Discovering Ian and Sylvia

September 19, 2010

I watched the first disc of three of the Hootenany show that was on TV for a year in 1963. So many memories! But much of it was brand new to me. How did I miss Ian and Sylvia? I love the intensity between the two. The couple met in 1959, got married in 1964 and divorced in 1975.  I learned the Ian was a rodeo rider before he was a folk singer. He brings that to his performance. David Crosby’s love for the open fifth (i.e. not major or minor) is foreshadowed here and echoes folk music in the historic British Isles.


I learned “Old Blue” from Roger McGuinn’s late Byrds rendition. This version is new to me. Their sound here is like a male-female version of the Everly brothers sound, a sound that was to become important to Lennon and McCartney as well as Simon and Garfunkel.


“Jesus Met the Woman at the Wall” has a momentum like many of the train songs of the period: FAST music. Songs like this are necessary in any evening of “folk” music to up the adrenaline factor a bit.


A campfire favorite, “Four Strong Winds,” has the danger of going mawkish in the voices of nostalgic boomers. In Ian and Sylvia’s version, there is an intimacy and intensity I had never known.

Better late than never, don’t you think? Bravo, you two! Your music is as vital today as it was in 1963. We are fortunate to have a video of watching you as well as hearing you.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

pdxseeker March 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm

I fell in love with Ian and Sylvia (Tyson) when I first heard them in1961. Then, in 1964, I fell in love with Sylvia. She was and is gorgeous (I’m 66, so my standards may be different).

Ian Tyson is now considered a national treasure in Canada, with very good reason. I hope you do know that he wrote “Four Strong Winds”. I just came across a series of programs on the CBC called “If You Could Read My Mind”.

I also hope that you have heard Gordon Lightfoot, another Canadian treasure The program is named after one of his most famous and popular songs. Two of the programs feature first Lightfoot and the next Ian Tyson.

They are both fairly long but are more than worth any musician’s time:
Gordon Lightfoot & Gord Downie
http://www.cbc.ca/radio2/cod/concerts/20100204light

Ian Tyson & Jim Cuddy
http://www.cbc.ca/radio2/cod/concerts/20101021iycrm

Ian and Sylvia divorced in 1975 but, each continued to write and play. Tyson – and Gordon Lightfoot – are really treasures for all of us. I hope you’ll give them all an additional listen.

Rick York

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