“Songwriting is a popular form of art, not a French class. It’s a piece of jewelry. You put it together like a precious jewel. There is no moment more precious than when you finish writing a song.” – François Guy, Paroles & Musique, 2010
With great sadness, SOCAN learned of the death of songwriter François Guy on May 12, 2023. A fatal fall at his cottage in Labelle, in the Laurentians, put an end to a prolific career in “chanson québécoise.” Whether through his numerous compositions over six decades, or his involvement with SACEF (Société pour l’avancement de la chanson d’expression française) for more than 15 years, Guy left his mark on a whole era. He added his own cornerstone to the edifice of the Francophone repertoire, and mentored the next generation of singers through the Ma Première Place des Arts contest, among others.
Reaching an audience via the band Les Sinners in the late ’60s, and by his next group, La Révolution Française, Guy co-wrote the rallying anthem “Québécois,” that would be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018. It was one of the first rock songs to sing about Québec’s independence, a theme that, until then, had been mostly reserved for folksingers. The song’s powerful message captured the era’s zeitgeist, which was the key to its success, and “Québécois” became the province’s best-selling single in 1970, with more than 100,000 copies sold.
Guy proceeded to record five albums and a series of singles between 1973 and 1983; he participated in the creation of several musical revues, including Cirociel in 1976, before re-orienting his career toward talent development. He did circle back to writing for other artists, including Chloé Sainte-Marie, Véronique Béliveau, Renée Martel, Gildor Roy, and Francine Raymond with “Y a les mots,” a hit song that became a SOCAN Classic in 2018.
Guy made a final recording in 2010 with the album Je préfère le bonheur, in collaboration with his accomplice Manuel Brault, and other lyricists, such as Mario Proulx and Jean-Guy Prince. “I’ve never really left songwriting behind,” said Guy in a story published in SOCAN’s Paroles & Musique magazine in 2010. “I never stopped writing. I just grew old. When you’re younger, you’re more dynamic, but as you grow older, you become a better singer. You reach a certain level of mastery, you know yourself better, your capacities, your range, your interpretation, the value of the words.”
SOCAN extends heartfelt condolences to Guy’s family, friends and colleagues.