Willie P. Bennett is one of Canada’s most prolific and celebrated songwriters. Nearly 10 years to the date of his death, local London and area musicians will come together on the Aeolian stage to celebrate the life and music of Willie P. Bennett.
Barry James Payne
Brian Mortimer (MC)
Born in Toronto, Bennett was part of the 1970s folk music scene in Canada, alongside such figures as Bruce Cockburn, Stan Rogers and David Wiffen. He released his first single (“White Line”) in 1969 and his final solo album (the Juno Award-winning Heartstrings) in 1998, which subsequently won a 1999 Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album – Solo.
Bennett joined Fred Eaglesmith’s band and toured the world as Easglesmith’s sideman on mandolin, harmonica and background vocals. In 2007, Bennett suffered a heart attack on stage, finished the show, but had to leave touring for several months. As he was preparing to head back on the road for a solo tour around Ontario, Bennett suffered a fatal heart attack on Feb. 15th, 2008.
While commonly regarded as a major talent, Bennett did not become as famous as his contemporaries until 1996, when Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden and Tom Wilson formed Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, a supergroup named for Bennett’s 1978 album, and recorded a tribute album featuring Bennett’s songs. On 10 September 2010 in Edmonton, Alberta, Bennett was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame during the Canadian Country Music Awards.
Willie’s guitar player, Londoner and blues man extraordinaire, Rick Taylor, teamed up with Barry James Payne from String Bone and Rant Maggie Rant to create a show celebrating the legendary folk hero Bennett. As well as performing some Willie P Bennett songs themselves, they are bringing in Bennett’s first record producer, guitar virtuoso David Essig and Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter Jenny Whiteley to top the list of artists, which also include London favourites Allison Brown, New Cumberland and Mikey Ethelston, and Hamilton native Paul Langille. Plus Lynne Hanson from Ottawa will join just prior to heading on a European Tour with Lynn Miles in The LYNNeS. The MC for the evening will be impresario and London music aficionado Brian Mortimer aka Mortz.
This show marks ten years since Willie’s passing and Payne and Taylor felt that it was important to keep Willie’s legacy alive in a celebration of his life and songs. It’s been said that Willie probably wouldn’t want any of this fanfare, but his legacy is too important to ignore. He was one of the most respected songwriters to ever come out of Canada. A songwriter’s songwriter. One of the all-time best. We can’t let his memory fade.