Ian Tyson

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Ian Tyson
Tyson in 2010
Ian Dawson Tyson

(1933-09-25)25 September 1933
Died29 December 2022(2022-12-29) (aged 89)
Longview, Alberta, Canada
Alma materVancouver School of Art
(m. 1964⁠–⁠1975)
Twylla Dvorkin
(m. 1986⁠–⁠2008)
Musical career
OriginToronto. Ontario, Canada
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • producer
  • author
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1959–2022
LabelsStony Plain, A&M
Formerly ofIan & Sylvia, Great Speckled Bird

Ian Dawson Tyson CM AOE (25 September 1933 – 29 December 2022) was a Canadian singer-songwriter who wrote several folk songs, including "Four Strong Winds" and "Someday Soon", and performed with partner Sylvia Tyson as the duo Ian & Sylvia.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Ian Dawson Tyson was born on 25 September 1933, in Victoria, British Columbia to George and Margaret Tyson.[2] His father George was an insurance salesman and polo enthusiast who emigrated from England in 1906.[2] Growing up in Duncan, British Columbia,[3] he learned to ride horses on his father's farm, and eventually became a rodeo rider in his late teens and early twenties. He took up the guitar while in hospital recovering from a broken ankle sustained in a rodeo accident.[3] Fellow Canadian country artist Wilf Carter was a musical influence.[4] He graduated from the Vancouver School of Art in 1958.[3]


After graduation, Tyson moved to Toronto where he began a job as a commercial artist. There he performed in local clubs and in 1959 began to sing on occasion with Sylvia Fricker.[3] By early 1959 Tyson and Fricker were performing part-time at the Village Corner as Ian & Sylvia. The pair became a full-time musical act in 1961 and married three years later. In 1969, they formed and fronted the group The Great Speckled Bird. Residing in southern Alberta, the Tysons toured all over the world. During their years together, the pair released 13 albums of folk and country music.[5]

From 1970 to 1975, Tyson hosted a national television program, The Ian Tyson Show, on CTV, known as Nashville North in its first season. Sylvia Tyson and the Great Speckled Bird appeared often in the series.[6]

In 1980, Tyson became associated with Calgary music manager and producer Neil MacGonigill. Tyson decided to concentrate on country and cowboy music, resulting in the well-received 1983 album Old Corrals and Sagebrush,[7] released on Columbia Records.

In 1989, Tyson was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. His next albums were cowboy music: I Outgrew the Wagon (1989), And Stood There Amazed (1991), and Eighteen Inches of Rain (1994).[8] Tyson credited Adrian Chornowol with creating a unique sound for his platinum album "Cowboyography", a unique style that he maintained for the rest of his recording career.[9]

In 2005, CBC Radio One listeners chose his song "Four Strong Winds" as the greatest Canadian song of all time on the series 50 Tracks: The Canadian Version. There was strong momentum for him to be nominated the Greatest Canadian, but he fell short. He has been a strong influence on many Canadian artists, including Neil Young, who recorded "Four Strong Winds" for Comes a Time (1978). Johnny Cash would also record the same song for American V: A Hundred Highways (2006). Judy Collins recorded a version of his song "Someday Soon" in 1968.[9]

Bob Dylan and the Band recorded his song "One Single River" in Woodstock, New York, in 1967. The recording can be found on the unreleased Genuine Basement Tapes, vol. I.[10]

In 2006, Tyson sustained irreversible scarring to his vocal cords as a result of a concert at the Havelock Country Jamboree followed a year later by a virus contracted during a flight to Denver.[11] This resulted in a notable loss of the vocal quality and range he was known for; he has self-described his new sound as "gravelly".[12] Notwithstanding, he released the album From Yellowhead to Yellowstone and Other Love Stories in 2008 to high critical praise. He was nominated for a 2009 Canadian Folk Music Award for Solo Artist of the Year.[13] The album includes a song about Canadian hockey broadcasting icon Don Cherry and the passing of his wife, Rose, a rare Tyson cover written by Toronto songwriter Jay Aymar.

