Outside of Quebec he is perhaps best known for writing songs for Céline Dion. But Luc Plamondon’s career as a lyricist has spanned many decades, artists and countries.
Plamondon was born March 2, 1942, in St-Raymond-de-Portneuf, near Quebec City. As a child he studied piano and listened to the “turlutes” of La Bolduc, Canada’s first “chansonnière.” He wrote his first song at age 16 and discovered literature at the Collège des Jésuites, later studying it at the Université de Montréal. He also earned a Bachelor of Education at Laval University.
Plamondon spent six years travelling in the U.S. and Europe, learning not only English but also German and Italian. For a time he studied art history at the École du Louvre in Paris. It was in that city that he met future collaborator Diane Dufresne who would later become the francophone world’s first female “rocker.”
His songwriting career began in earnest upon his return to Quebec. “Dans ma Camaro” (with music by André Gagnon) became a hit for singer Steve Fiset in 1970. The trio would have other successes, including 1971’s “Quand l’hiver est là.”
Plamondon reunited with Dufresne, co-writing several hits with her and François Cousineau – together they were known as the “trio infernal” – among them “J’ai rencontré l’homme de ma vie,” “En écoutant Elton John,” “Pars pas sans me dire bye-bye” and “Chanson pour Elvis.” These were considered some of the greatest hits of Quebec’s “chanson” movement. Plamondon would go on to write some 75 songs for Dufresne.
In the late ’70s, Plamondon collaborated with French composer Michel Berger on the rock opera Starmania. A futuristic satire of celebrity, it debuted in Paris in 1979, and co-starred Dufresne and American-born Quebec favourite Nanette Workman (who herself had a 1974 hit with the Plamondon-written “Call Girl”). The show would play in Quebec (1980, 1986) and later in Madrid, London, and Berlin (1993-4).
The success of Starmania led Plamondon to compose other musicals and modern rock operas through the ‘80s and ‘90s, including 1990’s La Légende de Jimmy, based on the life of James Dean, which reunited him with Berger. 1998 saw the debut of Notre-Dame de Paris. Based on Victor Hugo’s novel, it premiered in Paris to great success and was staged in Canada, Russia, France, China, Spain and other countries. The show is being re-mounted in Paris in November 20161.
The ‘80s also saw Plamondon become a popular lyricist in France, writing for the likes of Françoise Hardy (“Flash-Backs”), Catherine Lara (“Haut les mains”), and Johnny Hallyday (“Le Repos du rocker”). He also helped boost the fortunes of Quebecois singers in France, among them Claude Dubois (“Le Blues du businessman”), Martine Saint-Clair (“Quand je tombe en amour”), and Fabienne Thibeault (“Les Uns contre les autres,” “Question de feeling”). Plamondon contributed two songs to Celine Dion’s 1987 French album Incognito.
Plamondon has earned several honours over the course of his long career. He was made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec in 1990 and an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002, received a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in 1996, and was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2003 and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011.
He has also been honoured by his fellow artists. Céline Dion recorded the tribute album Dion chante Plamondon in 1991, while a 2010 box set, J’aurais voulu être un artiste… pour pouvoir dire pourquoi j’existe, compiled 77 of Plamondon’s songs.
Made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec
Made an Officer of the Order of Canada
Inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame
Inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame