Michel Rivard | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Michel Rivard

Michel Rivard. Singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, monologist, b Pointe-St-Charles (Montreal), 27 Sep 1951. The son of the actor Robert Rivard, he began his own career as a child actor in TV series and commercials.

Rivard, Michel

Michel Rivard. Singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, monologist, b Pointe-St-Charles (Montreal), 27 Sep 1951. The son of the actor Robert Rivard, he began his own career as a child actor in TV series and commercials. While studying at the UQAM, he was a writer, comedian, and musician for the theatrical groups Quenouille Bleue, established in 1970, and Théâtre Sainfoin, founded in 1973, some of whose members joined Rivard 1974-8 in Beau Dommage. Rivard wrote some 15 of Beau Dommage's songs including the celebrated 'Complainte du phoque en Alaska'. Concurrently he made his first solo LP Méfiez-vous du grand amour (1977, Cap ST-70053).

Following the demise of Beau Dommage - Rivard would participate in its reunion concerts in 1984 - he appeared in 1978 in Paris at the Gaîté-Montparnasse and, as an opening act and accompanist for Maxime Leforestier, at the Olympia. After a second LP, De Longueuil à Berlin (Cap SKAO-70067), issued in 1979, and another series of concerts in Paris, Rivard turned briefly to film and theatre, taking a variety of roles (Les Enfants de Kennedy, Maria Chapdelaine, etc) and writing film scores (eg, for André Melançon's L'Espace d'un été, and Jean-Michel Ribes's Rien ne viola plus). He played the lead in Yves Simoneau's Pourquoi M. Zolock s'intéresse-t-il tant à la bande déssinée? (1982). He joined Ligue nationale d'improvisation, (ie, theatrical improvisation) in 1980 and was one of its stars for several years.

Rivard's third LP, Sauvage (Kébec Disc KD-589), marked his return in 1983 to music, and included the popular 'Shefferville, le dernier petit train,' written for the film Le Dernier glacier (in which Rivard also acted). Among the other songs from Sauvage were 'Rumeurs sur la ville' (of which the music video, Rivard's first, won the inaugural Félix Award as videoclip of the year for 1985), 'J'ai peur, j'ai peur,' and 'Marchand de bonheur'. Tours of Quebec followed; Bonsoir... Mon nom est Michel Rivard et voici mon album double (Kébec-Disc KD-625-626) documents his concerts 1983-4 at the Spectrum in Montreal and includes several of the humorous monologues, both set pieces and improvisations, that are typically a part of a Rivard performance.

His most successful album (to 1991), Un trou dans les nuages (Audiogram AD-10009), was issued in 1987, and included the hit songs 'Ma blonde et les poissons' and 'Libérer le trésor' (1987), 'Je voudrais voir la mer,' 'Le privé,' and 'Un trou dans les nuages' (1988) and 'Blanche' (1989). The album, which sold more than 150,000 copies in Canada, brought Rivard the Grand Prix international du disque Paul-Gilson (in recognition of the quality of his lyrics) from the Académie Charles-Cros in France in 1988, and the Prix Québec/Wallonie-Bruxelles for best song album of 1989. Rivard also received Félix awards for songwriter, album, and (with Marie Bernard and Paul Pagé) production of the year in 1987 and, following concerts in Quebec and Europe, for male singer and show of the year in 1988. A CBC telecast, 'Un trou dans les nuages,' seen 31 Oct 1988, won a Genie Award in 1989 for best variety special. Rivard himself served as host for the CBC telecasts of the ADISQ Gala (Félix Awards ceremonies) in 1989 and 1990.

In 1988 Rivard also performed at the Forum in a concert for peace with Crosby, Stills and Nash (USA) and Aquarium (USSR) and appeared at the Olympic Stadium with Daniel Lavoie as Quebec's representatives in an Amnesty International concert headlined by Sting, Bruce Springsteen and others. He also appeared that year at the Bataclan in Paris and at Convocation Hall in Toronto.

Rivard re-recorded the most popular of his songs to 1989 for Michel Rivard (Audiogram AD-10034), which also included two versions of a new title, 'Coeur de ma vie,' celebrating the French language. The song was a hit in 1990. Rivard appeared that year at a triumphant St-Jean-Baptiste concert on Île Ste-Hélène with Gilles Vigneault and others. By then Rivard was spoken of as the Vigneault or Félix Leclerc of his generation - a songwriter with a rich, poetic and universal vision especially observant of the details and distress of urban life, a performer of great personal warmth and magnetism, and, beyond music, an articulate, if moderate, spokesman for Quebec's nationalist aspirations. The fact that his 'Complainte du phoque en Alaska' was one of the few songs recorded by Leclerc not written by Leclerc has been interpreted as the older man's way of identifying Rivard as his 'spiritual son'.

'Complainte du phoque en Alaska' has also been recorded by Nuance and, translated into Spanish as 'Tricheco in Alaska,' by Roberto Medile. Other Rivard songs or lyrics have been recorded by Johanne Blouin, Gerry Boulet, and Offenbach. Rivard has also written scores or songs for the films Le Soleil se lève en retard (1976) by André Brassard and Michel Tremblay, Jacques et Novembre (1985) and Les Matins infidèles (1989) by Jean Beaudry and François Bouvier, Bach et Bottine (1986) by André Melançon, and Marie s'en va-t-en ville (1987) by Marquise Lepage. He has recorded as a guitarist or singer with Marie-Michèle Desrosiers, Alain Lamontagne, Maxime Leforestier, Paul Piché, and others.

Lyrics and music for 10 of his songs were published in the folio Michel Rivard (Chant de mon pays 1989), which also includes a short biography. A detailed Rivard discography to 1985 appears in Chansons d'aujourd'hui (Jul-Aug 1985).

Further Reading