Quebec dominated the Canadian disco scene in the 1970’s. Quebec disco singles often sold well in Europe, and to hipper American d.j.’s, and left a string of cult favourites. The doyenne of this chapter in Quebec music was Acadian singer Patsy Gallant, a bilingual singer from Canada’s only bilingual province.
Patsy was born August 15, 1948 in Campbellton and began singing professionally with two of her 9 siblings. The Gallant Sisters found their way to Moncton radio, but the ambitious family moved to Quebec, ultimately resettling in Montreal.
Patsy went solo in 1967 and became a regular presence on “Discotheque,” a French TV show similar to English Montreal’s “Music Hop” program. Her first single was “La Musique et la Danse” released the same year. After a few more singles, Gallant signed with CBS/ Columbia and her first albums came out in 1971 and 1972. They were French and English albums, and a few years later, Gallant would release several albums almost simultaneously, in both languages. The English debut, “On My Own” included the funky “Get That Ball,” and was a rare example of an album aimed at that era’s dance floors.
She did some film work as well, in “L’Initiation” and “T’a plus de trou a Perce” a Quebecois beach movie and recorded the funky Canadian rarity “Psychedelic Party.”
Gallant teamed up with songwriter Yves Lapierre who wrote jingles, and Ian Robertson who became her manager, producer and husband. Relocating to Nashville for her next album, “Power.” Several singles from this album cracked the Billboard Top 100. She received her first Juno nomination in 1975, but Gallant wouldn’t take one home until 1977 for Best Female Singer.
After a controversial discofied cover of “Mon Pays,” the Gilles Vingeault song and unofficial Quebec national anthem, Gallant used the arrangement with new words and released “From New York to L.A.” which lived up to part of its premise, making Gallant a star in Canada if not across the U.S.
By now Gallant left CBS for Canada’s Attic Records, just in time to enjoy robust sales through the disco era. The 1976 albums “Are You Ready For Love” and “Besoin d’Amour” had a couple more successful singles by way of the title track and “Sugar Daddy.”
In 1977, Gallant divorced Ian Robertson (but he still produced her records for a few more years).
Gallant received her second and third Juno Awards in 1978 for Best Female Singer and Best Selling Single, recognizing “Sugar Daddy.” She was nominated again in 1979 but as disco rapidly faded away, so did Gallant’s sales. Her CTV music program, The Patsy Gallant Show, was cancelled after two seasons. Happily, the Québécois had yet to give up on disco. Her indie release “Stranger In The Mirror” didn’t do much on charts, but its French counterpart “L’Amourouse” did well enough.
She married Dwayne Ford, a guitar player from Bearfoot and Ronnie Hawkins’ band in 1980, the same year Gallant played Japan, playing the Tokyo and Yamaha Music Festivals and taking prizes home from each event. Gallant previously released an album there, on Discomate Records.
After a 1984 album, “Take Another Look,” Gallant left music but not the stage. The hit French – Quebecois collaboration Starmania, a rock opera, had a role for which composer Luc Plamendon had wanted to use Gallant. Filling the role of Stella, Gallant joined the cast in Paris, where she lived for about a decade, until 2005.
Gallant also worked in New York off Broadway in productions including Cats and Piaf. In 1960, The Gallant Sisters opened for Piaf in Quebec City.
She released an album of Edith Piaf covers in 2015, and told Joannie Langlois on lobe.ca she felt a kinship with the French singer, as “she was on the streets at 10” and Gallant started playing cabarets at 8, leaving each with a brief childhood.
“I wrote music and lyrics for 125 songs,” she explained to Langlois. I kept about 20 of them. Nobody knows that I write. I hid it for a long time because I write mostly in English, and my songs are really not the same genre as ‘Sugar Daddy.’ I was afraid that people wouldn’t like it.”
2020 saw the publication of Gallant’s autobiography, Ma Vie en Technicolor. She has released the occasional song in recent years but no longer tours. In February 2022, Gallant was the ambassador for the Fondation Jean Lapointe’s 28 days without alcohol challenge.
In May 2022, she will make an appearance at the East Coast Music Awards in Fredericton.
Erik Twight @VeritableInfusion, proprietor of Basil’s Books & Vinyl and Freelance Writer specializing in current affairs, history, photography, and music. He produces a weekly podcast/radio show on CIUT.fm (89.5FM Toronto) arranged thematically and with commentary.