KEVIN KELLY's Thoughts on Dick Nolan

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 farewell.
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 of time.
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 somewhere.
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,

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.

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