Quebec has always been an oddball music market. Not only does it have its own stars (Robert Charlebois, Michel Pagliaro, Nanette Workman), but some of the foreign groups and acts that never make it anywhere else are supervedettes (stars) in La Belle Province.
All of them owe their Quebec success to David Brodeur, a music aficionado with an encyclopedic knowledge of rock and soul who died this week in Montreal at 68 after years of health problems. Brodeur was an original, a guy with a blueblood French pedigree (his grandfather was a Quebec Senator) who learned his flawless English scurrying around the streets of Montreal going to music venues.
"He learned English from Nick Auf der Maur," said Brodeur's long-time partner, Shelia Burke, referring to the famed Montreal politician and journalist. Although his family planned for Brodeur to become an architect, rock and blues made a much bigger impression on Montrealer Brodeur, and he started his working life in a small record store in Montreal's east end.
He rose to eventually become Canada's National Promotion Director for A&M Records, and he spent a lot of time on the road, visiting Eastern Canadian radio stations, promoting the records he loved.
I was the rock-music critic at the Montreal Gazette in the 1970s, and it was rare that I would go to a big concert and not see Brodeur, with his sly smile and mordant sense of humour.
(As much as I liked the guy, however, he never made me a Shawn Philllps fan.)
Going to Brodeur's Westmount home and marveling at his collection of 4,000 vinyl albums was always a sight to see, a reminder both of Brodeur's love of music, and the impressive breadth of it.
"He lived at the Esquire Show Bar," says Burke, referring to Montreal's nonpareil blues club, where I got to interview and hear the likes of Howling Wolf, Lightnin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, and many others in the 70s. Brodeur, who loved black music, was usually in the audience, too.
When Brodeur was offered the job of national promotion director at prestigious Polydor Records, Burke told me this week, he turned it down "because he would be based in Toronto. There was no way he was going to do that."
I still remember going to Andre Perry's state-of-the-art, internationally known recording studios north of Montreal in the Laurentian mountains to interview A&M artist Cat Stevens for influential English rock paper Melody Maker. I was MM's Eastern Canada correspondent, and I had given Stevens' 1975 album "Numbers" a scathing review.
This was before Stevens discovered Islam, and changed his name.
The supposedly mellow and spritely "Moonshadow" guy was ready to throw a punch at me.
It was one of many favors I owed Brodeur, a guy who made covering the Montreal music scene -- both French and English -- a real pleasure.
Brodeur was a rich resource for me, my go-to guy for musical arcana. To this day, I've never met anyone who had the musical depth of knowledge as David Brodeur.
He'll be missed by many, both inside the Quebec music community and outside of it. He was an original.
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