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|Birth name||Stanley Allison Rogers|
November 29, 1949|
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
|Died||June 2, 1983
|Labels||RCA, Fogarty's Cove, Borealis|
Rogers was noted for his rich, baritone voice and his finely crafted, traditional-sounding songs which were frequently inspired by Canadian history and the daily lives of working people, especially those from the fishing villages of the Maritime provinces and, later, the farms of the Canadian prairies and Great Lakes. Rogers died in a fire aboard Air Canada Flight 797 on the ground at the Greater Cincinnati Airport at the age of 33. His influence on Canadian folk music has been deep and lasting.
Early life and musical development
Rogers was born in Hamilton, Ontario, the eldest son of Nathan Allison "Al" and Valerie Rogers (née Bushell), two Maritimers who had relocated to Ontario in search of work shortly after their marriage in July 1948. Although Rogers was raised in Woodburn, Ontario (a community in the easternmost part of Hamilton), he often spent summers visiting family in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia. It was there that he became familiar with the way of life in the Maritimes, an influence which was to have a profound impact on his subsequent musical development. He was interested in music from an early age, reportedly beginning to sing shortly after learning to speak. He received his first guitar, hand-built by his uncle Lee Bushell, when he was five years of age. He was exposed to a variety of music influences, but among the most lasting were the country and western tunes his uncles would sing during family get-togethers. Throughout his childhood, he would practice his singing and playing along with his brother Garnet, six years his junior.
By the time that Rogers was attending Saltfleet High School in Stoney Creek, he started to meet other young people interested in folk music, although at this time he was also dabbling in rock and roll, singing and playing bass guitar in garage bands such as "Stanley and the Living Stones" and "The Hobbits".
Rogers' songs often had a Celtic feel which was due, in part, to his frequent use of DADGAD guitar tuning. He regularly used the 12-string guitar in performance. His best-known pieces include "Northwest Passage", "Barrett's Privateers", "The Mary Ellen Carter", "Make and Break Harbour", "The Idiot", "The Field Behind the Plow", "Lies", "Fogarty's Cove", "White Squall", and "Forty-Five Years".
Rogers died alongside 22 other passengers (23 fatalities in all) most likely of smoke inhalation on June 2, 1983, while travelling on Air Canada Flight 797 (a McDonnell Douglas DC-9) after performing at the Kerrville Folk Festival. The airliner was flying from Dallas, Texas to Toronto and Montreal when an in-flight fire forced it to make an emergency landing at the Greater Cincinnati Airport in northern Kentucky.
Smoke was filling the cabin from an unknown source, and once on the ground, the plane's doors were opened to allow passengers to escape. Approximately 60 to 90 seconds into the evacuation of the plane, the oxygen rushing in from outside caused a flash fire. Rogers was one of the passengers still on the plane at the time of the fire.
His ashes were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nova Scotia.
Rogers' legacy includes his recordings, songbook, and plays for which he was commissioned to write music. His songs are still frequently covered by other musicians, and are perennial favourites at Canadian campfires and song circles. Members of Rogers' band, including his brother Garnet Rogers, continue to be active performers and form a significant part of the fabric of contemporary Canadian folk music. Following his death, he was nominated for the 1984 Juno Awards in the category for Best Male Vocalist. In 1993, his posthumous live album Home in Halifax was likewise nominated for Best Roots and Traditional Album.
His widow, Ariel, continues to oversee his estate and legacy. His music and lyrics have been featured in numerous written publications and films. For instance, his lyrics have appeared in school poetry books, taking their place alongside acknowledged classics. His song "Northwest Passage" was featured in the last episode of the TV show Due South, his songs "Barrett's Privateers" and "Watching the Apples Grow" having been previously featured. "Barrett's Privateers" has also been used extensively in promotion ads for Alexander Keith's ale. In the 2005 CTV made-for-TV movie on the life of Terry Fox, Rogers' "Turnaround" is the music over the closing shot. As the movie ends, Fox is depicted, alone, striding up a hill, while the lyric "And yours was the open road. The bitter song / The heavy load that I'll never share, tho' the offer's still there / Every time you turn around," forges a link between these Canadian icons. Many of his songs on the albums Northwest Passage and From Fresh Water refer to events in Canadian history.
Adrienne Clarkson, who, prior to serving as the Governor General of Canada from 1999 to 2005, had worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, highlighted Rogers' career in a 1989 television documentary called One Warm Line on CBC Television; she also quoted Rogers in her investitural address.
The Stan Rogers Folk Festival is held every year in Canso, Nova Scotia. In 1995, several artists performed two nights of concerts at Halifax's Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, which were released on album that year as Remembering Stan Rogers.
Rogers is also a lasting fixture of the Canadian folk festival Summerfolk, held annually in Owen Sound, Ontario, where the main stage and amphitheater are dedicated as the "Stan Rogers Memorial Canopy". The festival is firmly fixed in tradition, with Rogers' song "The Mary Ellen Carter" being sung by all involved, including the audience and a medley of acts at the festival.
At The Canmore Folk Festival, Alberta's longest running folk music festival, performers take to the Stan Rogers Memorial Stage, which is the festival's main stage.
Stan's son, Nathan Rogers, is also an established Canadian folk artist with a voice and lyrical acumen similar to his father's. He has released two critically acclaimed solo discs and tours internationally as a solo act and in the trio Dry Bones.
History and discography
Rogers signed with RCA Records for a brief period in the early 1970s. During this period, Rogers wrote and recorded a number of original songs for the label, including five singles: Here's to You Santa Claus in 1970, The Fat Girl Rag in 1971, and Three Pennies, Guysborough Train and Past Fifty in 1973.
In 1976, Rogers recorded and released his debut album, "Fogarty's Cove", on Barnswallow Records. The album's subject matter dealt almost entirely with life in maritime Canada, and was an immediate success. Rogers then formed Fogarty's Cove Music, and bought Barnswallow, allowing him the luxury of releasing his own albums. Posthumously, additional albums were released.
- Fogarty's Cove (1976)
- Turnaround (1978)
- Between the Breaks ... Live! (1979)
- Northwest Passage (1981)
- For the Family (1983, on Folk Tradition, posthumous. In liner notes, brother Garnet Rogers mentions "We lost Stan last week...")
- From Fresh Water (1984, posthumous)
- Home in Halifax (1993, posthumous)
- Poetic Justice (1996, posthumous)
- From Coffee House to Concert Hall (1999, posthumous)
- The Very Best of Stan Rogers (2011)
- Official website
- The Stan Rogers Folk Festival
- Northern Journey entry for Stan Rogers
- Stan Rogers at The Canadian Encyclopedia
- A Biography of Stan Rogers at Geist.com