Hemsworth, Wade

(Albert) Wade Hemsworth. Draftsman, singer-songwriter, guitarist, b Brantford, Ont, 23 Oct 1916, d Montreal 19 Jan 2002. He graduated from the Ontario College of Art in 1939. Though he was introduced to folk music as a boy in Brantford, his interest was stimulated by exposure to the folksongs of Newfoundland, where he was stationed during World War II, as well as by the music of Burl Ives. As a draftsman for Ontario Hydro and 1952-78 for the CNR (Montreal), Hemsworth travelled widely with survey parties in the northern wilds of Quebec, Ontario, and Labrador. His experiences inspired 'The Black Fly Song', 'The Log Jam Song' (sung by the composer for the 1959 National Film Board production Log Drive), and 'The Log Driver's Waltz' (sung by Kate and Anna McGarrigle for the 1978 NFB animation short of the same title).

Hemsworth also is known for 'The Wild Goose,' 'Foolish You,' and 'The Story of the I'm Alone,' among other songs. A complete collection of his music, The Songs of Wade Hemsworth, with annotations, illustrations, discography, etc, was edited by Hugh Verrier and published in 1990 by Penumbra Press of Waterloo, Ont. His songs also have been published in anthologies of Canadian songs and recorded by Omar Blondahl, the Couriers, Tom Kines, the McGarrigles, Chris Rawlings, Stringband, the Travellers, and others. According to Dane Lanken, 'Hemsworth creates beautiful music, music that celebrates life lived fully, the fine old values of hard work and its rewards, the wilderness and its myriad wonders. It is ... intensely Canadian music, created with a rawness and vitality that matches the wilderness it describes, captures it like a Tom Thompson [sic] painting.'

Though Hemsworth seldom appeared in public, he sang at the 1963 Mariposa Folk Festival and in the 1960s performed for the McGill University Folk Song Society and, with the Mountain City Four or alone, at Bishop's University. He also made many radio and TV appearances. After retiring to Morin Heights, Que, he was less active, but he gave performances there in 1983 and 1985, and appeared at tributes to him at the 1991 Winnipeg Folk Festival and in Toronto in 1996. In the 1990s, Hemsworth was also the subject of CBC television programs, including Adrienne Clarkson Presents.

Hemsworth made two recordings. His first LP, Folk Songs of the Canadian North Woods (1955, Folk FP 821), includes his 'The Black Fly Song' and 'The Shining Birch Tree.' He recorded one CD, The Songs of Wade Hemsworth, (Blackfly Music) in 1995.