Singer, songwriter, guitarist, music producer
Montreal's Michel Pagliaro broke new ground in the 1970s in Canada with his pop and rock 'n' roll albums. While living in French speaking Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Pagliaro released hit albums sung in both English and French and was somewhat of a superstar in Canada although very few heard of him in the United States. Pagliaro became the first Canadian artist ever to receive gold records in both official languages. Writer Howard Druckman wrote of Pagliaro's legend for Umbrella music: "Pagliaro bridged all sorts of gaps: Between Francophone and Anglophone Quebecers; between Les Quebecois and English Canada; between orchestral pop singles and gut-bucket rock 'n' roll; between catchy melodies with slick production and his heartfelt, soulful songs."
Born on November 9, 1948, in Montreal, the capitol city of French-speaking Quebec, Canada, Pagliaro started playing music at an early age. By 11 he was playing guitar and by 15 he joined his first band, Les Stringmen, playing the usual school dances and affairs. Through his teens Pagliaro played in such Montreal groups as Les Bluebirds, Les Merseys, and Les Rockers. At 18, he joined the group Les Chancelliers to play bass but soon replaced their lead singer and had a modest Quebec hit with the 1966 single "Le P'tit Poppy."
By the age of 20 however, Pagliaro wanted to write and perform his own songs as a solo artist. He debuted his solo act with the 1968 album Michel Pagliaro. The all-French album contained the popular Quebec singles "Comme d'habitude" and "Avec la Tete." Pagliaro's debut sold 50,000 copies, which is a gold record in Canada. Other French albums that were recorded during this time were mostly covers of English hits. In 1971 he signed a deal with Much Records, a division of Chum Ltd., a company that followed the Canadian content rules set forth by the government that regulated that all Canadian radio stations had to play a certain percentage of Canadian music. When Much Records released Pagliaro (one of the handful of albums that would eventually bare that title) that same year, the singer/guitarist had some hit singles on his hand with the magnificent pop 'n' rock songs "Lovin' You Ain't Easy" and "Some Sing, Some Dance." The cover of Pagliaro—a close up shot of a sunglasses adorned rocker with long shaggy hair—was a perfect visual for the musician's blend of melodic power-pop and crunchy rock afflicted songs. Recorded partly at Abbey Road studios in England—the infamous studio where the Beatles recorded—Pagliaro is often considered the definitive album for English-speaking Pagliaro fans. "With a singular sense of charm and style, he wrote irresistibly catchy, Beatlesque melodies, full of unabashedly romantic lyrics, and then produced them in the grand, orchestra fashion of Phil Spector," wrote Druckman.
Superstardom, at least the Quebecois version of it, really hit Pagliaro when he recorded the 1972-released French album Pag and he truly established himself as Quebec's first real rock star. Now signed to RCA Records, Pagliaro became sort of a working class hero to the Quebecois and a pop maestro to English Canadian pop fans. Pag, which also became the singer's unofficial nickname, contained the single "J'etends Frapper," the biggest selling 7" in the history of Quebec music. The Francophone song even made it to English radio in Canada.
Like many artists in the seventies, Pagliaro released a live album. More than 125,000 copies were sold of Pagliaro Live, recorded concert performances that included songs sung in both languages. By this point, Pagliaro was a star in Canada, but never really toured in the United States and never officially released an album on an American label.
Pagliaro's relationship with RCA was brief and in 1975 he signed with CBS Records to release two albums in the same year; one in French and one in English. The French sung Pagliaro was a hit in Quebec and the English version, Pagliaro I, scored an across Canada hit with the free-flowing country-ish "What the Hell I Got." In the following two years, Pagliaro released the albums Aujourd'hui and Time Race. Pagliaro used the same backing tracks for one song that he recorded in French as "Aujourd'hui" and the other in English as "Time Race."
Towards the end of the seventies however, it was becoming clear that Pagliaro could be much more successful in Quebec than with his English fans across the other parts of Canada. He steadily continued to put out records including the 1978 punk-influenced Rock 'n' Roll and the slightly new wave sounding Bamboo in 1981.
When record sales were dim, Pagliaro moved to France where he lived in a self-imposed exile for much of the early eighties. He spent time producing French singer Jacques Higelin but didn't release any of his own music until 1987 when he recorded the singles "Les Bombes" and "Dangereux." He had returned to Montreal where he opened for David Bowie at Montreal's Olympic Stadium. The following year, Pagliaro released his last album of new material, Sous reine d'amour on Alert records; a Top 10 single in Quebec followed. A bit of touring in the nineties was catapulted by 1995's Hit Parade, a double album compilation of some of Pagliaro's best songs, in both English and French. While continuing to do shows in Quebec, Pagliaro was asked to perform at the 2001 Grey Cup and put out another compilation titled Pag the same year. Pagliaro continues to perform the occasional concert.
For a brief period in the seventies, Pagliaro was a household name in Quebec and a semi-popular pop star in all of Canada. The fact that he never had success in the United States wasn't a failure to the artist as playing to his hometown and country were of far more importance. Pagliaro continues to influence some of Canada's modern pop bands in both small and large ways. Writer Druckman applauded the songwriter's talent; "Pagliaro's long string of hit singles is among the most consistently listenable and likeable bodies of work that any seventies rock act has left us."
For the Record . . .
Born on November 9, 1948, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Joined his first band, Les Stringmen, at age 15; joined Les Chancelliers, 1966; released solo French debut, Michel Pagliaro, 1968, album went gold; signed with Much Records, released English album Pagliaro, 1971; signed with RCA, released Pag, 1972 with the biggest selling single in Quebec history; signed with CBS, 1975, released English-sung Pagliaro I and French-sung Pa gliaro; opened for David Bowie, 1987; released Sous reine d'amour, 1988.
Addresses: Website—Michel Pagliaro Official Website: http://www.pagliaro.ca.
Michel Pagliaro, DSP International, 1968.
Pagliaro, Spectrum, 1970.
Premiére époque, Spectrum, 1970.
Pagliaro, Much, 1971.
Pag, RCA, 1972.
Pagliaro Live, RCA, 1973.
Rockers, RCA, 1974.
Pagliaro, RCA, 1974.
Pagliaro I, CBS, 1975.
Pagliaro, CBS, 1975.
Aujourd'hui, CBS, 1976.
Time Race, Columbia, 1977.
Rock 'n' Roll, Martin, 1978.
Bamboo, Trans-Canada, 1981.
Sous reine d'amour, Alert, 1988.
Hit Parade, Audiogram, 1995.
Pag, Mediarock, 2000.
Michel Pagliaro Official Website, http://www.pagliaro.ca (July 7, 2005).
Umbrella Music, http://www.pagliaro.ca/news/umbrella.htm (July 7, 2005).
"Pagliaro, Michel." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/pagliaro-michel
"Pagliaro, Michel." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved March 23, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/pagliaro-michel