Quebec singer Martin Deschamps only met Jack Layton three or four times, but their friendship was sealed by the end of the first pint of beer they shared in a Quebec City pub five years ago.
Now, Mr. Deschamps is preparing to sing Saturday at Mr. Layton's state funeral in Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall. He joins Lorraine Segato, a member of the pop group Parachute Club, and the Metropolitan Community Church choir as confirmed musicians for the service.
Mr. Layton was in Quebec City taking French lessons when Mr. Deschamps, who was unwinding with a couple of his band-mates between shows at a pub, noticed the politician and introduced himself. The pair spent about two hours chatting over a beer – entirely in French – but it wasn't their love of music they bonded over.
"What I found was that we had the same values, the same hope for a better world. Because me, as a singer, most of my lyrics ... are that I find life great and it's worth living this life," Mr. Deschamps said from his home in Rawdon, Que. "The connection was strong, you know?"
Indeed, Mr. Deschamps said he may sing his song C'est beau le monde, a favourite of Mr. Layton's, as well as Croire, a hopeful tune. He also hopes he could sing Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World – "that's my favourite song" – but the details have yet to be arranged.
The second time the two men met was on the French-language television show Tout le monde en parle in 2008, and Mr. Layton showed his characteristic good humour in letting Mr. Deschamps, who also draws cartoons, sketch a caricature of him.
The challenge for Mr. Deschamps on Saturday will be focusing on his performance amid all the ceremony and grief, but he is touched to be invited.
"I'll do my best to give him the homage he deserves," he said. "I'm doing it for the man, doing it for his friends, for all he was working for."
Ms. Segato is expected to sing the Parachute Club hit Rise Up, which has been co-opted as an NDP anthem for years, while the MCC choir's role has yet to be disclosed.