”), SOCAN (1995)
SOCAN Classics Award (“Chanson pour Elvis”), SOCAN (1995)
SOCAN Classics Award (“Partir pour Acapulco”), SOCAN (1995)
SOCAN Classics Award (“Sur la même longueur d’ondes”), SOCAN (1999)
Instrumental Album of the Year (François Cousineau), Félix Awards (2000)
National Francophone Award for Lifetime Acheivement, SOCAN (2003)
SOCAN Classics Award (“Conversation téléphonique”), SOCAN (2003)
André-Gagnon Award for Lifetime Achievement, SPACQ (2009)
SOCAN Classics Award (“T’es belle, ” co-auteur Jean-Pierre Ferland), SOCAN (2010)
Knight, National Order of Québec (2011)
SOCAN Classics Award (“Un Jour il viendra mon amour”), SOCAN (2012)