Charles Aznavour is one of those artists who has stood the test of time, one of the few French-speaking songwriters able to reach an audience that doesn’t even speak their language. To this musical giant, music publisher Jehan V. Valiquet has dedicated his latest major album project.
Valiquet has been working behind the scenes of the music industry for almost 40 years as a publisher – a copyright guardian, in short – for some of the most beautiful songs from Canada, France, and Belgium. He represents, among others, the repertoires of Serge Lama, Julien Clerc, Vanessa Paradis, and Yves Duteil. Some of the most beautiful songs by Ginette Reno, Lara Fabian, Robert Charlebois, Charles Trenet, and Félix Leclerc also have a home at Musinfo, his company.
Over time, he’s earned the trust of Gérard Davoust, the epitome of the unknown soldier, and the general manager of Éditions Raoul Breton, undoubtedly France’s most prestigious publisher.
“At one point, I was able to get Serge Lama, and at that time, he was represented by Breton,” says Valiquet. “What I was doing was making an appointment with Gérard Davoust to present him with reports on what was selling, what was being played. We were always in the ‘vouvoiement,’ which is kind of normal considering brothers and sisters ‘vouvoie’ each other over there!… It was very formal, but from time to time he would invite me for oysters not far from his office on Rossini Street. Once, I said to him, ‘You know, Mr. Davoust, I would really be interested by Charles Aznavour’s catalogue.’ He replied, ‘You know, Mr. Valiquet, it weighs a lot!’ But I didn’t know that expression… So I said, ‘No problem, I have room in my suitcase!’ I thought he wanted to give me sheet music and all that. He must have thought I was a complete moron!”
Over the years, as they met in Paris or Cannes for MIDEM, Gérard Davoust loosened up, finally switched from calling Valiquet “vous” to “tu,” and ended up offering him, almost on a silver platter, the repertoire of the great Aznavour. It’s a crucial moment that Valiquet will always remember. “As I was leaving he said, ‘By the way, I’m giving you Aznavour.’ I wasn’t expecting that. He went into his office and I was in the middle of the street. I yelled, ‘Wow!’ People must’ve thought I was crazy.”
Sixteen years after bringing together many artists – including Pierre Lapointe (who performed “Les plaisirs démodées”) and Diane Dufresne – for an album in tribute to Aznavour, Valiquet is doing it again. The new project is similar in every way, except that it exclusively features women. Among them are the spoken word virtuoso Queen Ka (a.k.a. Haitian-born Montréal-based Rebecca Jean) and pianist Valérie Lahaie. All are complete artists, grand dames, SOCAN members, and songwriters in their own right. The very definition of Amoureuses des mots.
“They’re all singer-songwriters, obviously singers, some of them musicians,” says Valiquet. “They’re all signed exclusively to Musinfo, and I’m the publisher of their songs. I had the idea during the pandemic… It’s a great opportunity to put these girls in the spotlight. They’re all doing their own thing with their social networks, Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, all that.”
Annie Poulain is one of them, a jazz vocalist with an alto range who’s distinguished herself more than once with ADSIQ Gala nominations, and as the creator of the Dix piano une voix album released independently in 2018. She sings “Le jazz est revenu,” a title that could not be more apropos, considering the recent success of a jazz-tinged project like Les Louanges, or the recent rise of a musician like Dominique Fils-Aimé. “I just hope that Aznavour’s vision at that time was prescient,” she says, “and that jazz will really come back in a big way in the next few years!”
“La Mamma” is revived by the voice of the Italian-Quebecer Dominica Merola. The lyrics resonate in a whole new way for her, now. “With the year we’ve just lived through, deprived of our mother’s kisses and embraces, I felt this song was gut-wrenching,” she says.
The world is ever-changing, but thanks to the creative publishing work of Jehan V. Valiquet, Charles Aznavour’s words remain current, and adaptable to all the trials we collectively go through – in short, absolutely timeless.