Monique Leyrac (1928-2019)

1997 Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Popular Music)

"She was the first!" Monique Leyrac, an elegant and polished entertainer, sister to Piaf and Garland, was the first great international star from French Canada to make her mark from New York to Paris to Montréal. Fluent in French and English, her artistry has reached far beyond Quebec to all Canadians and onto the international scene, leading the way for all those who have followed, from Diane Dufresne to Céline Dion.

An interpreter, rather than lyricist or composer, she has given voice to the works of Québec's greatest composes and poets, Leclerc, Vigneault, Léveillée. It was she who introduced Vigneault's Mon Pays, at Montréal's Place des Arts in 1963, making it not only the anthem for the people of Quebec but also an international hit with her successes at international song contests in Europe.

Exacting but generous, she has launched the careers of many artists. Luc Plamondon credits her with his success after she recorded his first album in 1971. "Her versatility is enormous. She can move so gracefully from dramatic to funny to sentimental!"

Before singing came acting, and she still sees herself "as a comédienne first". Performing with great passion and intensity, she is well-known for her one-woman shows built around the lives of poets and writers. Brecht, Molière, work on the life of Sarah Bernhardt have all come within her range. Her colleagues confirm that in other circumstances and other times, this aspect of her work would have achieved the same heights of success as her international singing career.

From simple beginnings at age fifteen, this marvellously cultured person has become "the muse and friend of authors, painters and poets from Paris to Montréal". An Officer of the Order of Canada, she was twice named Woman of the Year in Canadian Press surveys.