In the duo's last years, Tyson began to perform on her own and was host 1974-80 for the CBC radio folk music program 'Touch the Earth.' She maintained parallel careers in broadcasting and music through the 1980s, serving CBC TV as host in 1980 for 'Heartland' and 1981-3 for 'Country in My Soul,' and subsequently working as a scriptwriter for 'Video Hits.' Concurrently she performed in clubs and concert with successive versions of the Great Speckled Bird (the band formed in 1968 to accompany Ian and Sylvia).
Tyson recorded two LPs for Capitol in the mid-1970s (Woman's World, SKAO-6430; Cold Wind from the North, ST-6441), and two for her own Salt label in 1978 and 1979 (Satin on Stone, SR-101; Sugar for Sugar, Salt for Salt, SR-102). These were followed by two for Stony Plain, Big Spotlight (SLP-1100, issued in 1986) and You Were On My Mind (SPCD-1140, issued in 1989).
Two songs from Big Spotlight, 'Denim Blue Eyes' and 'Too Short a Ride,' were modest country hits in 1986 and 1987 respectively. Other Tyson titles of note include 'Smiling Wine' (from the days of Ian and Sylvia), later covered by Shirley Eikhard), 'Régine,' and 'Pepere's Mill'/'Le Moulin à Pépere,' the last written and recorded by Tyson with Lucille Starr. Tyson songs also have been recorded by Crystal Gayle, Jay and the Americans, the Lettermen, Chad Mitchell, Nana Mouskouri, and Kitty Wells.
The CD Gypsy Cadillac (1992, Silver City, SCD 2266), co-produced by Tyson with Tom Russell, contained her own songs plus efforts co-written with Eikhard, Colleen Peterson, and Russell. In 2000 she released River Road and Other Stories (Salt Music 23339-4004-2), from her autobiographical one-woman show. The Very Best of Sylvia Tyson: You Were On My Mind (Varese Sarabande VSD-6228) followed in 2001.
Writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail (29 Nov 1976), Paul McGrath referred to her 'distinctive voice that some loved and others found affected.' He continued: 'She has a touch of a warble in her singing reminiscent of Loretta Lynn ... her songs, while written in faithful down-home style, have a sophistication that I would like to think comes from her Canadian roots ... They aren't hung up on the blues or on defining right-of-middle-of-the-road; they usually have simple stories to tell ... topics usually left unsung in the country vein.'
Tyson resumed group performance by co-founding, with Peterson, the ensemble Quartette. Their first performance, with members Cindy Church and Caitlin Hanford, was at Toronto's Harbourfront in 1993. The ensemble, with Gwen Swick replacing Peterson following the latter's untimely death, continued to record and tour as of 2003, to critical acclaim. Tyson pursued her solo career concurrently; as a solo artist she remained mostly in the country-folk vein. She also appeared in stage shows, with River Road and The Piano Man's Daughter ... and Others, based on the Timothy Findley novel, 1995-97.
Tyson served on the boards of FACTOR, the Juno Awards, and the Songwriters Association of Canada, and in 1994 served on a federal advisory committee on the cultural aspects of the information highway. As a broadcaster, she narrated the video series History Lands. She was recognized with the Order of Canada in 1994. She has been credited with inspiring the next generation of female singer-songwriters, including Eikhard and Marie-Lynn Hammond.
The guitarist Clay Tyson is Tyson's son.
- and Russell, Tom, eds. And Then I Wrote: The Songwriter Speaks (Vancouver 1995)
Author Betty Nygaard King
McDonald, Marci. 'The Sylvia half of Ian and Sylvia is "busting out",' Toronto Star, 28 Jul 1973
Martin, Robert. 'Sylvia Tyson solo: running hard and recalling the home town scene,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 12 Jul 1975
Hale, Barrie. 'Sylvia solo,' Canadian Magazine, 2 Aug 1975
Snider, Norman. 'The public and private lives of Sylvia Tyson,' Toronto Life, Nov 1978
Murphy, Gavin. 'Sylvia Tyson: keeping busy on her own terms,' CMN, vol 4, Nov 1983
Schwartz, Ellen. Born a Woman: Seven Canadian Women Singer-Songwriters (Winlaw, BC 1988)
Chodan, Lucinda. 'Sylvia Tyson: A star is reborn,' Country, 30 Apr 1992
- 'Quartette,' Country, Aug/Sept 1994
Niester, Alan. 'River Road and Other Stories,' Globe and Mail, 11 Aug 2000
Links to Other Sites
Ian and Sylvia - Old Blue
Watch a vintage video clip of Ian and Sylvia singing "Old Blue." See additional videos on the right side of the page. From YouTube.
Sylvia Tyson on Joyner's Dream
Watch a CBC video clip featuring veteran performer Sylvia Tyson talking about her debut novel and the classics that inspired her love of story-telling.
A biography of esteemed Canadian singer Slyvia Tyson from quartette.com. Check out the links for more about her book "Joyner's Dream" and the accompanying CD.
A brief synopsis of Sylvia Tyson's novel "Joyner’s Dream." See also a video clip featuring Sylvia Tyson discussing the major themes of her book. From harpercollins.ca.