Singer-songwriter remembered as selfless, dies at 73 in BC hospital

VANCOUVER — Singer-songwriter Susan Jacks, who set the airwaves on fire with her band’s 1969 smash hit “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” has died while she awaited a second kidney transplant. She was 73 years old.

VANCOUVER — Singer-songwriter Susan Jacks, who set the airwaves on fire with her band’s 1969 smash hit “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” has died while she awaited a second kidney transplant. She was 73 years old.

Jacks made an indelible mark on the Canadian music scene as the lead singer of Poppy Family, which also featured vocals from her then-husband Terry Jacks, most notably on another mega-hit, “Where Evil Grows.”

Jacks is remembered for a smooth, soulful voice that helped her music career soar, but also for the humility that kept her grounded, even as she became a household name through constant streaming and performances of the band on national television.

His older brother, Rick Pesklevits, said that Jacks was born in Saskatoon in 1948 and “always sang”, from the age of four. He remembered her belting out Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” throughout the house and outside as well.

The family moved to Haney, BC, now a community within Maple Ridge east of Vancouver, when Jacks was nine years old and she was still singing.

“Singing at school caught the attention of several high school bands, so she was often invited as the ‘girl singer.’ Gradually she became known through that exposure and came in through the side door,” Pesklevits said.

Her younger brother, Bill, whose name is mentioned in her sister’s song, donated a kidney to her in 2010, but recent complications from the infections put her on a waiting list for another kidney before he died Monday at the hospital in his hometown of Surrey. BC

“She was overwhelmed by the infection and her heart stopped,” Pesklevits said, calling her sister a selfless person who “abhorred injustice and insincerity.”

“We talked regularly about what was going on with each other,” she said through tears of her phone calls. “Just the sound of his voice, that’s what I miss.”

Jacks became a strong advocate for organ donation after her first transplant and played several benefit concerts for the Kidney Foundation, her brother said.

“I had plans to go back into the studio to record another album, but the progression of her illness prevented that,” she said of Jacks, who moved to Nashville and pursued a songwriting career before returning to Canada after her second husband. she was diagnosed with cancer.

Ted Dushinski, a former Canadian Soccer League star, died in 2005 of brain cancer that metastasized to his lungs, and she dedicated herself to caring for him before taking on health complications of her own, Pesklevits said.

Even at the top of the charts, Jacks remained “pretty surprised” by her success and put her family first, she said.

“That was the business, and the families have other things to talk about, they like each other.”

Craig McCaw, the lead guitarist for Poppy Family, said the band, which featured a turbaned tabla player, was ahead of its time in some ways because it brought in the talents of a musician who was trained in Indian classical music.

Satwant Singh was recruited to replace Jacks’ tambourine and bean game when the band decided to forego a full drum set, said McCaw, who called her a “very serious percussionist.”

“She was really good, but she tried to carry all the weight. She was bruising her leg like crazy, so we thought we should put some percussion on it,” he said of the instruments Jacks pounded on his leg.

The band recorded their 1969 album partly in England with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” it became the number one hit in Canada that fall.

The song eventually reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and Cash Box Top 100 charts in the United States.

Her “unmistakable voice” might have carried her to the heights of fame achieved by American balladeer Karen Carpenter, but opportunities at the time were limited for Canadian musicians, especially those who wanted to make it at home, McCaw said.

But Jacks’ charm went beyond her singing voice and outward beauty, she said.

“Everyone fell in love with Susan. She was famous, and that could do things for people, but she was very modest and kind. A very caring soul.”

Jacks leaves behind a son with her second husband, along with five brothers, one sister, and two half-siblings. Funeral arrangements have not yet been made.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 26, 2022.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said that Satnam Singh, not Satwant Singh, was the tabla player.

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