Diane Dufresne

2001 Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Popular Music)

Diva, trailblazer, outrageous and charismatic performer, Quebec singing superstar Diane Dufresne has been an icon on the francophone music scene for close to four decades. Her raw passion, boundless energy, flamboyant sense of spectacle, and consummate professionalism have transcended linguistic barriers, catapulted her to the summit of an extraodinary career and earned her the enthusiastic acclaim of countless music fans around the world. By foregrounding her Quebec roots and the works of Quebec chansonniers, she has made – and continues to make – joual rock around the globe.

Ms. Dufresne was born in Montreal in 1944. Her mother died when Diane was 12, and she left school to look after her younger siblings, taking night courses in singing and acting. She made her public debut in 1965 in a boîte à chansons near Montreal, accompanied by pianist André Gagnon. In the fall of that year she went to Paris and sang at L'écluse and L'échelle de Jacob on the Left Bank, where she perfected her métier as a chanteuse.

She returned to Montreal in 1967, and in 1969 appeared in Clémence Desrochers' revue Les Girls, a huge hit in Montreal and across the province. During the summers of 1970-71 she performed with musician François Cousineau (who, with lyricist Luc Plamondon, was to become a longtime collaborator) at the Théâtre d'été de la Marjolaine, where she discovered rock music – and never looked back.

In 1972 she released her single J'ai rencontré l'homme de ma vie (an instant hit) and her debut album, Tiens-toé ben j'arrive! Like all her subsequent albums, she launched it with a spectacular stage show. In 1978, launching Comme un film de Fellini in Montreal, she introduced an element of participation that was to become a Dufresne tradition, inviting her audience to attend the concert in costume. At her celebrated 1984 show Magie Rose in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, the entire audience wore pink. She is a regular performer at the St-Jean-Baptiste festivities in Montreal and elsewhere. She has revolutionized "showbiz" and defined a whole new form of stage performance.

Her best-known singles include Oxygène, Rock pour un gars d'bicyc', Le parc Belmont, Que, and Le 304. She has released over 20 albums and three compilations, most recently Merci (2000), a 3-CD set featuring updated versions of popular favourites as well as new work; others include Sur la même longueur d'ondes (1975), Strip-tease (1979), Dioxine de carbone (1984), Top Secret (1987), Détournement majeur (1993), Diane Dufresne (1997).

Ms. Dufresne is also a songwriter/lyricist, painter, set designer, director, screenwriter, and multimedia artist. She has toured across Canada, Europe and Japan, and is still performing: Jean Beaunoyer (La Presse) wrote of a symphony concert she gave in Montreal in February 2001, "Here is an artist at the height of her art... Her voice has never been better, more powerful, more controlled, more rich." André Ducharme of L'Actualité wrote, "She is a pioneer who has put Quebec on the world map and given wings to other artists for whom she has paved the way."

Awards and honours include: Officier de l'Ordre de la Pléïade awarded by the Parlement international francophone (2001); Officier des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française (2000); and numerous Félix Awards from ADISQ (the Association québécoise de l'industrie du disque, du spectacle et de la vidéo).