Musician François Cousineau was born in Montreal in 1942. He is the second child of a family of five, brother of Jean and Luc Cousineau who are also musicians. François begins studying piano at the age of 5. After completing a music degree at the École de musique Vincent d’Indy in 1961, he is admitted to the Barreau du Québec in 1966.
During his studies in law school, François begins his musical carrier by accompanying various singers. He writes his first music, La Robe de soie, to a text by Clémence Desrocher. Pauline Julien, who first notices Cousineau at a silent film screening where he improvised a live soundtrack at the piano, hires him as her pianist, a collaboration that lasted 7 years. From 1962 to 1969, Cousineau follows Julien on tour in Quebec as well as in France and the Soviet Union. He arranges and composes many songs for her, namingly Le Temps des vivants, Le Voyage à Miami and Un gars pour moi.
François Cousineau wrote music for the theater as well. In 1966, he composes for Pauvre amour and Les Beaux dimanches by Marcel Dubé. In 1969, he composes the music for the musical comedy Les Girls for Clémence Desrochers. During the show, he meets a young Diane Dufresne, then a little-known cast member. He also writes music for two musicals by Louis-Georges Carrier; Crackpot (1970) and Mascarade (1971).
He scored as many as 8 feature-films such as L’Initiation (1970) and L’Amour humain (1970, both by Denis Héroux and Les pièges de la mer (1982), by Jacques-Yves Cousteau. The theme song of L’Initiation, sang by Diane Dufresne, sold more than 100 000 copies.
Not long after, partnering with lyricist Luc Plamondon, François Cousineau will contribute to launch Diane Dufresne’s carrier. He composes and arranges songs that became very popular, such as J’ai rencontré l’homme de ma vie, En écoutant Elton John, Sur la même longueur d’ondes, Mon p’tit boogie boogie, Les hauts et les bas d’une hôtesse de l’air and Chanson pour Elvis. Combining blues, jazz and rock, this energetic trio helped shape the sound of Quebec’s chanson of the 1970’s.
In addition to this precious collaboration with Dufresne and Plamondon, François composed more than 200 songs for many different artists, such as que Robert Charlebois, Renée Claude, Céline Dion, Georges Dor, Jean-Pierre Ferland, Louise Forestier, Daniel Lavoie, Pierre Létourneau, Monique Leyrac, Danielle Oderra, Ginette Reno, Martine Saint-Clair and Fabienne Thibeault. Thibeault will be the first performer of Ma mère chantait toujours, a cult song in Quebec and in France written by the Cousineau-Plamondon duo.
In the television industry, François works as a conductor, pianist and arranger for many of Radio-Canada’s programs, such as Jeunesse oblige (1967), Zoom (de 1968 à 1970), Place aux femmes (1968 à 1970) and Studio 11 (1971). From 1972 to 1975, his collaboration to the famous talk show Appelez-moi Lise with Lise Payette, will become one of his most notorious partnership. He will write the music to the show Prévert, rose ou bleu? directed by James Dormeyer, a show created to celebrate the Year of the Child in 1979. This masterpiece earned him honors at New York’s Modern Language Film Festival, in 1981, an honorary mention at Washington’s American Film Festival, in 1982, as well as a nomination for New York’s famous Clio Awards. Later, François worked as a conductor for the prestigious French television show Champs Élysées (1980), for which he was nominated for the Gémeaux Awards. In 1987, he acted as musical director and conductor on the television show Chantez-nous la paix, staring The Red Army Choir, Daniel Lavoie, Jean Lapointe, Ginette Reno and Yvon Deschamps. From 1992 to 1994, he continues writing music for hundreds of television shows such as the daily series Marilyn broadcasted on Radio-Canada.
Over the course of his carrier, François composed more then 500 advertising themes and jingles. Ohé Ohé, the song he composed for the festivities of the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s arrival in Canada, was huge success, selling more than 60 000 copies. The single was also nominated in the category “Song of the year” at the 1984 ADISQ Gala.
The following year, he was invited by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to conduct an orchestra during the famous “Shamrock Summit” between Mulroney and US President Ronald Regan in Québec City. The summit was broadcasted across the country, in both English and French, on Radio-Canada.
In 1999, François composes, directs and produces his first solo eponym album, which earns him the Félix for Instrumental Album of the Year. His second album Veux-tu que j’t’aime follows in 2000. In 2003, he showcases his favorite songs in a third album Clin d’œil à des amis, in which he gifts us with his own singing interpretation of some of the most famous tracks of his carrier. Since 2000, François has toured in more than 65 cities in Quebec and outside of the country.
Always active and inspired, François released four instrumental singles in early 2020, heralding several new musical releases to come. In 2022, to mark his 80th birthday and over 60 years in the music business, François has revisited the records released in the early 2000s to produce two compilations that will be released digitally on all platforms in the spring. Also wishing to push his artistic practice further, François has taken on the challenge of composing and performing a solo piano album for the very first time in his long career. This album is scheduled for release in the summer of 2022.
A strong advocate of copyright in Canada, Cousineau was a founding member of the Professional Society of Authors and Composers of Québec (SPACQ) and the founding president of the Society for Reproduction Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers in Canada (SODRAC). He also served as president of the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) from 1994 to 1996 and was director of the boards of the SOCAN and SODRAC for more than 20 years.
In 2003, Cousineau was awarded the National Francophone Award from SOCAN for his body of work. That same year, the Law Faculty of the Université de Montréal gave him an honorary mention emphasizing Cousineau’s great involvement in the cultural field. In 2011, François Cousineau was named a Knight of the National Order of Quebec. Since 2006, the Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec (SPACQ) has been awarding the annual François Cousineau Award to honor the career of notable Quebec songwriters.