Like many other Quebecers, I received the news of Karl Tremblay’s death with shock and astonishment. It was known that he was fighting a fierce cancer; Last July there were thousands of us who shared his brave fight for a brief magical moment.
But for all that, we weren’t really ready to face the music: the lead singer of the Cowboys Fringants is gone. Every death is a tragedy, but at 47, father of two, husband of a prodigious composer, multi-instrumentalist and singer, Karl’s death is a tragedy.
Seeing the touching and simple outpouring of sadness and memories that instantly set social media on fire, it is no exaggeration to say that this is a national tragedy. The cowboys are an unclassifiable group, clearly Quebecois, and who knew how to express, better than anyone else, the suffering, the despair, but also the hopes of the people of Quebec.
This success is partly explained by the committed lyrics of their songs, by the palpable energy – anyone who has had the opportunity to attend one of their concerts knows what I’m talking about – that they inspired us, and by the his concerns do not. to silence the most invisible life of Quebecers.
But this success is also explained, and perhaps above all, by the voice of Karl Tremblay, the voice that sang Quebec. It is a voice that we will hear for decades to come and that we will strive to pass on to future generations because it is ours, that of our very particular French. Like this, it’s not perfect, it’s full of our creative anglicisms – there’s nothing universal about it. That’s why, like Gerry Boulet’s before him, it grabs us by the guts and annoys us. Without any shame, without trying to hide anything, to please anyone, his voice sang our language.
This authentically Quebecois sound he managed to produce, he used with the Cowboys to make music that immediately resonates with the everyday lives of Quebecers. Marcel Galarneau, Hector’s hut, At half-mast, My boyfriend Rémi, Like Joe Dassin, For us, holy peace, you-ass, Letter to Lévesque, As long as there is love.
To do justice to the body of work the Cowboys and Karl have built, we’d have to quote every song. These songs are so true that a historian who wanted to understand, a thousand years from now, what the real Quebec was between 1995 and 2023, would have no better source than the Cowboys albums that followed our moods and that Karl’s voice made tangible.
We often forget it, but there is little pleasure that comes with hearing yourself in the voice of others. When we are part of a minority people, this voice is a necessary and healthy vector of positive, open and progressive hope.
I think I share the sentiment of many when I confess that the world without Karl Tremblay is a little grayer and duller. For many of my generation, this is the first time we’ve lost a musical beacon. The records will remain, this record that he recorded and which will soon be released for our greatest happiness will remain, but this certainty will no longer remain: somewhere in Quebec, a voice that unites us sings to us and sings for us. let’s connect
Thank you Karl. We didn’t know each other, but your words have been, and will continue to be, carriers of hope and light for me. For me, as for all my people today in mourning.
George Mercier, Quebecois, PhD student in political theory, political science – University of Montreal