Ian Tyson talks about The Long Trail on Bookbits radio

Sylvia joined Ian to sing their signature song, "Four Strong Winds", at the 50th anniversary of the Mariposa Folk Festival on 11 July 2010, in Orillia, Ontario.[14]

Tyson has also written a book of young adult fiction about his song "La Primera", called La Primera: The Story of Wild Mustangs.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Tyson's first marriage, to his musical partner Sylvia Fricker, ended in an amicable[16] divorce in 1975. Their son Clay (Clayton Dawson Tyson,[17] born 1966[18]) was also a musical performer and has since moved to a career modifying racing bikes.[19][20]

After the divorce, Tyson returned to southern Alberta to farm and train horses but also continued his musical career on a limited basis. In 1978, Neil Young recorded "Four Strong Winds", and Tyson used the royalties for a down payment on a cattle and horse ranch. He started playing regularly at Calgary's Ranchman's Club around this time.[1]

Tyson's autobiography, The Long Trail: My Life in the West, was published in 2010.[21][22][23] Co-written with Calgary journalist Jeremy Klaszus,[1] the book "alternates between autobiography and a broader study of [Tyson's] relationship to the 'West' – both as a fading reality and a cultural ideal."[24] CBC's Michael Enright said the book is like Tyson himself – "straightforward, unglazed and honest."[25]

Ian Tyson married Twylla Dvorkin in 1986. Their daughter Adelita Rose was born c. 1987.[19][26] Tyson's second marriage ended in divorce in early 2008, several years after he and Dvorkin had separated.[27][28]

A book by John Einarson, Four Strong Winds: Ian & Sylvia, was published in 2012. A few years later, Ian said that Evinia Pulos (Bruce) was his "soulmate"; since she lived in Kelowna, a city in south central British Columbia, he said that he was unable to see her often. "We’ve been lovers for 55 years. ... How many people can say that?" Tyson said. In 2018, Tyson made concert appearances in British Columbia and Alberta.[29] His website indicated that in 2019, he was to make two concert appearances, one in Calgary and the other in Bragg Creek, Alberta.[30]


Tyson died at his ranch near Longview, Alberta, on 29 December 2022, at the age of 89.[31][32] According to his manager Paul Mascioli, this followed several health issues, including a heart attack and open heart surgery in 2015.[32]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Tyson with the 2011 Charles M. Russell Heritage Award

Tyson became a Member of the Order of Canada in October 1994 and was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2006.[33][34] In 2003, Tyson received a Governor General's Performing Arts Award.[35]

Tyson's 1987 album Cowboyography contained two songs that were later chosen by the Western Writers of America as among the Top 100 Western Songs of all time: "Navajo Rug" and "Summer Wages".[36]

He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, with Sylvia, in 1992.[22]

Ian Tyson was inducted into the Mariposa Hall of Fame, with Sylvia, in 2006 [22]

He was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989.[21] (Sylvia Tyson was inducted in 2003.)[37]

The song "Four Strong Winds", written by Ian Tyson, was named as the greatest Canadian song of all time by the CBC-Radio program 50 Tracks: The Canadian Version in 2005.[22][1]

An announcement in July 2019 stated that Ian Tyson and Sylvia Tyson would be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, individually, not as a duo. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation article stated that "the duo's 1964's hit, 'Four Strong Winds', has been deemed one of the most influential songs in Canadian history". The report also referenced the song "You Were on My Mind", written by Sylvia Tyson, as well as her four albums (1975–1980).[38]

Tribute recordings[edit]

A tribute CD to Ian Tyson, The Gift, was released in 2007 on Stony Plain Records featuring "Someday Soon" done by Doug Andrew with Buddy Cage on pedal steel guitar (Buddy played in Great Speckled Bird), "Four Strong Winds" recorded by Blue Rodeo, plus another 13 of Tyson's best known songs done by major folk and country artists. The album is titled after a song of Tyson's, which itself is a tribute to Charles Marion Russell.[39]



Year Title Peak positions Certifications
CAN Country
1973 Ol' Eon 81
1978 One Jump Ahead of the Devil
1983 Old Corrals and Sagebrush
1984 Ian Tyson
1987 Cowboyography
1989 I Outgrew the Wagon 12 74
1991 And Stood There Amazed 16
1994 Eighteen Inches of Rain 9
1996 All the Good 'Uns 21
1999 Lost Herd
2002 Live at Longview
2005 Songs from the Gravel Road
2008 Yellowhead to Yellowstone and Other Love Stories
2011 Songs from the Stone House
2012 Raven Singer
2013 All the Good 'Uns Vol. 2
2015 Carnero Vaquero
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


