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This time, it's personal
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This time, it's personal

The history of rock music is littered with artists who died too young. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain… the list goes on. Most could be called victims of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, and our mourning of them is indelibly caught up in the notion of powerhouse talent flying too close to the sun. It doesn’t make it any less sad, but it has a tinge of inevitability to it.

Then there are the ones who just keep on tickin’, in many cases despite a lifetime of liver abuse and bad decisions. When they go, they’ll be grieved and memorialized, but likely with the caveat that they had a good run.

To me, it’s the ones in the middle that feel the saddest, somehow, the ones who are neither nascent artists nor coasting on legendary status. Or maybe that’s just because I'm in the middle now, too.

This week two wonderful musicians died. They weren’t household names, but they made a huge impact on a great many people and they leave the world a less magical place.

Toronto’s Dallas Good died last Thursday of natural causes at age 48. The singer and brilliant guitarist for the hard-touring country-rock band the Sadies had played Winnipeg countless times. A distinctive figure with his lanky frame and Nudie suit, he conveyed an almost gothic dourness onstage, but he was anything but grim.

The Sadies lead singer Dallas Good died of natural causes at age 48. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press Files)

I detest doing phone interviews, but in 2017, my colleague Erin Lebar had a conflict and was unable to make her scheduled call with Good. Knowing I was a fan going back to his time with surf-rock act Phono-Comb, she offered the slot to me instead.

It can be a disillusionment to talk to someone you admire if they turn out to be boring or unkind or aloof. But he was insightful and generous with his name, natural and engaging in the way phone interviews with a stranger rarely are. (You can read the story here.)

After the call, he went out of his way to tell his PR person to pass on how much he’d enjoyed the interview, and that’s rarer still. It’s no surprise social media has been overflowing with fond remembrances, both from those who knew him and those who just felt as if they did.

I had no personal connection to Mark Lanegan (in truth, I would likely have been too intimidated to interview him). His ‘90s band Screaming Trees never made it to Winnipeg, despite being booked to play here twice (although I did see him sing with Queens of the Stone Age in Toronto).

Mark Lanegan. (Gonzales/Per-Otto Oppi/Avalon/Zuma Press/TNS)

And yet his death Tuesday at age 57 struck me in a way that felt like a personal loss, maybe because, as with Good, I’ve been following his career since I was in my 20s. Best known for his velvety roar on Nearly Lost You from the Singles soundtrack, his distinctive voice was at the heart of many projects over the years. (Stu Berman at Pitchfork sums up his career beautifully.)

Unlike Cobain, his colleague in the Seattle grunge scene, Lanegan made it out the other side after a lifetime of using hard drugs; it feels unfair that he didn’t get to float along into his grizzled 70s like Keith Richards.

When Cobain died, I was almost 23, four years younger than the Nirvana frontman. I’m seven years younger than Lanegan, but let me tell you, that gap feels a lot smaller when you get older.

Tell me what musician’s death really hit home with you at jill.wilson@winnipegfreepress.com. (I burst into tears in the newsroom when I heard Paul Hester, the drummer for Crowded House, had died.)

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

What up this week

Manitoba Theatre for Young People’s long-awaited Frozen River opens Friday. The work was originally intended to coincide with Manitoba 150 in 2020, but like so many arts productions, it was delayed by the pandemic. The drama — aimed at kids aged 5-12 — tells the story of two 11-year-old girls, one Cree, one Scottish, born under the same blood moon, and explores notions of broken promises, reconciliation and environmentalism. It runs to March 6; tickets are available at mtyp.ca.

Manitoba Theatre for Young People. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Files)

Music is back at downtown honky-tonk Times Change(d); this weekend’s lineup features the JD Edwards Band Friday, the annual Johnny Cash Birthday Bash — featuring Andrew Neville and the Poor Choices and the Bobby Dove and Dan Russell duo — on Saturday, and Sunday’s Blues Jam with Big Dave McLean Tickets are available via eventbrite.ca.

Prairie Theatre Exchange is releasing Places We’ll Go, a live-action animation by Hazel Venzon and David Oro, as a serial. One three-minute episode will appear each day starting March 1; the full film will be available March 10. The work, told in both Tagalog and English, tells the story of Grace, who lives in the Philippines, attempting to bring her mother, who lives in Winnipeg, back to Manila. Sign up here to get the episodes delivered to your inbox.

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The Prairie Theatre Exchange. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press Files)

Access to Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra’s Safe-at-Home Manitoba concerts is winding down in the next month. Divas of Jazz, featuring Jennifer Hanson, Stacey Nattrass, Jayme Giesbrecht and Jocelyn Gould, will be available here until Feb. 27.

Recommended

Books: I’m a big fan of John Green’s young-adult novels (The Fault in Our Stars, Turtles All the Way Down); his new books of essays, The Anthropocene Reviewed, is a different kettle of fish, but it does not disappoint (see Jim Blanchard’s Free Press review here.) In it, the American author takes on a number of diverse topics — Diet Dr Pepper, Kentucky bluegrass, Canada geese, the movie Harvey, the Bonneville Salt Flats — integrates them into a bigger picture and gives them a star rating (Canada geese, not surprisingly, do not rate highly). It’s a highly personal outing but entirely relatable, filled with quotable facts about what we’re doing to the world, both good and bad, in this hectic era of change.

Television: If you’ve all but given up on network sitcoms, Abbott Elementary is here to renew your faith in the genre. Created by and starring Quinta Brunson, it takes the fourth-wall-breaking style of such shows as The Office and Modern Family to a Philadelphia public school and follows the teachers there trying to deal with budget cuts, leaky roofs and truant kids.

Like another sitcom in this style, it strikes the same balance of humour and heart as Parks and Recreation, with Brunson as the idealistic centre and a stellar ensemble cast neatly avoiding archetypes around her. It airs Tuesdays on ABC.

New in music


Reviews of this week’s CD releases

Definitely not the same old Canadian Opera Company: two world premieres and a focus on new voices revitalizes ‘old-fashioned’ repertoire

Toronto music community in shock over death of Dallas Good of The Sadies

Festival du Voyageur is thinking inside the (music) box

New on screen


Scene therapy

Reacher delivers character, violence in a big, enjoyable way

Series deftly balances melodrama with meaty issues

Toronto film fest planning for in-person events

New in books


Vermette returns for book club visit

Poet’s prison time brought valuable insight

Poet’s recollection of his son’s life shows him to be much more than just his illness

History (and future) of rom-coms captured in fun, breezy volume

More Great Reads From Us

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