‘Sad day in the world of Canadian country music’


Miles Morrisseau
Special in Indian country today

The Canadian country music scene has been shocked by the sudden death of Cree singer/songwriter Shane Yellowbird, whose childhood dream of being a rodeo cowboy turned to the stage when he started singing for help him stutter. He was 42 years old.

A wave of praise for Yellowbird came from country music artists, fans and others across Canada. Yellowbird died on April 25.

“It is a sad day in the world of Canadian country music as we have learned that Cree country singer Shane Yellowbird has passed away at the age of 42,” said radio station Pure Country 93 in London, England. Ontario, on Instagram.


Blues singer Crystal Shawanda, one of Canada’s top aboriginal artists who burst onto the music scene soon after Yellowbird debuted in 2007, posted a photo of herself and Yellowbird on Instagram.

“I have been in shock since hearing the heartbreaking news that country music artist Shane Yellowbird passed away,” she posted. “He called me Lil Sis and I called him Bro, we were just 2 Rez kids who decided to go… We were lucky to be there and we knew it.”

Singer Jade Turner, who is from the Misipawisitik Cree Nation in northern Manitoba and who released her third full album in February, said she was inspired by Yellowbird.

“I remember the very first time I saw it — it was on CMT,” Turner said. Indian country today from her home in Selkirk, Manitoba, referencing Country Music Television. “I was at my mum’s…I looked and I was like, what the hell is this? I called my mother: ‘I’m pretty sure this guy is native.’ »

Turner said Yellowbird’s success paved the way for others.

“To see someone who was from a rez in Canada that you could relate to, you know. I come from the exact same kind of situation as this person and they were able to deal with it,” she said. “And that’s really important to me, and to anyone who just wants to allow themselves to dream that big.”

The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers has posted a memorial to Yellowbird on its website.

“In 2009, he became one of only three Indigenous artists to perform at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville,” according to the post, “where he was thrilled to meet and chat with his hero and fellow stutterer, country superstar Mel Tillis. ”

Yellowbird has received a number of accolades during her career. He released his debut album, “Life is Calling My Name”, in 2007 to much acclaim and acclaim, with the single “Pickup Truck” making the album a top five hit on the Canadian country singles chart.

Later that year, he received the Rising Star of the Year award at the Canadian Country Music Awards. He went on to win two Native American Music Awards, for Best Country Recording in 2011 for the US release of “Life is Calling My Name” and in 2012 for his release “It’s About Time.”

Yellowbird was from the Maswacis Cree Nation about 70 miles south of Edmonton, Alberta. He grew up in a rodeo family and dreamed of riding for championship loops.

He had a stutter, however, and one of the therapies he used was singing. He soon discovered that not only could he sing without stuttering, but he had a smooth, country tenor voice.

When he took the stage, the spurs weren’t for show – he was a real Indian cowboy.

Yellowbird was also known to have epilepsy and had spoken publicly about the condition. The British Columbia Epilepsy Society posted on its official Twitter account of his death.

“All of us at the BC Epilepsy Society send our thoughts to his family, friends, loved ones and fans who are all coping with this immense loss,” an official tweeted.

Candlelight vigils for Yellowbird were held on Alberta’s legislative grounds on April 27 and 28 and featured prayers, songs, stories, dancers and other performers.

In her Instagram post, Shawanda summed up the loss.

“He was a trailblazer and no native country music male artist has yet done what he did, which shows the magnitude of what he has achieved,” she said. “Too young, too soon. Sending prayers for his journey home and for all his family, friends and fans. See you later my brother.”

The cause of death remains unknown.

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