Patsy Gallant still kicking it up after all these years
I remember it like it was yesterday: a tall, lanky blonde, holding one of those 1970s mega- long microphones as she descends gracefully from the carpeted risers of a tacky Canadian TV set. Then that voice, that glorious, crystalline voice, singing: “In my mind, there’s a face, on my lips there’s a name/ In my life there’s no place for the man that I love/ ’Cause I’m living my life just to sing and be free/ From LA to New York, from New York to LA.”
Acadian singer Patsy Gallant ruled the 1970s disco scene in Canada. She had her own television variety show, The Patsy Gallant Show, performed at sold-out concerts and graced magazine covers usually reserved for American disco divas.
But it was her biggest hit, “From New York to LA,” from the 1976 album Are You Ready For Love, that shattered the borders of Canadian music and surged up record charts all around the world: UK (#6), Ireland (#5), Australia (#10), the Netherlands (#15), Norway (#7), South Africa (#5) and Sweden (#17). Quite a feat for a song whose melody was taken from a classic Québécois folk anthem, “Mon Pays,” written by Francophone Gilles Vigneault (with English lyrics by Gene Williams).
“That song was just huge,” says Gallant, a multi-Juno award winner, who now makes her home in Montreal. “We were none of us prepared for how big it went.”
Gallant had already scored some national hits before “From New York to LA” propelled her to so-called “overnight success” but she’d cut her showbiz teeth, both figuratively and literally, long before as part of Les Soeurs Gallant. Starting out at the tender age of three, Gallant sang the sweet melodies of groups like the Andrews Sisters with her sisters Angie, Florence and Ghislaine. It was the start of a long career.
“I’ve been in show business for 60 years,” Gallant says, chuckling warmly. “I can’t count from when I was three, because I don’t remember it. But I had my own show at the age of 10. It’s been my whole life.”
Six decades to exact. It’s almost impossible to imagine, but Gallant is still going strong, having recently finished an 11-year stint doing musical theatre in Paris. Though she’s happy to be back home in Canada, there is still a part of her longing for France. “I truly loved it there. I had a three bedroom apartment, and I was in the biggest show Paris ever had. I was treated like a queen, and maybe that’s okay at my age.”
It was with some trepidation that I sought out some recent live performances, nervous that my childhood idol would be croaking out old hits an octave below the original version. But Gallant still looks fabulous and sounds sublime. I need not have worried.
“I think it’s because I didn’t smoke,” she says. “I did drugs like everybody in the ’70s, but I hated that shit so much. My high is going onstage.”
Not only is Gallant still belting out her classics with the same power and clarity of the disco era, but she frequently punctuates songs like “Proud Mary” with a high kick that is downright astounding. She shimmies and dances around the stage like a woman in her 20s.
“I absolutely do the high kicks to show off,” she says, laughing. “I swear to God, I want to see any other 65-year-old do that. I still can’t believe I’m going to be 65 in September. I almost threw up when I got the papers for my Social Security.”
Age certainly hasn’t slowed this diva down; she books her own shows, chooses her own songs and manages every aspect of her career. Despite some aches and pains, Gallant still struts her stuff on stage in Louboutins and miniskirts. She credits healthy eating, exercise and a robust sex life.
“I’ve had young lovers all the time,” she says. “I still have one in Paris. I went to my doctor about menopause and he said don’t worry about hormones, just keep your young lovers.”
Patsy Gallant Performs at Disco Disco (Part of the Green Space series, a fundraiser for The 519). Free. After the Pride Parade. Sun, June 30. Cawthra Square Park (behind The 519 Church Street Community Centre).greenspaceto.org.