Ian Tyson, a Canadian folk music icon, died Thursday morning, his ex-wife confirmed to CBC News.
Sylvia Tyson, his ex-wife and musical partner, said the 89-year-old’s influence on Canadian culture cannot be overstated.
“I was at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto with a young band, and they wanted me to do Four Strong Winds with them.” “It was a very young audience, and I really didn’t expect that kind of reaction, but everyone sang the Four Winds,” she told CBC News over the phone Thursday.
“It’s like the Canadian national anthem.” Tyson had major surgery a few years ago, she said, but he never fully recovered. Corb Lund is a Canadian country singer-songwriter who grew up with and later performed with Ian Tyson.
“He’s our Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, or Leonard Cohen.” “He’s a guy who, at least musically, embodies the region,” Lund told CBC News in 2019. When it comes to Four Winds, Lund believes the song’s longevity speaks for itself.
“For really good songwriters, you’re either born with it or you’re not,” he said. “When you have a song that’s so powerful that it goes around for decades, it becomes part of the cultural fabric, so it fends for itself.” “Repeating the song becomes a form of self-fulfillment, so it grows from a great song’s beginning and builds up over time.”
Tyson’s musical career began in the late 1950s, when he hitchhiked across the country from Vancouver to Toronto, where he became involved in the city’s burgeoning folk movement in the bohemian district of Yorkville. There, he met like-minded Sylvia Fricker, and they began an on-and-off-stage relationship that would eventually lead to their seminal second album, Four Strong Winds, in 1964.
They collaborated on music for many years, but when their careers faltered in the 1970s, the couple split up and divorced in 1975. Tyson built a solo career as a country singer over the next few years through self-release. Cowboyography, his 1987 album, was an unexpected word-of-mouth success, earning him a Juno Award.