Tuesday, October 01, 2013

On Roch Voisine

When I was a teen, one of the only ways I could fall asleep easily was to listen to the radio. In the summer, I'd fade away to Rodger Brulotte's epic Montreal Expos broadcasts on CKAC 730, but when the Expos weren't playing, or during the rest of the year, I would switch from AM to FM and listen to CKAC's sister station, Cité Rock-Détente, an adult soft rock station that played both French and English songs.

It was Cité that introduced me to Quebec greats like Beau Dommage and Eric Lapointe, as well as French-from-France classics by Charles Aznavour and Michel Sardou. It's also on these airwaves that I fell in love with Roch Voisine.

My first encounter with Roch Voisine took place in Grade 2, when the teachers at the francophone private school I was attending decided that we would sing Roch's "La Berceuse du petit diable" for our school concert. The lyrics were a little complex at times for an 8-year old, but the melody was enchanting. Even now, when the music starts and Roch sings, "Mickey Mouse et ton teddy bear," I'm transported back to my childhood.

The fascinating thing about Roch Voisine is that it seems that he was always slated for success. He fell into music when a baseball injury effectively ended what was to be a promising professional hockey career (I know!). And just like Celine Dion, Roch quickly became a bilingual singer, with hits in French and English. In fact, his second album, Double, was a double CD (so punny!) that included a disc with all French songs and another with all English songs.

You've probably heard "Shed A Light" or "Kissing Rain" or maybe even "Helen", the English version of Roch's first hit, "Hélène". I remember hearing "Jean Johnny Jean" and "J'entends frapper" over and over on the radio. Surprisingly, I remember not liking the song that has become my francophone favourite, "La légende d'Oochigeas." My favourite anglophone song, hands down, is "With These Eyes". I heard it recently and while I don't remember what I related it to when I was younger, it still makes me feel like cry-singing along with Roch.

Why am I going on and on about Roch Voisine? Because he's coming to town soon. This month, actually. Roch will be taking over the Kingston Grand Theatre on October 19, 2013 and I really really really hope he plays my favourite songs. Because there's nothing worse than finally getting to see your childhood idols live in concert and having them play only their modern hits.

I think one of the reasons Roch Voisine left such a mark on me is not just his clever lyrics, or his semi-husky voice, or his ability to write and sing in both French and English. I think it was his determination to keep searching for a career he could love that made me love him. And I mean that in a completely platonic way, of course! As a teen trying to find her way, finding out that someone who did so well for himself also had to struggle to find his way after his first dream ended? I was pretty impressed.

And so when Roch Voisine starts belting "Deliver Me" on October 19th, I'll be right there in the crowd singing along with him. So... Apologies in advance if you end up sitting next to me!


The Soft European said...

Roch was hugely popular in France in the 90s, but since then we haven't heard much of him. A funny thing is he was invited by French tv to comment the men's hockey Gold medal game in Vancouver in 2010. When Crosby scored in OT, he screamed and laughed like a maniac, it was quite hilarious. So I'm not a big fan of his music, but at least I have this memory of him.

Amanda said...

Love this post :)
I'm a huge fan too.. and it sounds like we're pretty close in age (I’m 29). Despite growing up in Quebec, I didn’t discover him until the “Kissing Rain” album, after I moved to Ontario. My teen years were spent singing along to that album, and then going back through his entire catalogue, and loving the older stuff too. Since then I’ve purchased all the newer albums too. Many a Christmas, my poor mom would be on a cd-search for obscure titles that were find to find in southern Ontario music stores.
My favourite songs are Kissing Rain, of course, and With These Eyes.. but so so many more.
During the late 90s/early 2000s I saw him live about 5 times... I was usually the youngest person at these shows, aside from my equally-obsessed best friend. We even met him once!
I honestly expect myself to cry during the show. I’m not even a crier.. but it’s been far too long since I’ve seen him live. I moved to Belleville back in 2004 and he came to the Empire Theatre around that time, but for some reason I didn’t attend and I’m mad that I didn’t. This is a chance to make up for that.
I’m so looking forward to this show. Also, we should be best friends. (Jk - sort of). I’ve got second row tickets and am attending with my boyfriend.. who I recently told that to know me and love me is to understand my love of Roch Voisine. This show is going to flood me with nostalgic emotion. It’s going to be intense.


Naila J. said...

Soft European, I didn't realize how popular Roch was in France, to this day! That's a pretty cool gig!

Amanda, we can totally be best friends ;) I'll see you at the show!

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