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Beloved Canadian folk singer Valdy returns to Cobourg June 11

Cecilia Nasmith

By Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today

Beloved Canadian folk singer Valdy returns to Cobourg on June 11.

Beloved Canadian folk singer Valdy returns to Cobourg on June 11. SUBMITTED PHOTO


In a classic example of taking lemons and making lemonade, beloved Canadian folk singer Valdy took the trauma of being booed offstage and wrote a song about it that launched his career.

Forty-four years after the release of Rock and Roll Song, the 70-year-old singer still loves his folk and still enjoys entertaining. He has passed this way a few times, and will return for a concert in Cobourg on June 11.

“I am very fortunate I am still able to go out and play, and people still want to hear me. It doesn't get better than that,” Valdy said in a recent interview.

“I am 70 now, and still having a lot of fun. I am really happy people still choose to come and hear me play.”

Active in the folk scene of the '60s, Valdy experienced that pivotal cultural clash when he found himself part of a rock-and-roll festival in the sleepy military town of Alder Grove, BC — a small community of 2,500 souls.

“All of a sudden, they had 30,000 freaks show up in it,” he recalled.

“I was out of place.”

Nobody actually threw anything at him, he said, but the boos punctuating his simple songs of freedom and joy were unequivocal.

The experience changed him and his band members, he admitted, but at least there was a silver lining.

“I still play that song — and I still play it in the key I wrote it in,” he said.

“For a lot of tunes you have to lower the key as you get older. I am still playing that one in the key of D.”

Born Valdemar Horsdal in Ottawa, Valdy has built a career as a songwriter as well as a singer. He has sold almost half a million copies of his 13 albums, has two Juno Awards (Folk Singer of the Year and Folk Entertainer of the Year), seven Juno nominations and four Gold albums to his credit.

Valdy has taken his music to a dozen different countries, from Denmark to Australia and New Zealand. He has even played a number of venues in Cobourg, primarily at Victoria Hall (“One of my favourite motels in Ontario is the Breakers,” he said).

His love of folk music has also led to a couple of appearances at the Shelter Valley Folk Festival (and at several concerts in support of the festival).

His June 11 show is part of his latest tour that begins this month, as he packs up and leaves his home in BC to play his way east as far as Nova Scotia (then back again before the end of November).

Thanks to his Mercedes Sprinter Van (which is tall enough for the six-foot folk singer actually to walk around in), it will be a breeze to pack and unload equipment, and it gets the same mileage at highway speeds as his old Forester.

And, as he put it, it's hippied-out in the back so he can stay in it and save about $100 a night on hotels.

“I have waited for this van for years,” he declared.

Valdy loves being on the road, and typically plays 200 gigs a year. And he finds he still learns something from every gig. He still likes learning new instruments too, though he will be bringing only two guitars this time — his Martin D28 (circa 1951) and his Canadian-made Larrivee (circa 1980).

“They're champion guitars still,” he said.

Another thing he will be bringing to Cobourg is the song he's writing about the Fort McMurray conflagration. He calls his song North on 63, a reference to Highway 63, where 100,000 residents fled the destruction going south. What happens when they go home again, he wondered, north on 63.

Valdy will headline the June 11 show at the Columbus Community Centre (232 Spencer St. E.). Sharing the bill will be Jack London, singing the hits of John Denver and Glen Campbell as well as his own original songs.

The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are $30, available at Zap Records (905-372-8231), the Columbus Community Centre (905-372-2991) and from Nigel Husing (905-375-4248).