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5 Facts About Jean Lapointe: The Canadian Politician and Singer

Jean Lapointe was a Senator from Quebec who grew up singing, acting and doing comedy. He grew up in a bilingual household, like most French-Canadians. He had a very successful career as a cabaret performer for more than three decades. Jean always stood out as a performer as he embodied the traditional American-style show in French thanks to his Quebec upbringing. His perfect balance of tragic comedy songs, 

good-natured humour, impersonations and comedy helped him launch his solo career after 1974. Jean Lapointe began his stage career from 1955 to 1974 when he performed with Jérôme Lemay as the duo Les Jérolas. They played at venues as The Ed Sullivan Show and at the Olympia in Paris. The duo reunited as Les Jérolas during 2011 and launched the cabaret show Le grand retour des Jérolas. However, during the Montréal premiere at Place des Arts on 31 March 2011, Lemay collapsed due to a stroke. He passed away three weeks later on 20 April.

Here are 5 facts about Jean Lapointe, the Canadian Liberal Senator who served from June 13, 2001 to December 6, 2010: 

5 Facts About Jean Lapointe: The Canadian Politician and Singer 

Jean Lapointe Was In a Band When He Was A Kid

Born on December 6, 1935, little did Jean Lapointe know that he’d go on to be named to the Order of Canada and National Order of Québec. Especially when you consider that he was most known for his artistic abilities. When Jean Lapointe was a kid, his family moved to Québec City, where he formed his first band, Les Québécaires. His roots in music would help him go on to recorded hundreds of songs, including the popular hits “Pleurire,” “Chante-la ta chanson,” “Rire aux larmes” and “Mon oncle Edmond.” 

With his comical impersonations and songs, he won the amateur competition of the radio program of St-Georges Côté and then performed on CHRC Radio. It could be that the performer (who once used the stage name Jean Capri) would go into politics because his family has a history of serving the country. Jean Lapointe was the son of Arthur-Joseph Lapointe, a former soldier who became the Member of Parliament for Matane-Matapédia. 

Although Jean Lapointe started off in Montréal and made his debut in 1954 at the Café Caprice, his cabaret and chansonnier career began when Québécois cabarets were flourishing. After pairing up with Jérôme Lemay, it led to the creation of the duo Les Jérolas, which soon made a tour of cabarets in Québec and scored numerous hits, including “Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown” and “Méo Penché.” Les Jérolas appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1967, and were billed at the Olympia in Paris in 1966, 1967 and 1974. They would go on to record 20 albums together before separating in 1974.

Solo Career

After separating from Jérôme Lemay in 1974,  Lapointe decided to pursue a solo career. 

  • Within a year his shows, song medleys, comic and impersonation routines, his hoarse voice and his good-natured humour won him a large audience. He also participated in the 1975 St-Jean Baptiste festivities on Mount Royal. 
  • By 1976 his first record Démaquillé  and the show of the same name, presented at the Théâtre Maisonneuve of the Place des Arts in 1976 were a double success. That year, he won the critics’ Prix Orange. The next year, Jean Lapointe staged Un an déjà. 
  • By 1978 he presented the show Rire aux larmes and the record Chante-la ta chanson, which was an enormous hit in Québec. 
  • He staged La Grande séance in 1979 and Lapointe… pour le fun in 1980. 
  • 4 years later in 1984, he presented extracts of his first five shows at the Théâtre Bobino in Paris. He went back to Paris the next year, this time at the Olympia, with Showman, which had already drawn more than 140,000 people in Québec. Also in 1984, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. 

He Received The Genie and The Jutra Lifetime Achievement Award

During the early 1970s, Jean Lapointe began a highly successful career as an actor. 

  • He starred in many movies such as : Marcel Carrière’s OK la liberté (1973), Michel Brault’s Les Ordres (1974), André Forcier’s L’eau chaude, l’eau frette (1976) and Ti-Mine, Bernie pis la gang (1977); ; Jean Beaudin’s J.A. Martin, photographe (1977); and Une histoire inventée (1990); and Alain Chartrand’s hit comedy Ding et Dong le film (1990). 
  • He made a lasting impression with his fiery portrayal of populist authoritarian Québec premier Maurice Duplessis in a popular TV mini-series and the 1978 Radio-Canada miniseries Duplessis, written by Denys Arcand. 
  • Erik Canuel’s Le dernier tunnel (2004) turned him into a Genie- and Jutra Award-winning actor for his supporting performance in 2011.

A Man of Too Many Talents

According to an excerpt in Le Quotidien de Paris in 1988, Gérard Spiteri spoke of Jean Lapointe as the ultimate entertainer, stating: “Jean Lapointe is a complete showman, now an extremely rare species. One believes him to be a singer, he is an impersonator; one believes him to be a musician, he is a conjurer; one thinks of him as only a buffoon, he raises us to the heights of light poetry without giving himself the air of a thinker. A clown, a one-man orchestra, a whirling performer, Jean Lapointe does not cease to move us, to surprise us by the truth of his talents. That is exactly what the overused term variety means.”

Jean Lapointe Goes Political 

In 1982, after his fight to let go and recover from drugs and alcoholism, Lapointe founded the Maison Jean-Lapointe, an organization that provides rehabilitative support to alcoholics, drug addicts and problem gamblers, as well as prevention and awareness workshops in Québec schools. He charity also organized a first telethon for the non-profit centre in 1986, and is still honorary president of the Fondation Jean Lapointe, which administers the Maison.

Jean Lapointe served nearly 10 years in Canada’s Senate but he says that it was an experience he often found frustrating. “I do not like politics. I did not like it. There are many tricks that are done,” he explained in 2010. “I never gave an inch. I went with my conscience and according to my knowledge.” He was appointed by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in June 2001 to represent Sorel, Québec, and stepped down due to mandatory retirement in December 2010.

A version of this excerpt had originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.

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