Trailblazing Country Singer Shane Yellowbird Dies At 42

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Cree-Canadian country singer-songwriter Shane Yellowbird died Monday in Calgary at 42.

A cause of death was not disclosed but Yellowbird had been open about suffering with epilepsy. Journalist Brandi Morin tweeted Tuesday that in the “last few years it got really bad.”

She wrote: “He has been declared dead more than once including last year but he pulled through. In between he was pretty healthy. He had one last grand mall seizure & didn’t make it out alive.”

Morin said she and Yellowbird had discussed working together on his memoir. In text messages she shared, Yellowbird wrote last summer: “My life is in turmoil. I just think it’s time to put it down on paper … Many struggles. People should know. I want to start it where I am now. Explain later into it how I got here and finish with a bang.”

In a Facebook post, singer Crystal Shawanda wrote: “He was a trailblazer and no Male Indigenous country music artist has yet to do what he did, which shows the magnitude of what he accomplished.”

Former Alberta premier Rachel Notley described Yellowbird on Twitter as “a trail-blazing artist who inspired other youngsters with big dreams.”

Born in what is now Maskwacis, Alberta, Yellowbird became a rodeo cowboy but started singing as part of therapy to overcome a stutter.

Louis O'Reilly, who signed Yellowbird to his record label in 2003, told CTV News “he had a tremendous voice and a tremendous charisma, and kind of a shyness and an 'aww shucks' bashfulness that people saw in him and gravitated to him for that reason."

In 2006, Yellowbird released his debut album Life Is Calling My Name, which earned him a JUNO nomination and several Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards, including Best New Artist. He was named the Rising Star of the Year at the Canadian Country Music Awards in 2007.

Yellowbird had a Top 5 hit on the Canadian country chart in 2007 with “Pickup Truck.”

“It was a big song for him & for us, and we grew up together in this crazy business,” tweeted Joni Delaurier and Troy Kokol, who penned the song. “But more than that, he was our friend. We miss him already.”

Yellowbird’s sophomore studio album, It’s About Time, came out in 2009.

A funeral will be held Friday in Maskwacis. Yellowbird is survived by his partner Sarah and four children as well as siblings and other family members.

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