Four Strong Winds
"Four Strong Winds" is a song written by Ian Tyson in the early 1960s and recorded by Canadian folk duo Ian and Sylvia. A significant part of the early 1960s folk revival, the song is a melancholy reflection on a failing romantic relationship. The singer expresses a desire for a possible reunion in a new place in the future ("You could meet me if I sent you down the fare") but acknowledges the likelihood that the relationship is over ("But our good times are all gone/And I'm bound for moving on ...").
The song has a clear Canadian context and subtext, including an explicit mention of the province Alberta as well as references to long, cold winters. In 2005, CBC Radio One listeners chose this song as the greatest Canadian song of all time on the series 50 Tracks: The Canadian Version.
Ian and Sylvia and original history
The song was a hit in Canada, making the top ten of the single charts there in October 1963.
In the United States, the song did not have the same initial chart success. Ian and Sylvia's single version (released on Vanguard 35021) entered the Cashbox magazine "Looking Ahead" chart in September 1963. It was then recorded by The Brothers Four in a version that "bubbled under" the Billboard Hot 100 in October 1963. Subsequently, it was released by Ian and Sylvia on an album of the same name released in the U.S. in April 1964. It was released in a country arrangement by Bobby Bare in 1964, and became a number three hit on the U.S. country singles chart in early 1965.
The song has been recorded by many artists, including Hank Snow, The Seekers, Judy Collins, the Chad Mitchell Trio, Bob Dylan, Marianne Faithfull, The Searchers, Bruce & Terry, John Denver, The Kingston Trio, Trini Lopez, Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare, Chad and Jeremy, The Wolfe Tones, The Tragically Hip, Joan Baez, Vanity Fare, Glenn Yarborough, Harry Belafonte, Tony Rice, Johnny Cash, The Carter Family, Hep Stars, Sarah McLachlan, David Wiffen, Les Contretemps, and Schooner Fare.
John Denver's version changed to location, from Alberta, Canada, where Ian and Sylvia are from, to the Rockies, where Denver lived at that time in Colorado. He had permission from Tyson for the lyric change and paid him in advance for allowing the change to take effect,
Neil Young recorded the song for his 1978 album Comes a Time, with harmony vocals from Nicolette Larson, and on The Band's The Last Waltz. It has received significant airplay over album oriented rock and classic rock radio stations and has become part of Young's concert repertoire, including featured performances during Young's yearly appearances at Farm Aid benefit concerts.
The song is performed on the last night of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival each year.
Ian and Sylvia sang the song together at the 50th anniversary of the Mariposa Folk Festival on July 11, 2010, in Orillia, Ontario. On April 5, 2013, a recording of the song by Ian Tyson was played during the funeral of former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, as the honour guard brought his urn into the Jack Singer Concert Hall.
The song is also referenced in A Prayer for Owen Meany, the 1989 novel by John Irving that deals with Americans living near or across the Canada–United States border. The narrator remembers how the main character, Owen, loved to hear that song as sung by the character of Hester.
- Unterberger, Richie. "Ian & Sylvia: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
- "Canadian Charts for October 1963". Fitz. Archived from the original on 2002-11-02.
- Billboard. October 19, 1963. p. 18. Missing or empty
- Ian and Sylvia Re-Releases and Discography
- "Neil Young Setlist at Farm Aid 2004". setlist.fm. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
- "Neil Young Setlist at Farm Aid 2006". setlist.fm. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
- Wood, James (April 5, 2013). "Key details of today's memorial service for Klein; temporary road closures to affect downtown, Macleod Trail". Archived from the original on October 9, 2014.