Ian Tyson, prominent Canadian folk singer, passes away at 89

Ian Tyson, a Canadian folk singer who was a member of the duo Ian & Sylvia and co-author of the modern classic “Four Strong Winds,” passed away on Thursday at the age of 89 his manager, Paul Mascioli, said.

The native of Victoria, British Columbia, who helped influence such future superstars as Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, died at his ranch in southern Alberta following a series of health complications.

Ian Tyson was a part of the influential folk movement in Toronto with his first wife, Sylvia Tyson. But he was also seen as a throwback to more rustic times and devoted much of his life to living on his ranch and pursuing songs about the cowboy life.

Ian Tyson was born in Victoria on September 25, 1933, and was a genuine cowboy, who took up guitar after he was sidelined by a rodeo injury. After hitchhiking to Toronto he met Sylvia, whom he married in 1964, and the two were part of a folk scene peopled by the likes of Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.

“We had to go in some direction, because we had used up all the real roots music from the Delta on north. Bob (Dylan) blazed the trail into the wilderness, into unknown territory,” Tyson told Postmedia in 2019.

“I realized after I had written “Four Strong Winds” and a couple of others, I had all kinds of cowboy material back there from personal experience. I just never thought of it as folk material, which it was, of course.”

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