I used to love the shit out of Roch Voisine! Like, only the way a young French immersion girl in Ontario can. At James McQueen from Grades 4-6, the only things we were allowed to borrow from the library had to be in French. Boo! At home, in my very English life I listened to George Michael’s “Faith” on my brother’s red Fisher Price tape player, our only portable music device.
Then one day, it happened! My usual disappointing trip to the school library… energized by this: Helene
WHAT?!?! A FRENCH CANADIAN GEORGE MICHAEL!!! It was like all of my dreams of unifying the worlds of French and English were recognized when I found this Grade 5 link to multilingual peace. I rushed to the librarian and put the tape onto her desk, breathless from excitement. I was the first student to sign out this tape, a tape destined to send me down an intoxicating spiral of men in leather jackets. But my euphoria was fleeting. After only a week of listening to Hélène, I had to return it to the library. And when one of the Jennifers in my class (we had four) signed it out from the library after me, Roch Voisine would disappear from my grade school life. **Side note: I’m pretty sure that particular Jennifer turned out to be a man-stealing whore!**
But Roch didn’t stay away for long. One fateful day after school, he was thrust back into my life byTarzan Dan’s Hit List and “I’ll Always Be There.” A sexy t-shirt and guitar replaced his leather jacket but it was he! Now the only thing keeping me from an ear-frolic with my English singing Frenchman, was my search for this song. Keep in mind this is the early 90’s – there’s no iTunes. Plus, I was saving up for a class trip so my money (which included $1 and $2 bills) was precious. How was I going to find this song and obsess over it the way a grade school nerd can? Finally, a moment of blonde brilliance: I would find Roch Voisine hiding in a jukebox. Problem solved. Then a moment of despair, as a new problem arose – where would a Grade schooler find a jukebox in the 90s?
Every Friday after grocery shopping my parents would take my brother and I out for dinner. It was usually kid’s choice. My brother after all had an exclusive diet of Doritos, white powder doughnuts and orange Crush (it’s a wonder his skin wasn’t permanently discoloured, come to think of it). With some sly moves on my part I would suggest a place I knew he hated, inciting the orange chemical rage within. And my parents, after a long workweek and wanting desperately to avoid a nuclear meltdown from their youngest child, would suggest that I pick another place. I would then sigh and feign frustration before proposing… we go to Papa Galluci’s, a local independent pizzeria with – you guessed it – A JUKEBOX! My brother would say, “double cheese?” to which my parents would breathe a sigh of relief and load us into the Topaz. Oh, you sly boots Melissa. You got your way, again. Pizza and Roch Voisine would soon be mine.
Once we arrived at the Pizzeria, I would ask for three quarters. My father would roll his eyes and put $2 in quarters on the red-checkered tablecloth. I would walk to the jukebox, catching a reflection of my crazed eyes in its bent glass, scrolling through the Eagles, Nirvana and Tom Petty with the focus only a grade schooler has. George Michael snags my attention for a split second before I decide that would be a waste of a song choice. After all, that man is waiting for me at home and will sing to me for free. With $2 working out to 12 choices, I had to be smart. I was focused on one thing and one thing only: the tiny strip of paper with Roch Voisine handwritten in the middle and “I’ll Always Be There” E9 and “Kissing Rain” E10 above and below. These songs become selections one, two and three;“ Kissing Rain” being played twice, back to back.
Confident in my song selections, I head back to the family booth and wait for the pizza to arrive. Just under nine minutes of music and every Friday thereafter, my father would comment that all the music today sounds the same. As the double cheese pizza arrives still bubbling from the oven, I realize I have indeed found the Grade school link to multilingual peace: it’s Roch Voisine on the Jukebox. And with four song choices left, I knew the fun was just beginning. Merci Roch Voisine, en-chanté!