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Music

Quebec Mourns the Passing of Karl Tremblay from Les Cowboys Fringants

The singer of the Cowboys Fringants passed away on Wednesday, November 15, after a long battle with cancer.

Karl Tremblay

Karl Tremblay

SamuelFreli, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Quebec's music scene is mourning. Karl Tremblay, the lead singer of Les Cowboys Fringants, has passed away from prostate cancer after three years with the disease. He was 47.

The remaining three members of Les Cowboys Fringants are now bereft of their voice and longtime friend and bandmate. Marie-Annick Lépine, who was also his partner, Jean-François Pauzé, and Jérôme Dupras, expressed "indescribable sadness" on Facebook. They described him as an exemplary warrior in the face of illness and a role model for all.


The reactions were swift, as Les Cowboys Fringants, considered true icons of Quebecois music for over two decades, were mourned for the importance Karl Tremblay held in the province and the broader Francophonie. Rapper Koriass called him "a pillar of contemporary Quebec culture," and Mitsou Gélinas, the singer of the hit "Bye Bye mon cowboy," described him as a "divine artist and composer" on Instagram.

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Les Cowboys Fringants have been celebrated for numerous critically acclaimed and popular songs such as "En berne," "Les étoiles filantes," "Toune d'automne," "Ti-cul," "Plus rien," and "L'Amérique pleure." The group, formed in Repentigny in the 1990s, has won many awards. In 2002, they won their first Félix for the alternative album Break Syndical during the ADISQ Gala.

On Nov. 5 of this year, Les Cowboys Fringants received their latest Félix in the Group of the Year category. The comedian and host of the ADISQ Gala, Louis-José Houde, dedicated the evening to Karl Tremblay. Despite living with cancer, Tremblay and his bandmates played for nearly 90,000 people on the Plains of Abraham in July for the Festival d'été de Québec.

The sudden departure of Karl Tremblay has also drawn responses from politicians. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec's Minister of Culture and Communications, Mathieu Lacombe and others have put out statements that acknowledge his significant impact. François Legault, the Premier of Quebec, has even offered a national funeral to the Tremblay family.

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To honour Karl Tremblay's memory, several Quebec institutions, including the city halls of Montreal and Quebec City, have decided to lower their flags to half-mast.

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