Year Title Peak positions Album
CAN Country
1973 "Love Can Bless the Soul of Anyone" 61 46 Ol' Eon
1974 "If She Just Helps Me" 31
"Great Canadian Tour" 13
"She's My Greatest Blessing"
"Some Kind of Fool"
1975 "Goodness of Shirley" 34 Goldenrod soundtrack
1979 "Half a Mile of Hell" 26 One Jump Ahead of the Devil
1980 "The Moondancer" 19 Non-album single
1983 "Alberta's Child"[48] Old Corrals and Sagebrush
1984 "Oklahoma Hills" 40 Ian Tyson
1987 "Cowboy Pride" 9 Cowboyography
"Navajo Rug"[49]
"The Gift" 17
1988 "Fifty Years Ago" 8
1989 "Irving Berlin (Is 100 Yrs Old Today)" 24 I Outgrew the Wagon
"Cowboys Don't Cry" 25
"Adelita Rose" 23
1990 "Casey Tibbs" 29
"Since the Rain" 17
"I Outgrew the Wagon" 33
1991 "Springtime in Alberta" 9 And Stood There Amazed
"Black Nights" 35
1992 "Lights of Laramie" 9
"Magpie" 43
"You're Not Alone Anymore" 47
1993 "Jaquima to Freno" 30
1994 "Alcohol in the Bloodstream" 11 Eighteen Inches of Rain
"Eighteen Inches of Rain" 27
"Heartaches Are Stealin'" 39
1995 "Horsethief Moon" 68
1996 "Barrel Racing Angel" 35 All the Good 'uns
1997 "The Wonder of It All"
1999 "Brahmas and Mustangs" Lost Herd
2005 "Land of Shining Mountains" Songs from the Gravel Road
"This Is My Sky"
2006 "Always Saying Goodbye"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


Year Title Notes Ref
1971–1974 Ian Tyson Show CTV network [6]
2010 Songs from the Gravel Road Bravo! Network documentary
2010 Mano a Mano DVD with Tom Russell
2010 This Is My Sky DVD set


