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An exclusive interview with Nanette Workman: Famous singer to become Gleaner columnist in the new year

Marie Rachel Charlebois
Special collaboration

After nearly four years of silence following a sudden exit from the public scene, Nanette Workman, the iconic singer, has agreed to give The Gleaner an exclusive “up-close-and-personal” interview as part of a special collaboration.

For most of you, Nanette Workman needs no introduction; but for those who may not have been around, we can definitely say she was one of the first Quebecois musical artists to break into the international scene. She is renowned as a songwriter, author, and actor; but above all, she is an exceptional singer who made her mark on the Quebec musical scene with her unique voice.

American-born with Indigenous grandparents, and raised in Jackson, Mississippi by musician parents, she holds dual citizenship and has been based in Quebec for much of her career.

The love story between Quebecers and Workman truly began in 1966 when she recorded her first album in French, Et Maintenant. Not only did it become a number-one hit in Quebec, it remained on the charts for fifteen weeks. By the time she left the province in 1969 to further her career in England, she had released three albums and had become a prominent Canadian recording artist and TV star.

 

PHOTO courtesy of Nanette Workman

 

Workman has an extremely impressive record as a collaborator with a great many top-tier musical acts. For example, she sang on four songs with The Rolling Stones, performing backing vocals on legendary songs such as You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Honky Tonk Woman. She also worked with Elton John, sang on various projects for the Beatles, and worked with John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison individually. She recorded an album that included collaborations with Peter Frampton and Johnny Hallyday; she then played the lead role of “Sadia” in the rock opera Starmania and portrayed “La Diva” in La Legende de Jimmy, the life story of actor James Dean.

From 1979 to 2006, she earned 20 nominations and received three Félix awards at Quebec’s popular ADISQ gala. In 2000, she was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, an honour that was especially close to her heart as her proud parents were there to share it with her.

It is with real love for the Chateauguay Valley community that this outstanding career artist and personality has agreed to give The Gleaner this exclusive interview.

Marie Rachel Charlebois: It’s been a while since people haven’t heard from you – How are you, and what have you been doing?

Nanette Workman: I had worked in the music business since I was 18, and I think I did all that I could, gave as much as I could, and went as far as I could with my career. My life is quiet and simple now that I have stopped working, and I feel really good about that. I take care of my home and my animals and spend time with close friends. I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to do that when I was working all the time, to really appreciate a simple life with very little stress. Now, the only thing that might stress me a bit is when I count the chickens and the cats at the end of the day, and one is missing!

MRC: Give us a little backstory about what made you decide to retire from show business.

NW: In November of 2019, I was playing a gig with my good buddy, Carl Tremblay, at a local club. The club was small and jam-packed. The band and I were squeezed in a little corner with all the equipment. You could say it was a ‘tight’ show! A few days later, I came down with a virus and was very sick for a few weeks. I realized in a couple of months, when the COVID-19 pandemic was announced, that I had indeed contracted COVID as all the symptoms were identical.

After my last concert with Martin Deschamps [on] the 8th of March 2020, everything started to close down: the concert halls, the clubs, resto bars, etc. There were no more concerts, no more work.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I enjoyed not having to go out on the road and perform. I decided to stay home, take care of my little farm, my animals, and enjoy my life of peace and tranquility. I have lots of time now to make new discoveries and experience  new adventures.

New adventures… with The Gleaner!

MRC: Starting next January, you will be joining The Gleaner as a columnist! Tell us how this collaboration came about.

NW: Roch Saumure, my friend and manager of many years, called to see if I might be interested in writing a column for The Gleaner’s readers. I love a challenge! I thought that this could be a lot of fun to do!

I buy The Gleaner often and I really enjoy reading about all the local news and events. I have been living in Ormstown since 1977 and have always been made to feel at home here. This opportunity will also give me a chance to connect directly with my French- and English-speaking fans from the Chateauguay Valley.

 

PHOTO Chantal Hortop

 

I just turned 78 years young and still have all my marbles. I believe it’s never too late for new adventures. The decision was an easy one… “Yes!”

MRC: How do you perceive this exciting new collaboration, and what are you going to write about?

NW: I have lots of time now for new discoveries and live new experiences. What am I going to write about? Well… don’t you think it’s always fun to be surprised?!

In order to be inspired to write my column, which will start publication in the first January 2024 edition of The Gleaner, I will ask the folks who read it [said with a ‘humongous’ smile]! To really get “up close” with the community, I am inviting you, the readers, to write to me at Nanette@the-gleaner.com, so I can answer some of the questions you may have.

MRC: Since you are about to open up to The Gleaner’s readers in your new column, let’s kick it off with a deeper look at your memories and everyday life.  What music album is most meaningful to you, and why?

NW: Changement D’Adresse, an album we began recording in the winter of 1986 that took three years to complete. I had the incredible luck and extreme privilege to work with the musical genius, Serge Fiori, to create this amazing album that I often listen to. Every song on this recording had a very special personal meaning to me; I was pregnant with my son, Jesse, when we started recording … It was an emotional roller coaster for me during those years.

MRC: What is a funny or remarkable memory from your career?

NW: When I was recording the backing vocals for Honky Tonk Woman, I remember looking into the control room and seeing Keith Richards on the chair behind the console; he would be resting with his eyes closed. I remember thinking to myself, “Gee, that poor guy never gets any sleep.”

MRC: What is your favourite hobby?

NW: Playing poker with my pals at the Playground Poker Club in Kahnawake.

MRC: What is one bucket list wish you still have to realize?

NW: The top of my list is a Caribbean cruise, on a boat that has a casino, and staying in a first-class cabin with a deck!

MRC: What is an accomplishment you are very proud of?

NW: At the same time that Changement D’Adresse was conceived, so was my son Jesse Alexandre. Yet to be born, he became my sweetest inspiration and greatest motivation. I realized, at that moment, that to create is the most precious gift that we possess.

A very wise and wondrous entity once said, “Creation is the act of bringing love from within your being into a unique, free-moving form which will live on into forever.”

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