SOCAN mourns the loss of East Coast folk singer-songwriter, SOCAN member, and former member of the SOCAN Board of Directors Laura Smith, who died on March 7, 2020, of pancreatic cancer, at the age of 67. Smith passed away peacefully at her home in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, surrounded by family and friends. A GoFundMe campaign started for Smith’s care raised $45,000, nearly twice its goal, and Smith’s musical peers across the country had expressed their love and support for her.
On Feb. 28, 2020, Hugh’s Room Live in Toronto hosted a tribute to Smith, Celebrating An Icon, featuring Paul Mills, Tony McManus, Grit Laskin, Tannis Slimmon, Allison Lupton, Eve Goldberg, David Woodhead, John Sheard, and Lenny and Wendy Solomon. An all-star, sold-out tribute concert, My Bonny: Celebrating the Music of Laura Smith, at Casino Nova Scotia’s Schooner Showroom in Halifax on March 29, 2020, will go ahead as scheduled, with a lineup that includes Heather Rankin, Bruce Guthro, Lennie Gallant, Lucy MacNeil, Myles Goodwyn, and more.
Born and raised in London, Ontario, Smith made her debut on the local coffeehouse circuit. She moved to Toronto in 1975, then to Cape Breton in 1984. Her second album, B’tween the Earth and My Soul, brought her national acclaim and earned two East Coast Music Awards (for Female Artist and Album of the Year) and two JUNO nominations (for Best New Solo Artist and Best Roots and Traditional Album). In 1997, earned a Gemini Award for Best Performance in a Performing Arts Program or Series. Her 1995 single “Shade of Your Love” was one of the year’s biggest hits on adult contemporary radio stations in Canada.
An adaptation of the Scottish folk song “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean,” which she shortened to “My Bonny,” became one of her most popular songs, and she recorded a version of it with The Chieftains on their album Fire in the Kitchen. In 2003, Smith was honoured with a Doctor of Humanities in Literature from Mount Saint Vincent University. In the 2000s, she spent two seasons onstage in Prince Edward Island, in the role of Marilla in the musical Anne & Gilbert, at the Victoria Playhouse in Victoria-by-the-Sea, and the Jubilee Theatre in Summerside, respectively. Although her career was hindered by debilitating accidents, and a resulting dependence on painkillers, Smith completed her first recording in 16 years, Everything Is Moving, in 2013.
There are plans for a memorial and wake, and SOCAN extends its deepest sympathies to Smith’s family, friends, and colleagues throughout the Canadian music community.