  1. ^ a b c d Klaszus, Jeremy (31 December 2022). "The Gift: What Ian Tyson Left Us". The Sprawl. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  2. ^ a b Applebome, Peter (30 December 2022). "Ian Tyson, Revered Canadian Folk Singer, Dies at 89". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 December 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d Witko, Kolya (Fall–Winter 2009). "Ian Tyson: The many faces of a Canadian icon". Alternativetrends.com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  4. ^ "Ian's 1st Solo Album Marks Return To Country Roots", Billboard, 23 November 1974, p.66
  5. ^ LeBlanc, Larry (9 September 2000). "Tyson album, stage show, draw on her life and long career in music". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 60–. ISSN 0006-2510.
  6. ^ a b "Ian Tyson Show, The (Series) (1970–1975)". TV Archive. February 2003. Archived from the original on 13 February 2019. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  7. ^ Heath McCoy, Field of dreamers Archived 22 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Calgary Herald via Canada.com, 19 June 2007. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  8. ^ Bergman, Brian (15 February 1999). "Home on the range | Maclean's". Maclean's magazine archive. Archived from the original on 30 December 2022. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  9. ^ a b "A Gender Variance Who's Who: Toby Dancer (1953 – 2004) musician". 13 December 2010.
  10. ^ Heylin, Clinton (1995). Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions 1960–1994. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 55. ISBN 978-0312150679. Archived from the original on 21 January 2012.
  11. ^ "Ian Tyson's Brave New CD". Maclean's. 1 December 2008. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  12. ^ "Ian Tyson". Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  13. ^ "Results 2009 :: Canadian Folk Music Awards". Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  14. ^ "Four Strong Winds: Ian & Sylvia by John Einarson with Ian Tyson and Sylvia Tyson". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  15. ^ Tyson, Ian (2009). La primera : the story of wild mustangs. Paintings by Adeline Halvorson. Toronto: Tundra Books. ISBN 978-0-88776-863-7. OCLC 226999077.
  16. ^ Ian: "Silvia and I had parted, amicably, and I came out to Alberta..." in documentary "Songs from the Gravel Road". Bravo network. 2010. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  17. ^ "They're partners in life as well as in music, which must have its difficult moments like the prospect of having to sing with someone you were maybe not speaking to. But they certainly have made that work, what with that thing rolling around on the rug, young Clayton Dawson, herein and hereafter referred to as 'Mr. Spoons.'" From the jacket notes (by John Court) to Ian and Sylvia's LP "Lovin' Sound", MGM 4388, 1967. Quoted in Mudcat Forum by Dale Rose, 16 April 1999; accessed 8 May 2011.
  18. ^ "Clay Tyson". Living Legends Music. 2006–2008. Archived from the original on 5 October 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
  19. ^ a b Lederman, Marsha (30 March 2008). "Tyson comes clean". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  20. ^ "Biography (Ian Tyson)". NME. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  21. ^ a b "Ian Tyson". Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
  22. ^ a b c d "Ian & Sylvia". Canadian Music Hall Of Fame. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  23. ^ Tyson, Ian; Klaszus, Jeremy (October 2010). The Long Trail: My Life in the West. Random House. ISBN 978-0-307-35935-3.
  24. ^ Volmers, Eric (23 October 2010). "Truly Tyson". Calgary Herald. pp. D1, D6. Retrieved 6 August 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
  25. ^ Tyson, Ian (24 October 2010). "Interview with Ian Tyson". The Sunday Edition (Interview). Interviewed by Michael Enright. Toronto: CBC. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
  26. ^ Ingram, David (16 November 2000). "A true son of the west". Canada Now. CBC Television. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  27. ^ Johnson, Brian D. (24 November 2008). "The end of love and a famous voice". Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  28. ^ Marchand, Philip (6 February 2006). "Recent Reviews". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 30 December 2022. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  29. ^ Hamilton, Anita (25 September 2018). "Cowboy Ian Tyson's Four Strong Winds ( written about Evinia)". 50plusworld.com. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  30. ^ "The Legendary Ian Tyson Official Website". Iantyson.com. Archived from the original on 31 December 2022. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  31. ^ Clark, Darin (29 December 2022). "Canadian music legend, Ian Tyson passes away at age 89". Lacombe Online. Retrieved 29 December 2022.
  32. ^ a b Friend, David (29 December 2022). "Folk legend Ian Tyson, known for 'Four Strong Winds' as part of Ian & Sylvia, dies". Toronto Star. Retrieved 29 December 2022.
  33. ^ "Mr. Ian Tyson". The Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  34. ^ "Ian Tyson OC, D Litt (hon), LLD (hon)". Government of Alberta. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  35. ^ "Ian Tyson biography". Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  36. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 19 October 2010.
  37. ^ "Sylvia Tyson". Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
  38. ^ Friend, David (17 July 2019). "Ian Tyson and Sylvia Tyson to be inducted separately into Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame". CBC.
  39. ^ "The Gift @ discogs". Discogs. 6 August 2023.
  40. ^ "Ian Tyson - Country Albums/CDs". RPM. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2022.
  41. ^ "Ian Tyson - Top Albums/CDs". RPM. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2022.
  42. ^ "Canadian albums certifications – Ian Tyson – Cowboyography". Music Canada.
  43. ^ "Canadian albums certifications – Ian Tyson – I Outgrew the Wagon". Music Canada.
  44. ^ "Canadian albums certifications – Ian Tyson – All the Good 'Uns". Music Canada.
  45. ^ "Ian Tyson - Country Singles". RPM. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2022.
  46. ^ "Ian Tyson - Top Singles". RPM. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2022.
  47. ^ "Ian Tyson - Adult Contemporary". RPM. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2022.
  48. ^ "Single Reviews" (PDF). Billboard. 24 December 1983. p. 85.
  49. ^ "Single Reviews" (PDF). Billboard. 3 October 1987. p. 77.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Tyson, Ian". Encyclopedia of Canadian Musicians. Historica Foundation of Canada. Retrieved 15 July 2009.

External links[edit]