SOCAN is grieving the loss of singer-songwriter Susan Jacks – best known for singing the classic hit pop songs with The Poppy Family, “Where Evil Grows” and “Which Way you Goin’ Billy?”– who passed away on April 25, 2022, from kidney disease, at the age of 73. Jacks was reported to have been on a waiting list for a second kidney transplant.
Born Susan Pesklevits, she began performing professionally at age 15, then married Terry Jacks at 19, creating the duo that came to be known as The Poppy Family – which had a string of Top 10 singles in Canada, and some notable success globally.
Their song, “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?,” was a major hit in the U.S. and U.K., reaching No. 1 on the Cash Box chart, and No. 2 on the Billboard chart. It’s believed to be the first million-selling song by an act from Vancouver, and sold an estimated 3.5 million copies worldwide. In 1970, the song won a JUNO Award for Best Produced Single, and the album of the same name earned another for Best Produced MOR (Middle of the Road radio format, now Adult Contemporary) Album.
The single “Where Evil Grows” reached No. 6 on the charts in Canada, and much later, was revived in a cover version by fellow Vancouverites and hardcore punk stalwarts D.O.A. in 1990. In a more recent resurgence, “Where Evil Grows” was used in Season 2, Episode 4 of the hit TV/streaming series Killing Eve, and in the 2020 film Sonic the Hedgehog.
After the demise of The Poppy Family and the Jacks’ marriage in 1972-73, Susan Jacks went on to a solo career. Her first album, I Thought of You Again earned a JUNO nomination for Canadian Female Vocalist of the Year in 1973. She later received more Female Vocalist nominations for her singles, “Anna Marie,” “All the Tea in China,” and “Another Woman’s Man.” Jacks was inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame in June 2010.
She met Canadian Football League player Ted Dushinski in 1980, married, moved to Nashville, and had a son. In 2004, the family moved back to Canada after Dushinski was diagnosed with lung cancer, and passed away in 2005. Jacks received a diagnosis of kidney disease and received a transplant from her brother Billy in 2010.
Burton Cummings posted a tribute on his Facebook page, saying, “Sad news, the lovely Susan Jacks has passed away. I met Susan on my very first trip to Vancouver way back in the sixties. She made some great recordings… My personal favourite song she ever sang was ‘Beyond The Clouds’… Her recordings will live forever… She was charming and down to earth. R.I.P. Susan… we’ll all miss you.”
Moe Berg, of The Pursuit Of Happiness, said on his Facebook page, “Sad news of Susan Jack’s passing. She recorded some of the most subversive music in rock history with The Poppy Family. The music would be catchy and cheery but the lyrics would be painfully sad and depressing. ”
Said Ian Thomas on Facebook, “I was saddened to hear that Canadian singer-songwriter Susan Jacks passed early this week. She had such a lovely voice, and along with then husband Terry Jacks, made some really good records together as The Poppy Family. Susan was one of the very few female Canadian artists on the radio in the early seventies, and I first met her in 1971 or ’72 when I hired the Poppy Family for a live concert that we recorded at Ontario Place for broadcast on CBC radio. They were such pros and put on a terrific show… She told me that one of her first hits, ‘Which Way You Going Billy,’ was about her brother, who had donated a kidney to her when she was a teenager. I think her genuine humility came from being a step away from death, a road walked by so many of those stricken with kidney disease. She had an insight into the wonder of life that most of us take for granted.”
SOCAN extends its deepest condolences to Jacks’ family, friends, and fans at this difficult time. For an in-depth interview with her, click here.