André “Dédé” Fortin (17 November 1962 – 8 May 2000) was a founding member, frontman, and vocalist of the Québécois band Les Colocs, formed in 1990.
Fortin was long interested in music and started writing song lyrics. In 1990, he formed Les Colocs, after meeting Patrick Esposito Di Napoli and a couple of the other band members. The music they wrote, recorded and performed was a folk rock sound, emerging from Québécois music, with a ska backbeats and several other genres of music. They released their first album in 1993 to great acclaim. Les Colocs’ festive melodies often hid the more serious issues which Fortin addressed in his lyrics, such as poverty (Passe-moé la puck), loss of community (La rue principale), emotional dependence (Juste une p’tite nuite), or drug dependence (Tassez-vous de d’là). Fortin made Félix Award-winning videos for the group during this period.
He was a passionate believer in Quebec independence. An activist for the OUI (“Yes”) campaign, Fortin worked to create support for independence during the campaign of the 1995 Quebec referendum. The band performed at partisan meetings. The death in 1994 of bandmate and friend Patrick Esposito Di Napoli from AIDS affected him deeply. Fortin struggled with depression during the following years.
Dehors Novembre (1998), the last LP from the group, was written and performed with the help of the Diouf brothers, whose background from Senegal added a new element to the band’s music. It has become Fortin and the band’s most celebrated work, and it won the Félix Award for the Rock Album of the Year.
On 8 May 2000, Fortin committed suicide at his apartment. Four days afterwards, fans left flowers and messages in his memory at his building on Rachel Street, in the Plateau neighborhood of Montreal.
The day before, the Colocs manager Raymond Paquin had received a poem by Fortin. He published it posthumously in La Presse. Several years later, the remaining members of the band recovered a CD with the original song recorded from this poem by Dédé himself; they made their own version, which they released in 2009.
Fortin has been remembered in different ways:
- Saint-Thomas-Didyme, where Dédé Fortin was born, renamed Rang Saint-Henri as “Chemin Dédé-Fortin” in his honor in 2006.
- In 2009, a film about Fortin’s life, entitled Dédé à travers les brumes (Dédé through the mist), was released.
- The Fondation Andre Dédé Fortin was established to educate about depression and prevent suicides; it has established a 24-hour crisis line and conducts workshops to help people in need.