Folk legend Ian Tyson, known for ‘Four Strong Winds’ as part of Ian & Sylvia, dies

Ian Tyson, the Canadian folk legend turned cowboy storyteller who wrote ‘Four Strong Winds’ as one half of Ian & Sylvia, has died aged 89.

The Victoria native died Thursday at his ranch near Longview, Alta., following a series of lingering health complications, according to his manager Paul Mascioli.

The singer-songwriter was part of Toronto’s influential folk movement with his first wife, Sylvia Tyson. But he’s divided much of his life and career between two passions largely unrelated to his folk background: living on his ranch in southern Alberta and pursuing songs about cowboy life.

Sylvia Tyson remembered her ex-husband as a « versatile songwriter » and « very serious ».

“He put a lot of time and energy into writing his songs and felt very strongly about his material, especially the whole cowboy lifestyle,” she told The Canadian Press on Thursday. .

Tyson was born on September 25, 1933 to parents who emigrated from England. After graduating from the Vancouver School of Art in 1958, Tyson hitchhiked to Toronto where he was swept up in the city’s burgeoning folk movement alongside Canadian legends such as Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young and Joni. Mitchell.

Tyson soon met a kindred spirit named Sylvia Fricker and they began a relationship – on and off stage – in 1959.

They moved together to New York where they met manager Albert Grossman – who managed Peter, Paul and Mary and would soon count Bob Dylan among his clients. He signed Ian & Sylvia to Vanguard Records.

Their self-titled debut album was released in 1962, a collection of mostly traditional songs. Their second album, 1964’s « Four Strong Winds, » was the duo’s breakthrough, thanks in large part to its soulful title track, one of the album’s only original compositions.

The couple married in 1964 and continued to release new records with regularity (their 1965 album « Early Morning Rain » included a composition by Lightfoot, then far from a household name). But as folk’s popularity waned, the duo moved to Nashville and began incorporating strains of country and rock into their sound.

In 1969, the Tysons explored this new fusion, forming the country-rock band Great Speckled Bird, whose influential self-titled debut dropped in 1970.

They had a child, Clay, in 1968, but the couple separated as their careers began to stall in the 1970s, and they divorced in 1975.

Ian Tyson then returned West and returned to ranch life, training horses and cowboying in Pincher Creek, Alberta, experiences that filtered through his writing, particularly on « Old Corrals and Sagebrush » from 1983.

Tyson’s 1987 self-released album « Cowboyography » became a surprising word-of-mouth success and rejuvenated Tyson’s touring career in Canada and the United States.

Things were going well in Tyson’s personal life, too. In 1978, he met a waitress named Twylla Dvorkin. She was just 17 at the time, but Tyson – then in his 40s – pursued a relationship with her. The couple married in 1986 and had a daughter, Adelita, a year later. They divorced in 2008.

Tyson has won numerous awards for his music, including an induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019.

In 1987, he won a Juno Award for Male Country Singer of the Year and five years later was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame alongside Sylvia Tyson. He won a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in 2003 and was named to the Order of Canada and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.

Tyson continued to release music late into his career, including the 2015 album « Carnero Vaquero » and the 2017 single « You Should Have Known. »

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on December 29, 2022.


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