Renée Martel, the queen of Quebec country music who had crowds dancing to yé-yé — a style of European pop that emerged in the 1960s — died Saturday, Les Productions Leclerc said. She was 74 years old.
According to the news release, Martel died at the Honoré-Mercier hospital in Saint-Hyacinthe on Saturday afternoon, following severe pneumonia unrelated to COVID-19.
Numerous tributes have poured in following the announcement of her death. On Twitter, Quebec’s Minister of Culture, Nathalie Roy, called her “one of the greatest Quebec singers who achieved success after success.”
The Festival Western de St-Tite paid tribute to the singer on her Facebook page by underlining “this incredible legacy left to Quebec’s musical universe.”
In an interview with The Canadian Press, agent and longtime friend Martin Leclerc said he had shared a friendship with Martel that lasted more than 15 years.
“I have accompanied Renée until her last days, her last moments,” he said. “I was with her today, and for me, it is a great loss, a great sadness.”
Born on June 26, 1947, in Drummondville, the singer leaves behind a long legacy in Quebec’s country music repertoire, which she has enriched throughout her life since childhood.
Her parents, singers Noëlla Therrien and Marcel Martel, introduced her to music early. While she continued her passion for country music during her long and prolific career, it was Renée Martel’s yé-yé songs that propelled her to the height of her popularity. Her hits “Liverpool,” “Je vais à Londres,” and “Johnny Angel” were very popular in the late 1960s.
© Jean-Pierre Karsenty/Radio-Canada Martel performed on June 8, 1991 on the program Quand la chanson dit bonjour au country.
She quickly returned to her first love in the 1970s and 1980s, with hits such as “Un amour qui ne veut pas mourir,” “Si on pouvait recommencer,” and “Prends ma main.”
After a difficult period, she thought about retiring for good at the end of the 1990s, but Martel released two albums in the 2000s. Her album “L’héritage” even earned the Félix Award for the Show of the Year — Performer, a trophy she picked up in 2009.
Ten years later, in 2019, she embarked on what she described as her “ultimate tour,” which she had to interrupt due to the onset of breast cancer. The following year, she announced that she was in remission. Last October, she released the album “Contre vents et marées” made by Paul Deraîche.
The artists were supposed to go on tour next March.
Renée Martel has been honored several times, receiving several Félix Awards at the ADISQ gala and the Lucille-Dumont prize from the Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec.
Martel is survived by her two children, Dominique and Laurence.