The country singer shared the stage with The Great Speckled Bird as Ian & Sylvia.
On Thursday, 89-year-old Ian Tyson, a legend of Canadian country music, passed away (Dec. 29). It was confirmed by family members in a formal press announcement that the icon passed away on his ranch in southern Alberta, Canada.
Tyson played a key role in the development of Canadian folk music. At the Heidelberg Café in Vancouver, he made his formal entrance into the world of country music in 1956. Later, he joined The Sensational Stripes, a rock and roll group, to perform.
After meeting Sylvia Fricker in 1959, the singer would go on to find success. As Ian & Sylvia, the duo would advance from being sideshow performers to becoming a full-fledged musical act in 1961, getting engaged in 1964. After that, the pair started playing with a band, establishing and leading the ensemble The Great Speckled Bird in 1969.
Throughout his career, Tyson would produce a number of well-known singles, including “Four Strong Winds,” “The Old Double Diamond,” “Someday Soon,” and “You Were on My Mind,” which he performed with Sylvia.
Tyson was admitted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame by 1989 and, along with Sylvia, whom he divorced in 1975, was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1992. Tyson received the distinction of being made a Member of the Order of Canada two years later, in 1994; he also won the Governor General’s Award for Performing Arts and was admitted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2003 and 2006, respectively.
His most famous song is the troubadour’s lament “Four Strong Winds,” which has the immortal chorus, “If the good times are all gone/Then I’m bound for movin’ on/I’ll search for you if I’m ever back this way,” about the life of a wanderer.
Among the many artists who performed the song cover versions were Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, and Judy Collins. Young included “Four Strong Winds” on his beloved “Comes a Time” album, which was released in 1978. Two years earlier, Young performed the song at The Band’s “The Last Waltz” concert, which marked the band’s final live performance.
The parents of Tyson, who was born on September 25, 1933, immigrated from England. He went to a private school and mastered the game of polo before discovering the rodeo.
He hitchhiked to Toronto after earning his degree in art from the Vancouver School of Art in 1958. He became involved in the developing folk movement in the city, where Canadian musicians like Young, Mitchell, and Gordon Lightfoot performed in hippie coffee shops in the artistic Yorkville district.
The Specials member Terry Hall passes away at age 63. “His melodies captured the very essence of existence,” said one.
The couple were married in 1964 and kept putting out new music frequently. However, as folk music lost its appeal, they relocated to Nashville and started fusing rock and country into their sound. The Tysons formed the country-rock group Great Speckled Bird in 1969. The group shared the stage with the Grateful Dead, the Band, and Janis Joplin on the “Festival Express” tour across Canada in 1970, which served as the inspiration for a 2004 documentary of the same name.