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Music

Obituaries: Songwriter Jean-Pierre Ferland Was a Giant of Francophone Music

This week we also acknowledge the passing of Moody Blues keyboardist Mike Pinder, rapper and former Justin Bieber roommate Chris King, reggae singer Tony Tuff, and bassist Nick Daniels.

Geneviève Côté of SOCAN, Jean-Pierre Ferland, Jaune collaborator Michel Robidoux and Polaris Events Manager Claire Dagenais

Jean-Pierre Ferland receiving the Polaris Heritage Prize in 2018 alongside Geneviève Côté of SOCAN (left), Jaune collaborator Michel Robidoux and Polaris Events Manager Claire Dagenais.

Polaris Music Prize

Jean-Pierre Ferland, a celebrated Quebec lyricist, composer and singer, died on April 27, of natural causes. He was 89.

A CBC obituary notes that his vast musical legacy included 450 songs and 30 albums.


"His career began in the announcers' office at Radio-Canada, where he was a scheduling clerk in the late 1950s. In his spare time, he wrote poems and sang. In 1961, Ferland first won a singing contest on the Chansons sur mesure TV show. A year later, his song Feuilles de gui won the grand prize at the Gala international de la chanson in Brussels.

"Ferland and some colleagues opened a club, Chez Bozo, on Crescent Street in 1959 where French and Quebec singers could get their big break. In the early 1960s, like many singer-songwriters in Quebec, he moved to Paris where he stayed for five years and wrote several hits. In 1968, he wrote Je reviens chez nous, which won him the Prix de l'Académie Charles-Cros."

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Upon hisreturn to Quebec soon after, he wrote his 1970 album Jaune, considered his magnum opus. In 2018, Jaune received the Polaris Heritage Prize for artistic merit (that award is for albums from the pre-Polaris Music Prize era).

During the 1980s, Ferland returned to broadcasting, with Station soleil on Télé-Québec and L'autobus du showbusiness on Radio-Canada, but kept releasing albums. In 2006, while rehearsing for a final show at the Bell Centre in Montreal, he suffered a minor stroke, but completed his tour, the first of many farewells he would make to his public.

He became a coach for the French version of The Voice in 2013, and in 2015, he celebrated his 80th birthday with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

Ferland was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1996 and a Knight of the National Order of Quebec in 2003.

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Jean-Pierre Ferland received a dozen SOCAN Classic Awards, as well as the National Award at the 1999 SOCAN Gala, and the Cultural Impact Award at the 2023 SOCAN Gala – for his anthem, “Un peu plus haut, un peu plus loin.” In 2007, he was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame to celebrate his entire career, with such songs as "Je reviens chez nous," "Ton visage," "Le petit roi," "Un peu plus haut," "un peu plus loin," and his famous duet with Ginette Reno, "T'es mon amour, t'es ma maîtresse," all cited.

In a blog post on April 29, the CSHF stated "It is with a profound sorrow that the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame learned of the passing of the true monument of “chanson française” that was Jean-Pierre Ferland. We’re eternally grateful for the immense body of work that he bequeaths Québec, Canada, and the Francophonie at large.

"Throughout that long and fruitful career, Ferland has constantly elevated and furthered “chanson québécoise,” and for that, we’re forever thankful. The entire family of SOCAN’s talented songwriters, composers, and music publishers extends its most sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to all those who had the good fortune to work with him throughout his musical life."

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The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) posted: “Infinite gratitude for the immense œuvre which Jean-Pierre Ferland bequeaths to Quebec and Canadian society and to the entire francophone world. He carried Quebec song a bit higher and a bit farther and we are eternally grateful for this.”

The Association québécoise de l’industrie du disque (L’ADISQ) saluted the career of “a great pillar of Quebec song, who received the Félix award (an award given annually by L’ADISQ to artists working in the music and humour industry in Quebec) in 1997. May his music resonate for many years to come.”

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Major political figures were also quick to sing Ferland's praises as news of his passing spread.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, writing on X, called Ferland a "giant" of francophone music: "He wrote and sang songs that will be a part of Quebec culture forever. He will be dearly missed."

Quebec Premier François Legault described Ferland as a "great builder of Quebec-French song," adding that he'd listened to Jaune on repeat. Legault said on April 28 that the government will hold a state funeral for Ferland, if the singer's family accepts.

Bloc québécois head Yves-François Blanchet paid tribute on X: “There are very few giants of our songs and our soul,Jean-Pierre – passionate, in love with every minute and every note … who gave goose bumps to an entire people, alongside Ginette et Céline.”

Céline Dion in turn, paid homage to Ferland by saying he “had a major impact on the music industry."

Another Quebec star, Roch Voisine, posted on Facebook that he was “extremely saddened to learn of the death of one of the giants of francophone song, the incomparable Jean-Pierre Ferland … his album Jaune changed everything, as did the hundreds of songs he offered us after it. Rest in peace, Monsieur Ferland.”

