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Canadian Folk Icon Ian Tyson Dead at 89

Canadian Folk Icon Ian Tyson Dead at 89

Ian Tyson
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LONGVIEW (CelebrityAccess) – Canadian folk legend Ian Tyson, best known for the song “Four Strong Winds,” as half of the Ian & Sylvia duo died Thursday (December 29) at his ranch due to ongoing health issues. His manager Paul Mascioli announced his death via social media and CBC News. His ex-wife Sylvia said Tyson had major surgery a few years ago and never fully recovered.

Ian & Sylvia, with his first wife, Sylvia Tyson, was a big part of the folk movement in Toronto. However, he was a true cowboy at heart, living on his southern Alberta ranch and writing songs about life as a cowboy.

Canadian country singer/songwriter Corb Lund grew up listening to Tyson and has even graced the stage with the legend. “He’s kind of our Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, or Leonard Cohen. He’s a guy who’s most embodied the region in art, musically at least, Lund told CBC News in a 2019 interview. In a social media post, Lund said, “Canada and the world has lost a legendary songwriter, performer and lifelong advocate for the romance and reality of the West. His music and presence will be missed by myself and by many others. But I’ll miss his friendship the most. Ride easy, cowboy, see ya on the other side.”

 

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Tyson was born in Victoria, British Columbia, in September 1933 to parents who had migrated from England. He attended private school and learned to play polo before discovering the rodeo. He was a rodeo rider beginning in his late teens. He shattered his ankle in 1957 while performing in the Dog Pound Rodeo.

While recovering from ankle surgery, a fellow patient had a guitar, and out of boredom, he picked it up and taught himself to play. In an interview with the CBC in 2000, he said, “Guitar was how to pass the time.”

CBC.CA reports he met his wife Sylvia while hitchhiking across the country from Vancouver to Toronto. He was swept up by the music of Joni Mitchell and Neil Young during that time. They struck up a relationship onstage and off, which led to the “Four Strong Winds” released in 1964. They released music together for years and welcomed a son, Clay, in 1968. However, all good things must end as they divorced in 1975.

Tyson built a solo career and released an album in 1987, Cowboyography, which despite grandiose sales, earned him a Juno award.

Once the divorce was final, Tyson moved to Alberta, settling into the urban life he sang about on a farm. The royalties from “Four Strong Winds” helped him secure his ranch in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where he raised cutting horses and other livestock.

He met Twylla Dvorkin when she was just a teen, and he was 45. He married her in 1986 and had a daughter named Adelita, born in 1987. They eventually divorced in 2008. He spoke candidly of his relationship with her, including the scorn of those around him who frowned at the age difference in his book, The Long Trail: My Life in the West. However, he said in an interview regarding his divorce, “Hank Williams said a broken heart doesn’t hurt your songwriting, and he was sure right about that.”


He continued to sing and record country music into his late career era, releasing an album in 2015 titled Carnero Vaquero and releasing the single “You Should Have Known” in 2017. Unfortunately, due to a heart attack, doctors recommended open heart surgery in 2015, permanently damaging his voice. Despite that, he continued to perform live and play his guitar at home until his death.

Tyson won a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in 2003, was named to the Order of Canada, was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019.

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