Jolie Louise

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Songfacts®:

  • Daniel Lanois was born and raised in Gatineau, across from Ottawa on the other side of the Ottawa River in Quebec. In 1961, when he was about 12, his parents split up and he and his three siblings moved with their mother to Hamilton, near Toronto. They knew very little English because Gatineau is French-speaking, so they had to learn the language quickly.

    "Jolie Louise" is a song based on Lanois' father. In the song, he has a good life working at a mill until he loses his job. He starts drinking, falls into despair, and takes it out on his wife, who leaves him, taking the kids with her.

    The details of the song that are true are the name of Lanois' father (Guy) and where he lived ("east of Gatineau"). His wife was named Jill, not Louise. Guy Lanois died in 2010 at 87.

    In a Songfacts interview with Daniel Lanois, he explained: "I wrote 'Jolie Louise' from my dad's perspective when my parents split up. I thought that would be an interesting way to address what happened, and I decided on perspective on all that."
  • The lyrics are half in French, half in English. "Jolie" means "pretty one," so the title translates to "Pretty Louise." The line, "Et pis mon nom, y est pas bon" after he loses his job means "and my name is not good," indicating his shame that leads to his madness.

    Another track on the album, "O Marie," has lyrics entirely in French.
  • This is a track from Acadie, Lanois' first solo album. At the time, he was very busy as a producer, working on The Neville Brothers' Yellow Moon album and Bob Dylan's Oh Mercy.
  • U2's rhythm section - drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. and bass player Adam Clayton – both play on this track. Lanois had co-produced the U2 albums The Unforgettable Fire (1984) and The Joshua Tree (1987).
  • The song has a cajun zydeco sound in line with the French section of New Orleans. The lead instrument is an accordion played by Ed Roth.
  • "Jolie Louise" was used in the 1990 pilot episode of the TV series Northern Exposure and included on the show's soundtrack album in 1992.

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