Stan Rogers performs “Northwest Passage." From You Tube.
Rogers' appearance at the 1975 Winnipeg Folk Festival has been cited as the turning point in his career; at the behest of the festival's artistic director, Mitch Podolak, Rogers recorded Fogarty's Cove, an LP of his own songs about the Maritimes, for Podolak's Barnswallow label. In 1978 Rogers established the recording company Fogarty's Cove Music; the label, co-owned by the Rogers brothers and managed by their mother Valerie, also issued LPs by Grit Laskin, Éritage and The Friends of Fiddler's Green.
Rogers returned to regional subjects for the LPs Northwest Passage (Western Canada) and From Fresh Water (the Great Lakes). His other albums included songs by Archie Fisher, Nigel Russell, Lee Bushell, Sidney Bushell and others, as well as Rogers' adaptations of traditional material. To this repertoire he brought a warm, reassuring baritone once described by Nancy White as 'a voice you can take a bath in' (quoted in The Globe and Mail, 2 Jul 1981).
His own songs, generally set in traditional formats, spoke eloquently for the many ordinary lives that, taken together, reflect the diversity of the Canadian experience. Rogers gave resounding voice to those who work closest to the land and the sea - to sailors, fisherman and farmers - as well as to the dispossessed and the disaffected. His themes were universal - honor, loyalty and hope - but his terms of reference and his images were evocatively specific and his sense of Canadian history equally poetic and heroic.
Of Rogers' titles, nearly 100 in total, the best-known are 'Barrett's Privateers,' 'Make and Break Harbour,' 'The Mary Ellen Carter,' 'Northwest Passage' and the love song 'Forty-Five Years'. Several of his songs were heard in the CBC-radio folk opera So Hard to be So Hard in 1975; still another, 'Harris and the Mare,' became the basis of a CBC radio drama produced in 1982. His songs have been recorded by more than 25 other artists and groups including the Battlefield Band, Eric Bogle, John Allan Cameron, Margaret Christl, Mary O'Hara, Peter Paul and Mary, Raffi and the Tannahill Weavers. Lyrics and music for the songs on his first four LPs were published in the folio Songs from Fogarty's Cove (Ottawa Folklore Centre 1982).
At the time of his death, Rogers was beginning to attract attention beyond the traditional folk audience in Canada and had emerged on the folk circuit internationally. He made his US debut in 1978 and subsequently appeared widely there in folk clubs and at festivals, enjoying particular popularity in the New England area, Chicago and Los Angeles. He also performed in Scotland as Nova Scotia's representative at the Gathering of the Clans in 1981. Rogers was en route home from an appearance at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas when he died in a fire aboard an Air Canada DC-9 at the Greater Cincinnati Airport.
A film documentary of his career, One Warm Line, was first telecast by the CBC in 1989.
See also Disaster Songs, Occupational Songs.
'Northern Carp: the last of the good cheap acts,' CFMB, vol 16, Apr 1982
'Northern Carp: if this is a folk festival, why aren't I smiling,' CFMB, vol 16, Oct 1982
'The finest kind,' Come for to Sing, vol 9, no.1, 1983
'Those elusive festival bookings,' Come for to Sing, vol 9, no. 2, 1983
'Open your mouth and close your eyes,' CFMB, vol 17, Oct 1983
'Sell your song,' Come for to Sing, vol 9, no. 3, 1983
Fogarty's Cove. 1976. Barnswallow BS-1001/Fogarty's Cove Music FCM-1001
Turnaround. 1978. Fogarty's Cove Music FCM-001
Between the Breaks... Live. 1979. Fogarty's Cove Music FCM-002
Northwest Passage. 1980. Fogarty's Cove Music FCM-004
For the Family. 1982. Folk Tradition R002
From Fresh Water. 1982-3 (1984). Cole Harbour Music CHM-001
Rogers' early recordings (1970-5) included two singles for RCA, three songs included on the CBC broadcast album LM-416 and four on LM-436. He is also represented by one song on Best of Touch the Earth, LM-473, issued in 1981
Mowat, Robert J. 'Stan Rogers: an Ontario boy sings of the seas,' Atlantic Insight, Apr 1981
Various authors. 'Tribute to Stan Rogers,' CFMB, vol 17, Oct 1983
Howell, Bill. 'The end of a maverick,' Canadian Forum, Dec 1983
Cameron, Silver Donald. 'When the dory failed to make it: the legacy of Stan Rogers,' Quest, Jun/Jul/Aug 1984
Gudgeon, Chris. An Unfinished Conversation: The Life and Music of Stan Rogers (Toronto 1994)
Links to Other Sites
AOL Music Canada
Search the AOL Music Canada website for music videos, audio clips, celebrity news, and more.
The CanCon Atlas
An interactive map depicting some of the Canadian places celebrated in song. Click on the map icons around the country to view music videos by a cross-section of Canadian musicians. From the CBC website.