|In late April 2009, Zachary Richard released
Last Kiss, his first English album in 15 years. It includes a
duet with Céline Dion.
In 2008, Zachary Richard was selected as the
honoree at Festivals Acadiens. Click
on the Flickr link above for photos.
Click here to go to
Zachary Richard's Official Web Site, available in both French and English, with extensive
information about Zachary Richard's music and other activities, numerous video and audio
clips, and a "boutique" offering a variety of merchandise.
Another Zachary Richard site.
The pictures on this page were taken in April 2001 at Festival International in Lafayette.
Taking them was easy.
Then came the problem of figuring out
what to say about Zachary Richard, an immensely talented musician and poet who describes
himself as "a chameleon of culture."
At his core, he is a Cajun, but he is also a rock 'n' roll and folk
musician who has enjoyed his greatest popularity in Canada and France and who, though, he
is a staunch advocate of preserving the French language, says that he really enjoys
writing songs in English and performing before American audiences. He has been influenced
by Mick Jagger, Simon and Garfunkel, Muddy Waters, Professor Longhair, Clifton Chenier,
Bob Dylan, and Neil Youngto mention only a few of the names he goes through in an
OffBeat magazine interview.
Richard was born in 1950 in Scott, where he still has a home
Among his boyhood friends was Michael Doucet, who joined with him in teenage bands
and on subsequent musical ventures in the first half of the 1970s. After a very well
received performance at a folk festival in France in 1973, Richard and Doucet formed the
Cajun rock group the Bayou Drifter Band, which released Le Bayou des Mystères in
1976 and Mardi Gras in 1977, both on the Arzed label (the name refers to
Richard's initials in reverse). Richard recorded six more albums on that label before
moving to Rounder to record albums mainly in English and then to the A&M label.
In 1994, he performed his song "Réveille!" before the
first Le Congrès Mondial Acadien in New Brunswick, gaining an enthusiastic reception from
20,000 Acadians who responded to the Richard's graphic description of the English
depredations and cheered his rallying cry, "Réveille! Réveille! hommes acadiens
pour sauver l'heritage." (Nearly two decades earlier, he had performed
"Réveille" at the second Tribute to Cajun Music in Lafayette, raising a
clenched fist before an audience that did not really comprehend his anger.) Inspired by
his experience at Le Congrès, Richard began work on his most successful album, Cap
Enragé. Recorded in France and released by Initial ADCD in 1996, the album went
Double Platinum in Canada. He followed with another French album, Coeur Fidèle,
released in 2000.
Many of Richard's French songs depart from the traditional Cajun
styles. Perhaps for that reason, his recordings are not heard that frequently on most
Cajun radio programs in Southwest Louisiana. However, his songs still become hits.
Richard's previously unrecorded "Belle Louisiane," performed by La Bande
Feufollet with vocals by Brittany Polaski, won the Cajun French Music Association's Song
of the Year Award in 2002. Polaski's version of "Travailler C'est Trop Dur," a
signature song for Richard, has also been very popular. "Who Stole My
Monkey," an English song that Richard wrote to the accompaniment of the motor in his
Dodge van, became a hit for Richard LeBouef. The recording by Louisiana's Kingfish of
"J'Peux Pas M'Empecher" got a lot of airplay.
Compilations of Richard's music are available on Silver Jubilee:
The Best of Zachary Richard, 1973-1998, released by Rhino, and Travailler C'est
Trop Dur Anthologie 1976-1999, a 2-CD set released in France by ADCD.
Even though he seems to spend much of his time outside Louisiana,
Zachary Richard continues to be a major force in the efforts to promote French in his home
state. He was a central figure in the "Cri du Bayou" concert held at the close
of Congrès Mondial Acadien at the Cajundome in Lafayette in August 1999. He produced and
narrated "Against the Tide," a television documentary detailing the history of
the Cajun people. During 2002, he was instrumental in arranging for 24,000 French books to
be donated by Quebec schools to schools in Southwest Louisiana with French immersion
programs. He is a founding member of Action Cadienne and supports the group's work to
promote the Cajun language and culture. He is also active in environmental causes, and,
according to news reports in summer 2002, he was planning to work on a documentary about
migratory birds that fly from Canada to Louisiana. The film will also deal with
environmental and social issues.
By deciding to perform at the 2002 Festivals Acadiens with Michael
Doucet in a segment titled "Bayou des Mystères," Richard returned to his roots.
The festival was dedicated to Felix Richard, the accordion player whom Zachary Richard
credits as having the most influence on him. Apart from being the accordion player whose
eyes, alive with pride and wisdom, stare back at us from Philip Gould's photograph on the
cover of the book Cajun Music and Zydeco, Felix Richard has not received a lot of
recognition until now. According to Zachary Richard, as he explained to Barry Ancelet in Cajun
and Creole Music Makers, Felix Richard not only helped him understand the accordion:
"Felix was like a character out of a novel as much as a musician. It was always a
revelation just to talk to him." Also performing as part of the tribute was Horace
Trahan, who was taught by Felix Richard some 20 years after he helped Zachary Richard
learn to play.
here for a few photos from the Festivals Acadiens peformance.