May you stay where the river runs through
The range and the sky, buckskin and blue
May you ride to the end on the wings of the wind
Til you’re home and your circle is through.
It’s not unexpected, but I nonetheless feel a deep pang of loss at the news that Ian Tyson has gone up the trail. From CBC:
Canadian folk music icon Ian Tyson died Thursday morning, his ex-wife confirmed to CBC News.
His former wife and musical partner, Sylvia Tyson, said the 89-year-old’s impact on Canadian culture is hard to overstate.
“I sat in with a young band at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto and they wanted me to do Four Strong Winds with them. It was quite a young audience and I didn’t really expect that kind of response but everybody in the crowd sang Four Strong Winds,” she told CBC News in a phone interview Thursday.
“It’s kind of like a Canadian national anthem.”
We had Ian here at the Sisters Folk Festival twice. His music has been intertwined in my life in Oregon since we moved here in 1993, embodied in his song MC Horses (hat tip to Craig Rullman, who rode a horse from the MC cavvy back in his buckaroo days).
Ian Tyson was a historian as well as a poet of the West. His catalogue of outstanding songs is long, starting with the iconic Four Strong Winds.
Ian seemed to be acutely aware of the transience of good things — from the West itself to our wild, free, and romantic youth. I have long loved (and performed) the wistful 50 Years Ago. And damned if I’m not sitting here welling up listening to it now. No matter how long you get, it’s too damned short.
Some of Tyson’s best songs were co-written with the great Tom Russell — most famously Navajo Rug. Ian once famously called Russell “the king of the knife-and-whore-songs.” He meant it in a good way.
A few years back, Tom wrote a song about Ian that hit some powerful truth. The old man was never going to leave his horses. And he didn’t.
One of my very favorite Tyson songs is a cinematic epic, a deep cut off of the first album of his that I purchased when we came to Oregon.
I could just keep posting song after great song, but I reckon you can go down that trail yourself if you’re so inclined. I’ll wrap this up with Ian’s own self-penned eulogy, because it can’t be said better.