Friday, December 16, 2005
A sad day...
I went to the funeral of Dick Nolan today in North River. If
you don't know where North River is, it's on the way to Bay
Roberts. It was a nice ceremony, as nice as can be expected when
someone dies. However, something really bothered me.
There were about 125 people who showed up to his funeral. Now
that may seem like a few, but consider this. Dick Nolan was the
first Newfoundlander to earn a gold record and the first to be
nominated for a Juno and first Newfoundlander to play at the Grand
Old Opry. Think about that a minute. Nolan was the person who
paved the way for people like Great Big Sea, The Irish Descendants
and many other successful local acts. Yet his death, while
remembered, only received a passing glance by many of these
musicians who earned their sizable paychecks because of people
like Dick Nolan. It further saddens me that many of his vinyl
recordings are not available anymore. How many kids even know who
Dick Nolan was, besides the few people like me who like to collect
old Newfoundland records? That may be the saddest legacy of all. I
saw people at the funeral like A. Frank Willis and Peter Francis
Quinlan, two other originators of the Newfoundland music scene,
two more artists that saw the loss of vinyl had alienated them
from many Newfoundland listeners, especially new ones.
The loss of this musical legacy of our forefathers of
Newfoundland music makes me angry and it makes me upset. I was
fortunate enough to meet Dick Nolan only briefly last month, but
that brief moment did something to me.
Most of you know I am a stalwart supporter of the Newfoundland
and Labrador music scene. But I want to take a moment to say
thanks to Dick Nolan, a legend, our "man in black" who entertained
and was proud to be called a Newfoundlander. His voice still makes
me shiver, and as I write this, tears well up in my eyes. It just
doesn't seem fair. If I had my way, Dick Nolan would get a state
funeral. He'd be automatically given the order of Newfoundland and
Labrador, and he would be truly appreciated for his fifty years of
singing and relating the songs and stories of this rocky place we
call Newfoundland and Labrador.
He deserves no less.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Farewell, Dick Nolan
It's very ironic that on the day that one
new Newfoundland star, Rex Goudie releases his debut CD, an
originator of the Newfoundland and Labrador music scene has said
Dick Nolan died overnight as a result of a stroke suffered last
week. He was 66.
I was fortunate enough to meet Dick at this year's MUSIC NL
conference in Grand Falls-Windsor last month, and hearing him sing
was probably one of the highlights of my life.
I am not a long-time Dick Nolan fan, but in recent years, I had
been slowly collecting some of his records (I had picked up five,
including 1972's Fisherman's Boy, his biggest seller.) and
appreciating the man and his music.
So why was Dick Nolan one of my heroes?
It's simple really.
He put the music of Newfoundland and Labrador on the map. Over his
lengthy career, he recorded over 40 albums and over 300 songs, but
he did so much more. To my knowledge he was the first
Newfoundlander to sell a gold album. He was also the first to be
nominated for a Juno (losing to Stompin' Tom in 1973) and the
first to play the Grand Old Opry. He sang with Dave Dudley and
Loretta Lynn for Pete's sake!
His accomplishments were many, and his music will stand the test
The biggest tragedy of all this is that much of Dick Nolan's music
is stuck in vinyl oblivion, unable to be purchased and appreciated
by his fans, unless they are lucky enough to find a used copy
In the months before his death, Nolan was negotiating with
SONY/BMG (RCA was his old label) to release some of his music on
CD. I hope that now that he has passed, his musical legacy will
live on to a new generation in some way.
For now, I hope you can visit a comprehensive website about Dick
Nolan that showcases his illustrious career, http://www.dicknolancountry.ca
He was a true musical legend in this province, and I am devastated
with the news of his passing. Dick Nolan's voice was unlike any
other, save for perhaps Johnny Cash, whom he covered a lot in his
recordings. There will never be another one like him.