Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Guthro has died at the age of 62 following a battle with cancer.
J.P Cormier, a fellow Cape Breton artist and close friend of the late Guthro, said he heard of his death Wednesday morning after receiving a call from Guthro’s family.
“We knew this was coming, people closest to him,” he said, noting that Guthro had been sick for a few years before conditions worsened over the last month. “He didn’t deserve to go the way he went.”
“We had a conversation just a few weeks ago … he was strong in his faith, and I hope he’s somewhere good.”
Guthro, who was from Cape Breton, N.S., experienced widespread commercial success for his 1998 hit Walk This Road, which reached No. 1 on the Canadian country charts. His album from the same year, Of Your Son, went gold in Canada.
At the peak of his success as a solo artist, Guthro joined Scottish celtic rock band Runrig — and performed as the group’s main vocalist for 25 years.
BBC also confirmed the death on Wednesday morning after speaking with Pete Wishart, a former Runrig bandmate.
“An exceptional singer, musician and song writer taken far too soon. We are going to miss him,” Wishart told the BBC.
Grammy award-winning songwriter Gordie Sampson, a close friend who described Guthro as a mentor, said the 62-year-old was a “master” at his craft who constantly uplifted other artists.
When asked about Guthro’s influence on Atlantic Canadian musicians, Sampson said “There is a lot of Bruce in us.”
“It’s easy for me to talk about Bruce as a legend, a mentor, and a songwriter’s songwriter but he’s just an amazing person and a great friend when you pull that out,” he said.
“There was one year when I came home with a big award years ago … and by far, the best part of that award, was coming home and jumping right into Bruce’s (songwriter’s) circle and he lifted me up like a heavy-weight boxer that night.”
Sampson said there was a “duality” to Guthro’s professional career.
“To us at home, he was a local guy … master craftsman, mentor to all kinds of us, and then he’d step off a plane in Europe and be the singer of Runrig,” he said. “I don’t think in North America we have an actual true sense of how big that band was.”
“That’s pretty incredible when you think about it, to be a rockstar on two different levels,” he said. “I don’t know anybody else in my lifetime that’s had that existence.”
Tributes poured in from local musicians and public figures alike, including words shared from Halifax Mayor Mike Savage on social media.
“I can’t express how sad I am at news of the passing of musical legend Bruce Guthro,” Savage said. “Talented, dedicated and the best of company who truly cared about people.”
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston described Guthro as a “stalwart of the Canadian singer-songwriter world” in a post on Wednesday afternoon.
“He never wavered from fostering and encouraging the next generation of songwriting talent,” Houston said.
Guthro’s contributions as frontman saw Runrig’s 2007 album Everything You See achieve enormous success, selling millions of copies and going platinum in Denmark.
“The band retired in 2018 to a sold-out European tour, closing with two shows in Scotland to an audience of over 50,000 enthusiastic fans,” read a blurb from Guthro’s official website.
Despite spending half of his 40-year professional career touring through Europe, Guthro, who released seven albums as a solo artist, remained true to his Nova Scotian roots as he continued to reside in the province.
Over the past decade, he captivated audiences throughout Atlantic Canada by offering a unique spin to live performances under the “Bruce Guthro Songwriter Circle” umbrella, which saw the acclaimed artist share the stage with many of the region’s top performers.
Cormier said Guthro “virtually had three careers”, referring to the wide range of musical roles he played in different regions throughout the years.
“The whole concept of the song circle in this country was virtually invented by him and there’s no way to measure how that affected all of us,” he said, adding that he’s been involved in several of Guthro’s popular songwriting events himself.
“There’s nobody else on the East Coast that’s ever did what he did.”
Cormier described Guthro as somebody who was “never off”.
“It didn’t matter who it was, I watched him so many times interact with complete strangers like he knew them all their lives, and welcome them into a jam session, a camp site,” he said.
“He just loved music and people.”
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