Canadian folk singer Willie P. Bennett dead

Canwest News Service
Published: Saturday, February 16, 2008

Canadian folk singer Willie P. Bennett has died, his family said Saturday night.

Bennett, 56, passed away from natural causes Friday at his home in Peterborough, Ont., according to his family and agent.

The revered singer-songwriter was an integral part of this country’s folk music scene, starting in the 1970s, as he played at festivals across the country.

Willie P. Bennett performs at Market Hall, Peterborough.

Willie P. Bennett performs at Market Hall, Peterborough.

His songs, an emotional mix of country, blues and folk, were later recorded by numerous artists, including Prairie Oyster.

He gained renewed fame in the late 1990s, when the band Blackie and The Rodeo Kings formed to do a tribute album to him. The band itself was named after one of Bennett’s songs.

Bennett won a Juno award for Best Roots and Traditional Solo Album for his 1998 album Heartstrings.

In recent years, he had toured North America playing mandolin and harmonica for singer-songwriter Fred Eaglesmith.

“He was a mentor,” said Bennett’s agent, Robin   MacIntyre of Mac’s Music.

“So many people were inspired and wanted to emulate him. . . . his style of singing, his ability to turn a good phrase.

“The songs that he wrote in his late teenage years and early 20s that were on (the albums) Tryin’ to Start Out Clean and Hobo’s Taunt, they were anthems for the generation.”

Bennett suffered a heart attack last year, according to his website.

His sister, Esther Bennett, said her brother had been in good health recently and had been planning to do more touring.

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