As part of SOCAN’s ongoing journey toward understanding the impact of residential schools in Canada, the organization’s Equity Task Force arranged for a virtual tour of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, presented by the Woodland Cultural Centre, on April 21, 2020.
With SOCAN’s Catharine Saxberg moderating, Trisha Kelley, Development Co-Ordinator, and Chris Ashkewe, Associate Director, of the Woodland Cultural Centre, discussed the school and its 140-year history.
The event included a room-by-room video tour of the building, guided by Lorrie Gallant, which offered a powerful and poignant account of the horrific abuses suffered there, and testimony from five survivors. It was a moving, at times disturbing, but valuable way to understand the facts about what happened at residential schools.
In an extended question-and-answer session with Ashkewe that followed the video tour, he addressed possible reparations and accountability for residential school abuses; how we might move towards reconciliation; including residential school history in our current scholastic curriculum in Ontario; and more.
To find out more about what happened at the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, click here. To register for a viewing of the video, click here. To donate to the Woodland Cultural Centre, click here.
SOCAN grieves the loss of Susan Jacks
Story by Howard Druckman | May 3, 2022
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.
SOCAN mourns Shane Yellowbird
Story by Howard Druckman | May 2, 2022
SOCAN is mourning the loss of Cree country singer-songwriter Shane Yellowbird, who has passed away at the age of 42. The cause of death has not been released. Close friends say he had a history of health problems, including epilepsy. Originally from Maskwacis, Alberta (about 100 kilometres south of Edmonton) Yellowbird became an award-winning artist after a speech therapist suggested he start singing to help control a stutter – which led him to a career in music.
The Calgary-based Yellowbird is best known for the song “Pickup Truck,” which won him the Rising Star Award at the Canadian Country Music Awards in 2007, and “Life Is My Calling Name,” which was nominated for a JUNO Award in 2008 for Country Recording of the Year. He also won three Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards in 2007, and “Pickup Truck” was one of the 10 most played country music songs in Canada that year. In 2009, he became one of only three Indigenous artists to ever perform at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, where he was overjoyed to meet and chat with his hero and fellow stutterer, country superstar Mel Tillis.
Yellowbird is fondly remembered by blues and country artist Crystal Shawanda, who met him in 2008. Shawanda says he was a trailblazer to Indigenous country music singers, and was like a brother to her, always supporting her career. “What he accomplished is huge,” Shawanda said. “No male Indigenous country music artist has yet to do what he has done.”
Louis O’Reilly, who signed Yellowbird to his record label in 2003, and worked with him until 2013, said Yellowbird was “authentic through and through,” and added that he was a “real cowboy” who always stayed humble. “He was grateful for everything he had,” said O’Reilly.
Several Canadian country artists and fellow SOCAN members also paid tribute to Yellowbird. “He had this shy, humble demeanour, yet exuded confidence and star power the minute he got onstage,” Brett Kissel told The Edmonton Journal. “He always believed in me as an artist and songwriter, long before a lot of people. A truly beautiful soul,” wrote Aaron Goodvin on Instagram. Aaron Pritchett said, on social media, “You will be missed by so many, buddy.”
SOCAN extends our sympathy to Yellowbird’s family, friends, and fans.