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."