Michel Louvain launched his singing career at a hotel in Chomedey

The late legendary crooner always acknowledged his beginnings in Laval

After more than a half century as one of Quebec’s biggest singing superstars, legendary crooner Michel Louvain proved once again during a concert he gave for senior citizens in Laval in 2009 that he still had the knack for charming ladies of all ages – and they never stopped loving him.

Louvain, whose meteoric career in show business was launched in the late 1950s at a hotel and night club near Curé Labelle Blvd. in Chomedey, passed away in his sleep last week while being treated at a Montreal hospital for throat cancer.

Always looked younger

On that storied evening at the Salle André-Mathieu performance hall at Collège Montmorency in October 12 years ago, Louvain was the featured performer during a spectacular musical event held at the conclusion of Laval’s annual Senior Citizens Week.

The old Hôtel Central, where Michel Louvain’s career started, has become Place Elle et Lui at 1600 Robinson near Curé Labelle Blvd. in Chomedey. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

While he was then just a few years into his 70s, from the audience Louvain looked at least 20 years younger, and he could still belt out a full program of songs, supported by some of Quebec’s top musicians and backup singers.

Still primed to perform at age 83, Michel Louvain had been scheduled to give a series of concerts at the Salle André-Mathieu in April and in May as part of a lengthy touring schedule all over Quebec, when he was hospitalized recently after learning quite suddenly of his cancer diagnosis.

Career started in late ‘50s

Louvain, whose original name was Michel Poulin, was born in July 1937 in Thetford Mines QC. He started to be noticed as a singer and performer in 1958 with his first album, the self-titled Michel Louvain, recorded on the Apex record label. He would eventually become one of Quebec’s reigning matinee idols. His first hit, Buenas Noches Mi Amor, launched his career.

Louvain would often recount how he got his big break at Chomedey’s old Hôtel Central when he was in his early 20s

During the 60s and 70s, Louvain’s popularity soared, especially among young women and girls. His biggest hits included La Dame en Bleu (which he performed often, and which also inspired the title of a 2009 film documentary (Les dames en bleu) focusing on the latter part of Louvain’s career), and Je Déclare l’Amour au Monde Entier. He also worked as a host for numerous shows on French-language TV and radio.

The night clubs in Laval

As the legend of his life goes, Michel Louvain wanted to be a singing star from an early age. However, his parents, concerned by the kind of lifestyle that might lead to, weren’t pleased. But when he turned 18, they relented and allowed him to perform in church basements and small hotels.

On stage at the Salle André-Mathieu more than a decade ago, Louvain recounted how he recived one of his biggest breaks at Chomedey’s old Hôtel Central when he was in his early 20s. Some of the names of nightclubs that flourished in Laval in those days, like the Feuille d’Érable and the Faisan Bleu, drew oohs and aahs of recognition from the mostly retired crowd during his 2009 performance here.

The 2009 documentary film Les dames en bleu gave a close-up and behind-the-scenes view of Michel Louvain as he toured and performed during the later years of his career.

Michel Louvain always insisted that the region of Laval played a key role in his ascent to the top. He recalled how, during the late 1950s, his manager booked his very first professional engagement at the Hôtel Central, which was owned at that time by Rodolphe Girard. It was also at the Hôtel Central that Michel Louvain was first spotted by a music producer who signed him to record what would become his first hit song.

Remembered Rodolphe Girard

As it happened, Girard’s daughter was in the audience during the October 2009 performance, and Louvain strode down the stage steps, then up to her seat for an emotional reunion. “Your dad was like a father to me,” he told her.

“He gave me my first break. I’m so happy to see you.” Located just off Curé Labelle Blvd. at 1600 Robinson Ave. near Saint Martin Blvd., the Hôtel Central where Louvain’s career was launched survives today in another form, having been transformed long ago into the Place Elle et Lui multipurpose mall, which was owned until 2010 by Yves, the son of Rodolphe Girard.