If your lyrics are etched in glass and stone as public art in downtown Calgary, you might be a legend. If the first song you ever wrote was voted the Best Canadian Song of the Twentieth Century by CBC listeners – yep, you might be a legend. And though he can be prickly regarding fame, Victoria-born singer/songwriter Ian Tyson is that legend.
In career spanning more than fifty years, Tyson’s as at home gigging in New York City as he is riding the range at his Longview ranch. The two are connected, as it was a broken leg from a buck-off at Dog Pound Rodeo that made the mercurial Tyson hold still long enough to learn to play guitar. As part of the duo Ian & Sylvia with his future wife, Tyson hung out in Greenwich Village with Bob Dylan and the folkie crowd, then later had a TV show with Sylvia and their band Great Speckled Bird. When he split with his wife, the singer drifted back to cowboying, eventually buying his ranch with royalties from Neil Young’s version of “Four Strong Winds.”
But music’s long shadow followed Tyson across the prairies, bubbling from creek beds and ringing from spurs. Soon, he was penning tunes about the fading glory days of the big ranches, the joys of feeding cattle at 40 below, and barrel racing angels. Tyson's songwriting strikes an exquisite balance between shining a spotlight on outlaws, mustangs and landscapes, and then dimming it to candlelight to gently unveil their most delicate intimacies. “Music and horses are the two loves of my life,” he has said. These two things have served him, and the millions of people touched by his music, well.