A little over 40 years ago, Stan Rogers was returning from the Kerrville Folk Festival when the Air Canada flight on which he was traveling caught fire and was forced to land at the Greater Cincinnati airport. Rogers valiantly helped other passengers try to escape the plane, but he and others were overcome by and succumbed to smoke inhalation. The loss shook the folk music community, for at the festival he and his band—who were not traveling with him—had garnered acclaim for Rogers’ poignant tales of shipwrecks (“The Mary Ellen Carter”) and odes to the history of Canada (“Northwest Passage”). After his death Peter Yarrow called him “an extraordinary talent,” comparing his work to Dylan’s. Tom Paxton remarked that Rogers “was to Canada what Woody Guthrie was to the United States,” and Pete Seeger praised Rogers as one of the “most talented singers and songwriters in North America.”
Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Rogers spent his summers in Nova Scotia where he absorbed the musical culture of the region. He started playing guitar at 5, and he performed for the first time professionally in 1963, at age 14, at the Ebony Knight in Hamilton, playing songs by Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Snow, and others. By 1969, Rogers was touring on the folk festival and folk club circuits in Ontario and the Maritimes, and he released his debut album, Fogarty’s Cove in 1976. The album contained classic gems, including “Barrette’s Privateers” and “Forty-Five Years.” In 1978, Rogers and his brother Garnet formed Fogarty’s Cove Music, on which they released albums by Grit Laskin, Éritage, and The Friends of Fiddler Green.
Rogers played his songs in traditional Celtic style, a musical approach well-suited to his deep and rich baritone vocals. His finely crafted songs range from boisterous singalongs (“Barrette’s Privateers”) to tender love songs (“Forty-Five Years”) and ballads (“The Jeannie C.”). His blend of Celtic music with sea shanties and country music, and his cascading fingerpicking gained him a large following not only in Canada but also in folk music centers in the US such as New York and Chicago. He released three more albums before his death, with 1981’s Northwest Passage capturing the attention of a wide listening public. The title track of the album has often been called Canada’s unofficial national anthem, and it was hailed by the CBC Radio One in 2005 as the fourth greatest Canadian song of all time.
Following his death, Stan Rogers continued to be recognized for his lasting contributions to music and Canadian culture. In 1984, he was awarded the Diplôme d’honneur from the Canadian Conference of the Arts, and in 2019 he was inducted posthumously into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2021, the Canadian Post honored his work by featuring him on a postage stamp series. Every year, hundreds of fans travel to the Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso, Nova Scotia, to honor his music and memory.
Now, forty years after Rogers’ death, Borealis Records celebrates his rich musical legacy in a limited edition box set (1,000 copies), Stan Rogers, Songs of a Lifetime. Although the set releases on February 23, 2024, fans can pre-order this must-have collection now.
The lushly packaged set includes 49-recordings over 5 vinyl discs and a gorgeous book of sheet music with notation and introductions by Rogers and those who worked with him. The recordings on these five albums in the set are drawn from three posthumous Rogers’ albums. The set features the re-release of For the Family, released originally in 1983 shortly after his death. The package also contains, for the first time ever on vinyl, Home in Halifax—a live recording of a 1982 concert in Halifax, released originally in 1993—as well as Coffee House to Concert Hall, a collection of rare and previously unreleased tracks, released originally in 1999. Stan Rogers, Songs of a Lifetime honors the enduring musical contributions of a singer and songwriter whose songs continue to live in the hearts and souls of his devoted listeners, and this package offers the perfect introduction to Rogers’ life and work.
Songs of a Lifetime is available for pre-order HERE