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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Fernand Gignac

The name must be unfamiliar to the vast majority of you, L.O.V.s and TLB Prime regulars... And it has a logical explanation to it. Gignac was like unto the local Bing Crosby to the people of Québec, Canada - long recognized to have their very own microscopic and "nombrilistique" so-called star-system (or should I say "-système"? I am never too sure...)
Fernand Gignac seemed to have always been around to me and countless more who had seen him as a permanent fixture in what some called "musique quétaine" unfairly and arbitrarly as well. Like Crosby, Gignac had played straight man to a bonafide comic on television sitcoms such as "Symphorien" - his Bob Hope though owed more to Jerry Lewis (if one adds, too, the trademark Chaplin mustache to him) than anybody else. His Bob Hope - comedian Gilles Latulippe - has survived all of his old time accomplices in making the tiny, Gaul-like people of "la Belle Province" laugh throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s - Rose Ouellette "La Poune", Michel "Capitaine Bonhomme" Noël, the great Olivier Guimond, Jean-Louis Millette aka Oscar Bellemarre (...) and author Marcel Gamache. And now Fernand Gignac as well - they are all gone now. I would be remiss if I didn't add to this list the actress who played Symphorien's meddlesome mother-in-law; her running gag line of goading her husband to get into trouble by lighting a fire under him with "Césaire, il connaît son affaire!" always made me laugh every single time she'd say it! Too bad I forgot her name... Maybe IMDB has it...? (Found it, I think: Suzanne Langlois)
She is, most likely, gone as well...

What boggles the mind a bit is the following: my dear saintly father always marveled at the fact that he and Fernand Gignac had the exact same age, yet dad looked so much younger. Gignac looked several decades older! Dad, just like so many others, marveled at the staying power of Gignac's and of another artist with whom Gignac bore some resemblance; le Père Gédéon! Doris Lussier -Gédéon's true name- would put on a lot of make-up though to look that old!
Dad looked younger - but Gignac was the one who kept his youthful voice until the very end. Indeed, listening to his singing from the 1950s and from his very last public performance in 2004, the voice is unmistakenly the same. Dad was not so lucky in that department, as he lost his voice in 1993, the unfortunate result of a stroke. He'd never speak again. I'd never hear his voice again. May be why this Ultravox song I posted here this week, "The Voice", is one of my favorites too... It is about God's Voice and dad's voice as well - both, at once.
Gignac's voice was smoother than many others - if he hadn't sung in French, the whole world would have heralded him as a finer lounge singer than Tony Bennett or even Deano and Sinatra. Honest - I kid you not. He was that good. A natural.
His songs are unforgettable and simple enough for everyone to relate to them. Titles such as "Le Temps Qu'il Nous Reste" and "Donnez-Moi Des Roses" come to mind...

Most "mind-boggling" of all is that both dad and Gignac had to pass on in 2006 - both had been born in 1934 as well. Dad never got to meet him - he met another instead, Gilles Vigneault - a fervent separatist he is too and not nearly as good a singer. That almost turned very sour as Vigneault clearly only had eyes for my mom, who had just recently arrived in Québec... Dad was an Omar Sharif lookalike (or is Omar my dad's lookalike? I think so too...) and mom... The closest approximation in those days would be, in hindsight and retrospect, "a forerunner of Julia Roberts" - yup!

Both Fernand Gignac and João Jacinto Borges Pimentel were destined to last only 72 years upon this Earth. Now they meet up at last - in Heaven.
Two gentle souls - they'll make for the best of friends up there. :)
It is we who remain who are running out of genuine good friends... :(

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