Québécois rock provocateur Jean Leloup was the premier exponent of the Francophone pop renaissance of the 1990s, earning comparison to Lou Reed for his seedy imagery and aloof vocals.
Born Jean Leclerc in Sainte-Foy, Quebec, on May 14, 1961, he spent the better part of his childhood in Togo, and its indigenous African rhythms would prove a seminal influence on his later musical efforts. After a brief return to Quebec, his family settled in Algeria in 1969, where he later formed his first band, the Blue Faces. Leclerc returned to Quebec for good in 1975, and after quitting school he cut his first demo session, christening himself Jean Leloup (i.e., "John the Wolf"). He attracted marginal attention from record executives until 1983, when he delivered a breakthrough performance at the annual Festival de la Chanson Francophone. Two years later Leloup was tapped to star as Ziggy in the David Bowie-inspired rock opera Starmania. Labels still had no idea what to make of him, however, and his acclaimed debut LP, Menteur, did not hit retail until 1989, generating the smash "Printemps-Eté."
Around the same time, Leloup followed an ex-girlfriend to Europe, where he stayed long enough to assemble a band, La Sale Affaire. Its members returned with him to Quebec to cut his sophomore album, L'Amour Est Sans Pitié, a star-making turn highlighted by the controversial "1990," which compared his sexual prowess to the U.S. war with Iraq. The single was a hit both at home and in France, and he spent much of 1992 touring Western Europe, followed by a trek through Quebec as part of the Rock le Lait package tour. Leloup did not resurface with a new LP until late 1996 -- Le Dôme nevertheless proved his most successful effort to date, earning him the annual Félix Award for Best Songwriter/Composer. He supported the album via the stage show Jean Leloup et les Naufragés du Titanic, with recordings from the tour later comprising part of 1998's hybrid live/studio release Les Fourmis. Leloup also expanded into fiction, writing a series of short stories he later recorded for broadcast on Radio Canada. He did not return to touring until the spring of 1999, but remained on the road for over a year. In the wake of 2002's La Vallée des Reputations, he announced plans to retire the Jean Leloup name, adopting the alias Massoud Al-Rachid to publish the 2005 novel Noir Destin Que le Mien. A year later, he issued the comeback LP Mexico under his given name, Jean Leclerc. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi