CALGARY (CelebrityAccess) – Cree-Canadian country music artist Shane Yellowbird passed away Monday (April 25) at 42. His family confirmed he was living in Calgary at his death. “Our brother was a talented artist who loved his children, music, and sports,” the family statement reads. “We are all deeply struck by the tragedy and ask for the respect and privacy of this time to mourn the loss of our loved one.”
CBC News reports close friends and musician Crystal Shawanda have confirmed he had a history of health problems, including epilepsy. “Several years ago, he started to share that he wasn’t doing as many shows because he suffered from seizures,” said Shawanda.
Yellowbird became a country music singer/songwriter after a stuttering condition in his youth led him to sing to help alleviate the stuttering. According to a profile on Yellowbird by First Nations Drum, he began seeing a speech therapist who suggested that he sing his sentences to help him speak clearly. The technique proved successful and instilled a budding love of music in Yellowbird. Initially, he wanted to follow in his parents’ footsteps and become a rodeo cowboy.
Yellowbird released his debut album, Life is Calling my Name, in 2006. He won Best New Artist, Single of the Year (Beautiful Concept), and Best Video at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards. The Canadian Country Music Awards named him Chevy Trucks Rising Star of the Year in 2007, and “Pickup Truck” from his debut album became his first Top 5 song. In 2007 he was named the Aboriginal Entertainer of the Year at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards. During his career, he was nominated for JUNO in 2008 and won two Native American Music Awards in the US for Best Country Recording in 2011, and 2012 for “Life Is Calling My Name” and “It’s About Time,” respectively.
Tributes and statements have popped up all over social media upon news of his death.
“It’s been a shock. We’re just trying to support each other and be there for each other. We have people across Canada contacting us in the States. We’re just trying to process this,” said his sister Carmen Yellowbird.
Shawanda said she thinks Yellowbird will serve as an inspiration to other aspiring Indigenous artists. “He was a trailblazer. He opened doors. What he accomplished is huge. No male Indigenous country music artist has yet to do what he has done. That shows the magnitude of what he accomplished. He was the first one to get through that door.”
Yellowbird is survived by partner, Sarah and four children. A memorial service will be held in Maskwacis on Friday, April 29.