Internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter and poet Zachary Richard will receive an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of Louisiana during the Graduate School commencement ceremony on Dec. 20. The ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Cajundome.

The following biography is taken from Richard's website:

Singer-songwriter and poet, Zachary Richard was born and raised in Southwest Louisiana. His music is influenced by the styles typical of the region : Cajun, Zydeco and New Orleans rhythm and blues.   But, Zachary has always gone beyond the limitations of any particular style. With his latest album Lumière dans le noir (Light in the dark), Zachary Richard goes deeper into his own unique musical universe.

Zachary Richard began his musical career at the age of 8 years.  As first soprano of the Bishop’s Boys Choir at Saint John’s Cathedral in Lafayette Louisiana, he discovered his love for singing.

After a university career distinguished mostly by the composition of his first songs and  resistance to the war in Vietnam, Zachary moved to New York City. It was there that he obtained his first recording contract in 1972.  His first album, High Time, was recorded at the Record Plant with the crême de la crême of New York session musicians.  Victim of the politics attendant upon the creation of WEA, the album was forgotten for nearly 30 years in the vaults of Electra Records until rediscovered and finally released on Rhino Records.  Bitter over his treatment at the hands of the recording company, Zachary fled to France.  It was there, assisted by his close friend, the guitar builder James Trussart, that Zachary found an audience.  Even more importantly, that first trip to France in 1974 put him in contact with his roots.

Zachary Richard grew up in a typical Cajun family.  He learned to speak French from his grandparents, who were of the last generation of monolingual French speakers in Louisiana.  The Cajun musical tradition and native Louisiana French would have a tremendous influence on his career.  Completely bilingual, Zachary Richard composes both in English and in French. While grounded in Louisiana tradition, Zachary has been able to forge for himself a unique and uniquely personal voice.

From 1976 until 1981, Zachary lived in Montreal, recording seven French language albums. Despite critical and commercial success, including two gold albums, Zachary decided to return to Louisiana in the early 1980s and began another phase of his career, recording in English. After two albums for Rounder Records, Mardi Gras Mambo and the perennial favorite Zack's Bon Ton, Zachary signed with A&M, recording two albums back to back, Women in the Room, and SnakeBite Love. Non-stop touring and the strength of these recordings guaranteed Zachary an international following.

In 1994, Zachary appeared at the Congrès Mondial Acadien (Acadian World Congress) in New Brunswick, his first Canadian appearance in over six years.  That experience affected him deeply.  Returning to his French language, Zachary recorded his most successful album to date, the double platinum Cap Enragé.   He had swung full circle reestablishing himself as a prominent singer-songwriter in both Canada and France.

As well as a songwriter, Zachary Richard is a poet. As he explains, poetry allows him to express a reality which goes beyond the confines of the popular song while using the same basic elements: rhythm, meaning, and melody, but in a profoundly different way. His second collection of French language poetry, Faire Récolte, published by Les Editions Perce Neige, recieved the Prix Champlain, in recognition of his "considerable contribution" to the French language literature of North America. In his latest collection of poetry, Feu, published by Les Intouchables, Zachary plunges deeper into the question of francophone identity in North America. 

In 1998, Zachary published a fable for children of all ages, Conte Cajun.  The story had originally been written for his daughter Sarah in 1980 when she was 8 years old.  Nearly 20 years later, she found the manuscript hidden in a drawer and decided to illustrate the story.  It relates the adventures of a band of small animals in the wake of a devastating hurricane.  A follow up, l’Histoire de Télésphore et ‘Tit Edvard dans le nord, is published by Les Intouchables (Montreal,2007).

Beyond his artistic endeavors, Zachary Richard is committed defender of the native French language of Louisiana. He is a founding member of Action Cadienne, a volunteer organization dedicated to the promotion of the Cadien language and culture. He produced and narrated “Against the Tide,” a one-hour television documentary detailing the history of the Cajun people from their origins in France to the present day. The French version, “Contre vents, contre marées,” was awarded the Prix Historia in 2000.  Zachary is also committed to the preservation of the natural environment.  He continues to collaborate with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana in its efforts to protect the wetlands of South Louisiana. In New Brunswick, Zachary is involved in the effort to restore the Petit Codiac River, which flows through the heart of Acadie.

Following the hurricanes of 2005 (Katrina & Rita), Zachary was deeply involved in the relief efforts in Louisiana, Canada and France.  In collaboration with French singer-songwriter Francis Cabrel, Zachary organized a concert in Paris in November, 2005.  This collaboration resulted in raising a considerable contribution to the relief effort and in the co-writing of a song, “La promesse cassée” (The Broken Promise) which appears on Lumière dans le noir.  The artists’ royalties from the song are devoted to aiding New Orleans musicians impacted by the hurricane. 

With Lumière dans le noir, Zachary Richard presents us not only with a collection of strongly felt lyrics and powerful melodies, but also confirms his social commitment. “La ballade de DL 8-153” draws attention to the plight of the beluga whales of the Saint Laurence. "Ô, Jésus" deals with the genocide in Rwanda.  The writer’s royalties of this song are dedicated to Mobilisation Les Enfants du Monde, to improve the condition of African children. "La Ballade de Jackie Vautour", first recorded in 1978, pays hommage to the courage and tenacity of John L. "Jackie" Vautour who continues to resist the government’s efforts to expropriate him from his land in what is today the middle of the Canadian national park, Kouchibouguac.

Zachary Richard lives in a pecan grove somewhere in South Louisiana with Claude, his wife of 30 years.