Innisfail-born Juno Award-winning musician Bill Bourne died Saturday – Red Deer Advocate
Bill Bourne, a uniquely talented blues-folk musician from central Alberta and Juno Award winner, has died after a long battle with cancer. He would be 68 years old.
His family released a statement on Saturday: “To Bill’s musical family around the world, it is with sadness and relief that we announce that Bill passed away this morning. He was surrounded by family and love and moved on peacefully and gratefully.
News of Bourne’s death was met with a sad outpouring on social media. Those who knew the multi-talented entertainer personally shared stories dating back some 40 years, when Bourne performed sets in the basement of the old Grenada Inn in Red Deer.
“There are holes in my heart where the winds are blowing, the places where you were,” wrote Lyle Keewatin Richards of Red Deer. Bourne’s song about a solitaire Ole Buffaloresonated so well with Richards that he once held a sweetgrass ceremony at the old farmhouse where Bourne grew up, near Innisfail.
Mike Bradford, music promoter at the Central Alberta Music Festival Society, called Bourne a true artist. “He was incredibly inventive. He was always pushing the boundaries…using different elements, different genres in his music,” so each album was different from the last.
Bradford added that Bourne was not only a great poet/songwriter who could play a multitude of stringed instruments, but could also use his voice to perform scat. “He was deep down an amazing individual. He was always himself and was all about peace and love.
Bourne, a descendant of famous Icelandic poet Stephan Stephansson of Markerville, grew up in a musical family in central Alberta. He recently resided in Edmonton.
The internationally touring performer won a Juno in the early 1990s, dueting with bagpiper Alan MacLeod on the critically acclaimed album. Dance and party. He also racked up several other nominations.
In 2020, Bourne was diagnosed with stage 4 bladder cancer. According to a GoFundMe page started by his daughter Emily, his kidneys began to fail due to an obstruction last year. He survived through medical intervention, but suffered from chronic pain and fatigue and was unable to perform before he died.
Over the years, the musician, who became known for his long hair and his top hat, was part of many groups and collectives, including Tri-Continental (with Madagascar Slim and Lester Quitzau), the Free Radio Dance Band (with his son, Pat Bourne), the Amoeba Collective and the Scottish band the Tannahill Weavers. His most recent recording was 2020’s A Love Fandango.
Among his various other albums were a meditation/party record and gypsy-influenced music. His Bluesland record featured The Free Radio Band. Bourne has also recorded with Jasmine Ohlhauser and Wyckham Porteous as the Bop Ensemble.
Bourne’s collaboration with Eivør Pálsdóttir from the Faroe Islands, the CD eivør, won two Danish Music Awards in 2006.
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