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Alice Robitaille (born Quebec City, February 3, 1923) is an internationally-recognized singer from Quebec City, who performed under the stage name Alys Robi.



Born in 1923 in the Quebec City neighbourhood of Saint-Sauveur, Robitaille displayed talent for singing and acting at a very young age. She first performed on-stage at the Capitol Theater at 7. At the same epoch she already sang on-air with the CHRC radio station and was a real phenomenon with the whole city.

At 12 she moved to the Théâtre National, on Montreal's Saint Catherine Street. Under the direction of Rose Ouellet, she learned acting and singing during a 75-week engagement. She continued her career in the Montreal cabarets, making radio appearances. For a time during the war, she also hosted a French radio show named Tambour battant ("Rumbling drum"). Touring Canadian military bases propelled her career across Canada.

During the 1940s, she started producing 78s and she became renowned way beyond Canada. She captured popular imagination with Latin rhythms like Besame Mucho and Tico tico. She sang in chic New York cabarets by the mid forties and in 1947, she travelled to England where she made an appearance on the first regular BBC program.

In 1948, while traveling by car to Hollywood, she was injured in an accident, and entered a period of depression. After a series of unfortunate diagnoses, and a failed romance, she suffered a mental breakdown and was interned for several years in a Quebec City asylum. She was at some point subjected to a lobotomy against her will. She credited the operation with her recovery: "Je me réveillai guérie et j'ai compris plus tard que j'avais été un des rares cas réussis de lobotomie" (I woke up better and later understood that I was one of the rare lobotomy success stories)[1]. In 1952, she was released. The same year, she came back on stage at the Casa Loma and the Montmartre, but her efforts were impeded by taboos on mental problems and she never regained the same level of popularity.

In the early 1990s, Alys returned into the public eye after the massive success she had with a song written for her by Alain Morisod ("Laissez-moi encore chanter"). Books, theses, plays and television series were written about her. A movie was released in December 2004: Alys Robi: Ma vie en cinémascope ("Alys Robi: My life on Cinemascope"), entitled Bittersweet Memories in English.

Robitaille has published two autobiographies: Ma Carrière, ma vie ("My career, my life", 1980) and Long Cri dans la nuit: Cinq Années à l'Asile ("Long cry in the night: five years in the asylum", 1990).

Several of Robi's songs have been used for publicity. Sico, notably, played on the similarity between its brand name and the title of "Tico Tico" to produce a very catchy campaign based on a spoof of the song.


  • Diva (2005) (recorded in 1946 at the CBC)
  • Laissez-moi encore chanter (1989)

Compilations :

  • Alys Robi, Collection QIM (2005)
  • Alys Robi, l'anthologie (2004)
  • La Collection - volume 1 & 2 (1995)
  • La Collection - volume 1 (1995)
  • Les Succès d'Alys Robi (1962, 1995)

Hit songs

  • Adios muchachos
  • Amour
  • Beguine
  • Besame mucho
  • Brésil
  • Chi-baba chi-baba
  • Chica Chica Boom Chic
  • Jalousie
  • Je te tiens sur mon coeur
  • Laissez-moi encore chanter
  • Le Tram
  • Symphonie
  • Tico-tico


  1. ^ Long Cri dans la nuit: Cinq Années à l'Asile, cited in Alys Robi,


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