"La belle Françoise" is a song that appears in Seeking the Center and on my Seeking the Center playlist. I think its background is interesting, and I want to share it with you.
When I was writing Achille's main scene in Seeking, I looked for a song that could play a certain role in it. (I won't elaborate on that role, because I don't want to spoil the story.) I wanted a traditional voyageur song, because that is a major part of Achille's background and identity. (The voyageurs were the French Canadian paddlers of the birchbark canoes that carried trade goods north and west into the interior of North America, and brought back loads of furs to the companies in Montreal. They used traditional songs to synchronize their paddling. Most of these songs pre-dated France's first settlements in Quebec, so they date back to the 17th century or earlier.)
"La belle Françoise" appears in sources including Grace Lee Nute's The Voyageur and Thomas R. Draughon's Canot d'Écorce: Chansons de Voyageurs. Though it isn't the song most associated with the voyageurs, I chose it because of its minor key, which gives it a melancholy mood, and because of its lyrics, which dramatize the impending separation of two lovers.
In the song, Françoise weeps because her man must go to war, but he assures her that, if she waits for him, he will return and marry her. Their plight echoes the situations of some of my characters. Although it is not actual war that they are going to, they are facing unknown and sometimes hostile situations, away from their homeplaces.
You can listen to different versions of the song on YouTube. I chose Garolou's live version for my Seeking the Center playlist mainly because it makes an exciting finale. But it also represents a further evolution of the song that, although it doesn't pertain to Seeking, is interesting in its own right.
Garolou was a French-Canadian group active in the 1970s that often took traditional French and French-Canadian chansons (songs) and gave them modern, rock settings. "La belle Françoise" was an early hit for them (mid 1970s). You can hear how they've contemporized it with a Vietnam-era anti-war message by inserting an intense version of "La Marseillaise." The Seeking the Center playlist version is from Garolou's 1997 live Réunion album.