International

Nick Daniels 111, a New Orleans bassist and vocalist who played with Ivan Neville in Dumpstaphunk, died on April 26, of multiple myeloma, at age 68.

NOLA.com called Daniels "a much-respected stalwart of New Orleans funk and R&B for decades, He was half of the two-bass lineup that defined Dumpstaphunk, the R&B/funk band fronted by keyboardist Ivan Neville. Over the decades, Daniels was a key member of the bands that backed the Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint and the Wild Magnolias, as well as Etta James and Boz Scaggs.

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"He was an inspiration to successive generations of musician, to whom he was always willing to offer advice, and was much beloved for his sunny, positive disposition and generosity both on- and off-stage. While he was hospitalized, Dumpstaphunk continued to perform."

In addition to the Dumpstaphunk discography, Daniels' album credits included the Neville Brothers’ 1996 release Valence Street. In 2022, he released an album called Run To Daylight under the name The Groove Krewe .

On Facebook, Toronto radio host Ron Littlejohn posted that "This one hurts. I met Nick Daniels at a Dumpstaphunk gig in Florida. Nick came on my show and shared some incredible stories. We would text each other occasionally and he always made sure Steph and I were taken care of at his concerts. I feel very sad today and my heart aches for his friends, family and the entire Dumpstaphunk crew. "

Chris King, a rapper who was close friends with Trippie Redd and Justin Bieber and started the label Snotty Nose Records, was fatally shot in Nashville on April 20. He was 32 years old.

On April 8, King released his final music, a song called “Seeing Double Seeing Double.” The rapper was in Tennessee to perform at the Nashville Cannafest.

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Billboard reports that "On social media, there was an outpouring of love for the late rapper, who was born in Fontana, Calif. King briefly lived with Bieber, who took to his Instagram Story on Saturday to write, 'Love you bro,' with a broken-heart emoji over a photo of the pair hugging. 'This one hurts. Please keep his family in your prayers. See you in paradise, brother.'

Read more in this Billboard obituary.

Mike Pinder, keyboardist and vocalist and co-founder of the Moody Blues, died on April 24 at the age of 82

Billboard notes that "the pioneering keyboardist/singer is credited with helping to introduce the mellotron into the rock arena.

"Born in Birmingham, England, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Pinder co-founded the group in May 1964 with multi-instrumentalist/singer Ray Thomas, singer/guitarist Denny Laine, drummer Graeme Edge and bassist/singer Clint Warwick. Laine and Warwick left the band in 1966 after the release of 1965’s debut album, The Magnificent Moodies, and were replaced by guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist Lodge. Pinder and Laine co-wrote all the original songs on Moodies, which included the band’s wistful, R&B influenced breakthrough single, 'Go Now.'"

"The new lineup released one of the landmark early prog rock albums, Days of Future Passed, in 1967, on which Pinder made his recorded debut playing the mellotron, a keyboard that used prerecorded three-track tapes to reproduced a variety of orchestral instrumental sounds and special effects."

A single from that album, “Nights in White Satin,” was the group's biggest hit, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it was re-released in 1972.

The Moody Blues recorded nine albums in their highly influential career. Before his passing, Pinder was the last living member of the original lineup. The band, including Pinder, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

Pinder released his debut solo album, The Promise, on the band’s label, Threshold, in 1976, followed by a second one, Among the Stars, in 1994 and 1995’s A Planet With One Mind.

Read the full Billboard obituary here.

Tony Tuff (Winston Anthony Morris), a Jamaican reggae singer, died on April 20, at age 69.

VP Records reports that "Tony Tuff started his musical journey as a founding member of the African Brothers with the late Lincoln ‘Sugar’ Minott and Derrick ‘Bubbles’ Howard in 1969. As an accomplished singer, songwriter and musician, Tuff was responsible for building the foundations of the group’s early output and beyond, right up until the band parted ways in the mid-'70s."

As a solo artist, he released such Roots anthems such as “Oh What A Day,” “Deliver Me” and "Chant Down Babylon," plus some crucial cuts with Yabby You on the Tony Tuff album in 1980. They were amongst many tunes favoured by Jah Shaka, with whom Tuff later collaborated with on the revered set How Long in 2006.

Tuff worked with Minott again on the 1981 album Presenting Mr. Tuff, released on Minott's Black Roots label. That decade saw Tuff become one of the key players in the early Dancehall / Rub-A-Dub era after joining the legendary Volcano Sound, owned by famed producer Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes. With him, Tuff scored his biggest hit, "Come Fi Mash It.” and such other successful tracks as "Water Pumpee" and "Mix Me Down."

Tuff was largely absent from the music scene in the 1990s, but he returned in 2000, and recorded several albums in the new millennium. He continued to write, record and tour up until his death.

In a statement, Chris Chin, CEO of VP Records noted "We are deeply saddened to learn of Tony’s passing. He recorded many memorable songs that have a lasting impact. We will miss him."


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The Black Keys

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