I will always remember the first time I heard Stan Rogers. It was in the early 80s, on a family vacation to Vermont. As a “radio nerd” near the Canadian border I was tuning a portable radio trying to listen to Canadian radio stations. I came across one that was playing a bunch of Stan’s music and I couldn’t stop listening. Noticing now when he died, it’s possible it was within a few weeks of his death and was perhaps some kind of tribute.
(A bunch of hairy Canadians singing in a kitchen. In the 70s. Turn it up, the volume on the video is a little low.)
November 29 1949 – June 2 1983
Rogers was born in Hamilton, Ontario, the eldest son of Nathan Allison “Al” and Valerie Rogers, two Maritimers who had relocated to Ontario in search of work shortly after their marriage in 1948. Although Rogers was raised in Woodburn, Ontario (a community in the easternmost part of Hamilton), he often spent summers visiting family in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia. It was there that he became familiar with the way of life in the Maritimes, an influence which was to have a profound impact on his subsequent musical development.His best known pieces include “Northwest Passage”, “Barrett’s Privateers”, “The Mary Ellen Carter”, “Make and Break Harbour”, “The Idiot”, “The Field Behind the Plow”, “Lies”, “Fogarty’s Cove”, “White Squall”, and “Forty-Five Years”.
Rogers died alongside 22 other passengers most likely of smoke inhalation on June 2 1983, while travelling on Air Canada Flight 797 after performing at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. The airliner was flying from Dallas to Toronto and Montreal when an in-flight fire forced it to make an emergency landing at the Greater Cincinnati Airport in northern Kentucky. Smoke was filling the cabin from an unknown source, and once on the ground, the plane’s doors were opened to allow passengers to escape. Approximately 60 to 90 seconds into the evacuation of the plane, the oxygen rushing in from outside caused a flash fire. Rogers was one of the passengers still on the plane at the time of the fire.
His ashes were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nova Scotia.
The Stan Rogers Folk Festival is held every year in Canso, Nova Scotia. In 1995, several artists performed two nights of concerts at Halifax’s Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, which were released on album that year as Remembering Stan Rogers.