Thursday, August 26, 2010

Let's French: An In Depth look at La Bolduc

This week's Pardon My French is covering female francophone artists. La Bolduc was one of the most influential Quebecois artists of the 1930s, with her repertoire stretching over 300 songs she wrote.

La Bolduc is often considered Quebec’s first singer/songwriter. Her musical style combined her Irish and Quebecois heritage and touched on the life on everyday people in Quebec.

She was born Mary Rose-Anna Travers in 1894, to an Irish mother and Quebecois father. Her large family was poor, but she learned the most from home. Her family was bilingual and her father taught her how to play the fiddle, accordion, harmonica, spoons and Jew’s harp. She took from the Irish melodies and French-Canadian folk tunes to create a style based on the passed down traditions of both cultures.

At the age of 13, in 1908, she moved to Montreal where she became familiar with the urban working world, especially for a woman. Her father was a lumberjack, but Bolduc took jobs at textile mills and as a maid. She moved to the Massachusetts in 1921, after family hardships with her new husband and general hard times.

Her musical career began in the 20s when she started to play in small troupes. She signed her first record label in 1929 and began playing more and more in folk festivals, which helped her family financially. Her songs were about working class people which became popular during the Great Depression.

In the 1930s she was producing records often and touring around Quebec and New England. Her songs were about local and international issues that were important to everyday people: Dionne Quintuplets, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the New deal, Hitler, R-100 dirigible, etc,. However, in 1937 she was in a car crash and in hospital, it was discovered that she had cancer. She passed away in 1941, but influenced what is known as the “Chason” style in Quebec.

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