The a month of sundays post for June 2, 2019 is an emotional and very personal one.
“On 2 June 1983, [Stan] Rogers was returning home on Air Canada Flight 797 . . . En route from Dallas to Toronto, an electrical fire broke out on the plane, filling the cabin with smoke and knocking out electrical cables and cockpit instruments. The crew made an emergency landing at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Kentucky. Ninety seconds into the evacuation on the tarmac, fresh oxygen coming through the open exit doors caused a flash fire that quickly engulfed the plane, killing 23 of the 41 passengers, including Rogers. He was 33 years old.” Chris Gudgeon
I close my eyes and see me, tears streaming, going into my husband’s workshop. We sat, holding hands, waiting in disbelief, for the next news cycle to be sure it was true. Top story on the hour. For us, “the day the music died.”*
Gudgeon considers “Barrett’s Privateers,” “The Mary Ellen Carter,” and “Northwest Passage” modern folk classics, and integral to Stan’s legacy.
I have published posts wrapped in Stan’s voice and words, especially “The Mary Ellen Carter.”
“On The Coast,” a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) show determined (through a multilayered contest) the song all Canadians should know is: Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers. In 1995, CBC radio listeners voted it the winner of the “Great Canadian Song Contest,” and alternative Canadian anthem.
Yes, every Canadian should know this song – lyrics front to back. As should all who love to tell stories, sing with friends, and remember. (Lorraine, posted Dec 13, 2013)
Northwest Passage (1981) was the last album released prior to his death. In this, and previous albums, (and From Fresh Water, released posthumously), Stan chronicles the people, geography and history of Canada. Sung a cappella, “Northwest Passage” highlights the richness of his voice and the power of his lyrics. Still sends “shivers down my spine.”
Peter Yarrow, of the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary, called Rogers “an extraordinary talent, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Bob Dylan,” while Tom Paxton said that Rogers “was to Canada what Woody Guthrie was to the United States.” Pete Seeger, the father of the American folk music revival, called Rogers one of the “most talented singers and songwriters in North America . . .
Lines from “Northwest Passage” are frequently quoted. Governor General Adrienne Clarkson concluded her first public speech in 1999 with a Rogers quote about tracing “one warm line through a land so wild and savage.” In 2013, a group of New Democrat MPs gathered in front of the Parliament Buildings and sang “The Mary Ellen Carter” to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Rogers’s death. Chris Gudgeon
I met Stan’s wife, Ariel, on a trans-Atlantic flight in 1980. I had yet to know his music. When I first heard, “45 Years From Now,” I was immediately reminded of their warm reunion at Heathrow Airport.
The concert, recorded at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium in 1982 (released in 1993 as Home from Halifax) took place not long after I’d left my home in Halifax for the west coast. By then, Stan’s music was woven into my life.
So, I applied for and received a “pay what you can/sliding scale” three day pass to the 1982 Vancouver (BC) Folk Festival. I spent three glorious days wrapped in music. Again, I close my eyes; this time I see Stan telling stories at a festival workshops. And, one warm, star-sparkly, lush and rich evening watching him perform on the main stage.
Composed by Stan Rogers | © Fogarty’s Cove Music
Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea
Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea
Westward from the Davis Strait ’tis there ’twas said to lie
The sea route to the Orient for which so many died
Seeking gold and glory, leaving weathered, broken bones
And a long-forgotten lonely cairn of stones
Three centuries thereafter, I take passage overland
In the footsteps of brave Kelso, where his “sea of flowers” began
Watching cities rise before me, then behind me sink again
This tardiest explorer, driving hard across the plain
And through the night, behind the wheel, the mileage clicking west
I think upon Mackenzie, David Thompson and the rest
Who cracked the mountain ramparts and did show a path for me
To race the roaring Fraser to the sea
How then am I so different from the first men through this way?
Like them, I left a settled life, I threw it all away
To seek a Northwest Passage at the call of many men
To find there but the road back home again
Images: Gordon Leggett (graves); stanrogers.net
* “On February 3, 1959, American rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and ‘The Big Bopper’ J. P. Richardson were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, together with pilot Roger Peterson. The event later became known as ‘The Day the Music Died’, after singer-songwriter Don McLean referred to it as such in his 1971 song ‘American Pie’.” “Day the Music Died,” Wikipedia
June 4, 2019 at 9:40 am
He has a beautiful voice — captures the imagination and stirs something deeply in the spirit and soul.
And if anything, at least his memories and music live on. And it’s brilliant that you were able to see him in concert – in days filled with much magic, promise and spirited adventure. Events like these, for the personal notes they sing, as well as that “sense of community” (probably smaller, and certainly far less commercial than today) are true treasures.
I think Canada’s Folk singers are wonderful. They are so often such incredible story-tellers, capturing the sense of iconic Canada – the brutal, but beautiful, savagery of this land, the weather-worn and determined peoples, the love and tenderness that being a coast-to-coast-to-coast Canadian offers us; I also think it’s because so many of them have come from smaller towns, have traveled and noted, collected our briefings, — this is something that just weaves itself so exceptionally well into their words and melodies – it’s all very haunting.