Willie P. Bennett (1951 – 2008)

Canadian folk music legend, Willie P. Bennett, died of a heart attack on February 15.  He was 56. 

I best knew Willie as the sideman for Fred Eaglesmith whose band he played in for over 22 years.  But Willie was also widely known for being part of an early wave of Canadian folk music along with artists like Bruce Cockburn and Stan Rogers.  Although he never achieved their level of acclaim, his mentorship of younger folk artists was widely respected.  In fact, a super-group consisting of Tom Wilson, Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing named themselves “Blackie and the Rodeo Kings” after a Willie P. Bennett song. 

Here's a clip of Willie P. solo at the Fred Eaglesmith Southern Picnic in Alymer, ON that Shea and I were lucky enough to attend while we were in London a couple years ago…

After his first heart attack last year, a benefit concert was held in his hometown of Peterborough and many former and current members of the Fred Eaglesmith band were able to join Fred and Willie on stage for the encore…

Finally, I wasn't able to find a clip of the Fred song, “Codeine” where Willie especially shone with his mandolin playing and harmony vocals.  But here's Fred doing one of his favourite end-of-show songs, “49 Tons” where every band member gets a brief introduction and solo (2:20 for the start of the hilarious intro of Willie or 3:40 if you just want to hear Willie play)…

[Edit: a friend from Ontario posted this tribute video…]

Comments 1

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Oh the lucky ones,
    To have these dreams to dream at all,
    Oh the lucky ones,
    Who never stumble and fall . . .
    -Willie P. (a great loss but the stories in his songs and his understated musicianship live on)

    Posted 18 Feb 2008 at 9:44 pm

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