When Canadian folk music hero Stan Rogers died in an airplane accident in 1983, he was just 33 years old. It was a loss that devastated family and friends and saddened music fans from coast to coast.
But the impact of his brief career continues to grow. Rogers was gifted with a powerful voice and a passion for storytelling, and his songs have earned him a place of honour in Canada’s musical history. Songs like “Northwest Passage,” “Barrett's Privateers” and “The Mary Ellen Carter” are cultural standards. But it isn’t just as a performer and songwriter that Rogers is remembered: he was one of the first independent artists to make his mark on Canadian music, and it's almost impossible to imagine the east coast Celtic music boom without Stan Rogers leading the way.
Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary, called Stan “an extraordinary talent, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Bob Dylan.” Pete Seeger called him “one of the most talented singers and songwriters in North America.” But Rogers defies all comparison. He was a unique artist, whose art and presence personified an entire country, and lifted the abstract notion of “Canadian culture” to the highest levels of art.
Chris Gudgeon is the author of Stan Rogers: Northwest Passage.