Canadian Folk, Country Icon Ian Tyson Dies At 89


Canadian musicians are taking to social media to pay tribute to folk singer Ian Tyson, who died Thursday morning at his Alberta ranch. He was 89.

Manager Paul Mascioli told The Canadian Press that Tyson had suffered "a series of ongoing health complications."

The musician underwent cardiac surgery at a Calgary hospital in 2015 and, three years later, was back in hospital after several weeks of feeling ill. “I’m having some heart problems and the doctors are looking after me,” Tyson told fans at the time.

Robbie Robertson, Gord Bamford, Ron Sexsmith and The Northern Pikes are among those remembering Tyson on Twitter.

“He was one of the most authentic and genuine artists ever – and because of him – Canadian music was put on the map, and respected worldwide,” wrote country singer Brett Kissel. “The world has lost a great artist, songwriter and most of all – a great cowboy.”

Jann Arden remembered Tyson as "the real deal."

Musician and politician Charlie Angus called Tyson “a true original” who “wrote so many incredible songs” that captured “this nation’s great breadth of land and hope.”

Tyson was born in Victoria, B.C. and was competing in rodeos by the time he was in his teens. His dreams were dashed in 1957 when he shattered his ankle while competing in a rodeo near Cremona, Alberta. He learned to play guitar while recovering in hospital.

Tyson made his way to Toronto, where he became part of the city’s folk scene along with singers like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot. It was also where he met Sylvia Fricker, who became his musical partner, first wife and mother of their son Clay.

As Ian & Sylvia, they released a dozen albums and had success with songs like “Early Morning Rain,” “Four Strong Winds” and “You Were on My Mind.”

The couple divorced in 1975 and Tyson returned to ranch life in Alberta. (In 1986, Tyson married Twylla Dvorkin – whom he met when she was 17 and he was 45 – and they had daughter Adelita. They split in 2005.)

Tyson released a dozen albums between 1973 and 2005 before suffering permanent damage to his vocal cords – but still put out five more albums.

Tyson was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame (with Sylvia Tyson) in 1992, and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019. 

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