RIP Ian Tyson, Revered Canadian Folk Singer - 89


Doctor of Teleocity
Dec 7, 2009

Before Canadian musicians like Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell or Leonard Cohen, there was Ian Tyson.
Mr. Tyson, who began his music career as half of the folk-era duo Ian and Sylvia and went on to become a revered figure in his home country, celebrated both for his music and for his commitment to the culture of Canada’s ranch country, died on Thursday at his ranch in southern Alberta. He was 89.
His family said in a statement that he died from “ongoing health complications” but did not specify further.
Mr. Tyson — whose song “Four Strong Winds” was voted the most essential Canadian piece of music by the listeners of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation public radio network in 2005 — lived most of his life as both a rancher and a musician.

Performances of his songs like “Four Strong Winds” by Mr. Young, Johnny Cash and others, and “Someday Soon,” particularly by Judy Collins, made his music, if not always his name, well known in the United States.
But his persona as a weathered rancher-musician made him emblematic in Canada, much as Mr. Cash was on the other side of the border. He performed and ran the Tyson ranch south of Calgary well into his 80s, stubbornly keeping on despite the ravages of time, changing tastes, economic hardship and, for a while, the loss of his voice.
Mr. Young, in the Jonathan Demme concert film “Heart of Gold” (2006), recalled being 16 or 17 and spending all his money playing the Ian and Sylvia version of “Four Strong Winds” over and over on the jukebox at a restaurant near Winnipeg. “It was the most beautiful record that I’ve heard in my life, and I just could not get enough of it,” he said.
Ian Dawson Tyson was born on Sept. 25, 1933, in Victoria, British Columbia, the second child of George and Margaret Tyson. He learned to ride horses on a small farm owned by his father, an insurance salesman and polo enthusiast who had emigrated from England in 1906, and grew up entranced by horses; beginning in his teens, he competed on the rodeo circuit. He learned to play guitar while in a Calgary hospital recovering from a broken ankle sustained in a fall.