Dion allowed her fans to dream — ‘En français’




Metroland Media Group Ltd.



Franco-Canada is en maudit. MAD. Céline Dion — our girl — was snubbed. Denied her place in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 200 greatest singers of all time. Ah, ces Américains! “These are the vocalists that have shaped history and defined our lives — from smooth operators to raw shouters, from gospel to punk, from Sinatra to Selena to SZA,” wrote Rolling Stone in a preamble to the vexing list. Much ink has spilled on this scandal, with Céline’s champions calling the omission a “crime against humanity,” and vehemently denouncing it her celebrated “Je téléphone à la police” meme. A caravan of the zealous even travelled from Montreal to New York to protest in front of Rolling Stone headquarters. But no matter, l’Amérique française has always known that Céline had shaped and defined the world, her meteoric rise a manifestation of the will of generations of Frenchspeakers on this continent. Céline toured my hometown of Sudbury in the early 1990s. I was on the cusp of young adulthood, far from the tunes of Pierre et le papillon and Suzanne Pinel, to which I’d rocked out during my Franco-Ontarian childhood. Suddenly, here she was, a cool Québécoise. A chanteuse, a star, an idol. I was electrified. Yet I already knew her — all Franco-Ontarian children did. We had all learned the words to “Une colombe,” a magical tune sung by 16-year-old Céline as she welcomed Pope John Paul II during his visit to Montreal in 1984. That spring, however, I barely recognized her. Young and sure of the strength of her voice. Generous, signing autographs, engaging my younger brother in conversation, and he, astonished that the young diva had descended from her divine throne to speak to a mortal. (“Daniel!? I have a brother named Daniel!”) In 1990, the year American artist Pink says Rolling Stone became irrelevant, Céline would again inspire my young francophone soul. At the Gala de l’ADISQ in October of that year, Céline won — and declined — the award for anglophone artist of the year for “Unison,” saying, “all around the world, I proudly say I am Québécoise.” This was resistance. There was backlash from the press, praise from the eminent Jacques Parizeau, and even a rebuttal to the editor of The Montreal Gazette by her manager (and future husband) René Angelil. But she was fire, fierce, and Franco, the daughter of a “people with no literature and no history,” from a continent where “the language, the laws and the character are English,” a glorious subversion of the forces of history, which sought to swallow the French Fact across l’Amérique française for centuries. Rolling Stone wants cultural impact — Céline brings it. She is the shining promise that we of l’Amérique française have a voice in the firmament. Céline pierced the zeitgeist so that we might dream out loud. En français.