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Jacques Villeneuve releases CD

By NELSON WYATT

MONTREAL (CP) - Racing driver Jacques Villeneuve was focused on tunes instead of tune-ups Monday as he launched his first music CD, which includes a melodic tribute to his Formula One champion father.

Gilles Villeneuve, who died in a racing accident in 1982, was an inspiration to Jacques Villeneuve and the son said it was important for him to honour his father. "It felt great," Jacques Villeneuve said in an interview after doing a selection from his album "Private Paradise," which included "Father," a song he performed in a duet Monday with his sister Melanie.

"It's a very important song. It's the only personal song on the album. I don't write personal stuff and I don't want to sing personal stuff either, but this one, because it's with my sister, I'm quite happy doing it."

Villeneuve, who no longer drives on the Formula One circuit, said the song was a more emotional experience for his sister, who started writing it in the mid-1980s, a few years after Gilles Villeneuve died when he crashed his car into a fence during a practice run in Belgium.

"I wrote the end of it a few years ago so by the time I wrote it we had grown and we had been used to living without our dad."

"Private Paradise" goes into wide release next week after two concerts in Montreal, one at Villeneuve's downtown restaurant, and the other at the Cabaret du Capitole du Quebec.

There are no immediate plans to tour with the album, most of whose songs are in English.

Villeneuve is not going to give up his day job for music and is still in talks to participate on the NASCAR circuit. But the sounds of guitar chords stir him just as much as the squeal of tires on a track.

"I've always loved music," he said. "Everyone has music inside them anyway. Everyone enjoys going to a karaoke and singing."

He decided to go one step further and write and record his songs - six of which are on his album.

"I said OK, I'll rent a studio. I want to know how the songs properly sound once recorded fully and you just have to get going, you have to take the risks."

Villeneuve couldn't pin down a specific inspiration for his style - "I've been buying so many CDs over the years."

"It's always something I've listened to, a mood. Inspiration can sometimes be being stuck in a snowstorm for a week. That will give you some inspiration, having nothing else to do."

Villeneuve was a little shaky in his performance before the media, suggesting he still has some work to do before he's as at ease recording tracks as he is driving on them.

But Garou, a musical mega-star in Quebec, says he thinks his friend did pretty well.

"He doesn't need any advice because he doesn't want to be perfect," Garou said after the performance for the media. "He just wants to have fun and he wants to share what he loves - music and songs. And he does it perfectly. It has to stay natural.

"It's a passion he's been sharing for years and years and years with his friends and now he's doing it with the entire world."

Race car driver Jacques Villeneuve is among several Canadian athletes who've tried their hand at music. A list:

-Olympic figure skater Elvis Stojko recorded a duet with Canadian Idol finalist Ashley Leitao last year and will soon release an album of his own. He has also dabbled as an actor, appearing in the stage production of "Grease" in 2004.

-Calgary Flames forward Darren McCarty has his own band Grinder, whose motto is "the Toughest Band in Rock-n-Roll."

-Toronto Argo wide receiver Robert Baker quit pro football in 2006 to pursue a career in rap music under the name Shake Severs.

-Former Montreal Alouettes coach Don Matthews released a novelty song in 2005 called "What Time Is It?" The single was based on a speech he gave at the Alouettes' 2002 Grey Cup parade, when he asked his players: "What time is it?" and they responded with things like: "Time to get busy!"

-Football brothers Doug and Darren Flutie play in the Flutie Brothers Band, opening for acts such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bo Diddley and Meredith Brooks. They also wrote and recorded the Saturday Night Football theme song for the Canadian Football League that is featured weekly on CBC.

-Hockey star Guy Lafleur released a disco album in 1979. (WHERE CAN I GET THIS???)

-Legendary goaltender Johnny Bower had a hit single in 1965 with "Honky the Christmas Goose," selling more than 40,000 copies of the novelty tune.

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