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The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) and the Festival international de la chanson de Granby (FICG) are proud to announce that the song “Bleu et blanc” – written by Franco-Ontarian songwriter Robert Paquette – will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. The induction will happen on Aug. 26, 2018, live from the Scène Desjardins, during the closing concert of the 50th edition of FICG. “I’ve always maintained good relations with the Festival,” says Paquette, who was a finalist during the 1971 edition, before winning the People’s Choice Award in 1972. “I’m super-happy that the induction will take place there!”
“Bleu et blanc” was deemed a SOCAN Classic in 2001, for having aired more than 25,000 times on the radio. It was also included in a list of 150 popular songs compiled by Le Journal de Montréal for Canada’s 150th anniversary.
“This year, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame is collaborating with the country’s most dynamic festivals and music-related events to pay homage to the musical legacy of those various regions,” said CSHF Executive Director Vanessa Thomas. “We’re delighted to induct Robert Paquette’s iconic song ‘Bleu et blanc,’ and to be right there — alongside our partners at the Festival international de la chanson de Granby – to celebrate that induction with him.”
Paquette was the first Franco-Ontarian to record a professional studio album. The singer-songwriter was driving home to play a concert in Sudbury in 1976 – from his base in Montréal, where he was pursuing a solo career – when the song came to him in its entirety. Paquette was so struck by it that he stopped at a pay phone to call home, saying, “I’ve just come up with a really good song.”
To Paquette’s surprise, two Montréal radio stations, CKOI and CHOM, both included it in their rotation. “Because the song was unusually long, at more than six minutes, I didn’t think it would get commercial radio airplay, but the public reaction was really good. Listeners began asking CKOI and CHOM to air it, and it took off.” “Bleu et blanc” was on its way to becoming a classic of the French-Canadian music scene.
“Bleu et blanc” deals with passion and emotional symbols. The song begins with the singer re-telling his chance encounter with an old, down-and-out hobo, in which he asks if the old man has given up hope. His wise reply proves to be a valuable life lesson that both surprises and influences the singer. Paquette intended the colourful kites in the chorus (“Bleu et blanc, vert et rouge/Sont les couleurs des cerfs-volants,” or in English, “blue and white, green and red, are the colours of kites”) to represent flags: red for the Canadian flag, blue and white for Québec’s fleur-de-lis, and green and white for a new flag that had recently been proposed for Franco-Ontarians; white represents purity and red represents passion. The song’s kite imagery also suggests freedom – freedom to go with the wind and freedom from practical necessities.
Paquette was born in 1949 in Sudbury, Ontario. From the mid-1980s he wrote music for theatre and did television work. His song “Jamaica” is another SOCAN Classic, and Radio-Canada ranked him No. 1 on its list of the most important Franco-Ontarian musicians.