Quebec crooner Michel Louvain, who enthralled a generation of fans, dies at 83

·3 min read

MONTREAL — Quebec singer Michel Louvain, a popular entertainer who left his mark on a generation of adoring fans, died Wednesday at age 83.

Louvain was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at the beginning of April and had been receiving care at a Montreal hospital. His talent agency, Productions Martin Leclerc, announced late Wednesday that the musical legend died peacefully in his sleep.

"The family, friends and colleagues of Mr. Louvain would like to thank the doctors and nursing staff of the Verdun Hospital for the care provided," the agency said in a news release. Louvain is survived by his partner of the past 25 years, Mario Theberge, and his sisters Therese, Ginette and Lucie.

Born Michel Poulin, Louvain was a romantic singer who charmed Quebec over a career spanning 60 years.

Louvain would make young Quebec female fans swoon in the 1960s, like Elvis and later the Beatles, charming a generation or two with such love songs as "Buenas noches mi amor," "Pourquoi donc as-tu brise mon coeur" and his classic, "La dame en bleu."

Louvain had planned a full post-pandemic touring schedule in support of his 2019 album "La belle vie." It was to start Sept. 10 in his hometown of Thetford Mines, Que., and take him to several regions of the province.

Born July 12, 1937, Louvain dreamed of being a singer from an early age. His parents, put off by the dodgy reputation of nightclubs, weren't enthusiastic, but when he was 18, his family agreed that he could sing in local church halls and inns.

At 20, he was hired as a "master of ceremonies" at a hotel in Laval, Que., and caught the attention of a producer, who helped him record his first hit, "Buenas noches me amor" — a staple he was still singing 60 years later. The hit propelled him to cabarets in Quebec City and Montreal.

In his early 20s, his career took off and he caused a frenzy among adoring female fans. Many of his great hits carried the names of women: "Louise", "France", "Sylvie", "Lison."

Parallel to his singing career, Louvain was a presence on Quebec television, hosting several programs beginning in 1963. He was also the subject of a documentary, "Les Dames en bleu," by director Claude Demers in 2009, which cast a look on Louvain but also on his loyal admirers and the phenomenon that continued for 50 years.

Louvain lent his celebrity to many social causes over the years, and when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, he recorded a message of encouragement delivered to seniors over the phone.

Louvain received the Medal of Honor from the National Assembly in 2009 and was made Chevalier de l'Ordre national du Quebec the following year — the highest award given by the Quebec government. He became a member of the Order of Canada in 2015.

Numerous members of the cultural and political class paid tribute to Louvain when news of his death broke, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "Sophie and I are sending our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and many fans of Michel Louvain, one of Quebec’s greatest singers," Trudeau wrote on Twitter. "His good humour, elegance, and charisma will be deeply missed."

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante wrote that the province was losing a great man. ''Michel Louvain will have left his mark on an era, and all of Quebec is mourning his departure this evening," Plante wrote. "Thanks to his charisma and his daring, he will have charmed us from start to finish."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2021.

Mario Gilbert, The Canadian Press