Stan Klees, one of the most crucial and influential founders of the Canadian music ecosystem as we’ve come to know it, died in his sleep on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, of natural causes, at the age of 91.

In 1964, Klees co-founded Canada’s first radio tip-sheet, RPM, which grew into a weekly magazine that championed Canadian artists, year in and year out. Klees (along with longtime partner Walt Grealis) was  relentlessly dedicated to Canadian music, which lead to the creation of the JUNO Awards (formerly the RPM Gold Leaf Awards) in 1971. That same year, Klees co-founded CIRPA (the Canadian Independent Record Production Association), the predecessor organization of CIMA (the Canadian Independent Music Association), to effectively represent, and advocate for, the independent sector of the Canadian music business. RPM Weekly also created the Big Country convention and the Big Country Awards, the forerunners of Canadian Country Music Week and The Canadian Country Music Awards, respectively. To assist radio programmers and artists in determining what qualified as Canadian content, Klees created the MAPL logo system, still used by Canadian labels and musicians today.

At the 2021 SOCAN Awards, Klees was among 24 visionaries recognized for the roles they played in boosting made-in-Canada content, both nationally and internationally. “To be recognized with the Guardian Award is an acknowledgment of decades of work,” said Klees in a 2021 interview with The Independent Free Press in Georgetown. “It makes me smile.”

At the 2001 SOCAN Awards, Klees (along with Grealis) received a Special Achievement Award for his essential work developing the nascent Canadian music industry. In 1995, he was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. Grealis died of lung cancer in 2004, and a year later, Klees accepted the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) Legacy Award on both their behalf.

Klees had a compelling enthusiasm, a generous spirit, and a true love for Canadian music. He’s being remembered as a mentor, a friend, and an inspiration to all who knew him, and leaves an eternal legacy in the Canadian music ecosystem. SOCAN extends its deepest condolences to his family and friends. Klees will be laid to rest at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, alongside Walt Grealis and Lori Bruner, a former RPM Weekly colleague.