Raffi (b Raffi Cavoukian). Singer-songwriter, guitarist, b Cairo, of Armenian parents, 8 Jul 1948; honorary D LITT (Wilfrid Laurier) 2011. Taken to Canada at 10, he began his career as a folksinger in Toronto coffeehouses in the early 1970s and in 1974 performed for his first audience of children. For his own Troubadour label, he recorded his debut album, Good Luck Boy (CSPS-909), in 1975. His first children's LP, Singable Songs for the Very Young (TR-002), followed in 1976. Comprising traditional and original material sung with the accompaniment of Ken Whiteley, it eventually sold more than 300,000 copies in Canada.
Troubadour issued Raffi's second adult album, Adult Entertainment (TR-003) in 1977 (reissued as Lovelight, TR-008, in 1980) and released seven children's albums 1977-87: More Singable Songs (TR-0004), The Corner Grocery Store (TR-0007), Baby Beluga (TR-0010), Rise and Shine (TR-0023), Raffi's Christmas Album (TR-0026), One Light, One Sun (TR-0028), and Everything Grows (TR-0034). The first five each exceeded 100,000 copies in Canadian sales; More Singable Songs, 200,000. Total North American sales exceeded 4 million.
Paralleling his success on record, Raffi moved from an itinerary of Ontario schools and libraries during the mid-1970s to concert halls by decade's end. Initially he offered both children's and adult programs. In 1979, however, he turned exclusively to children's entertainment and in 1981 and 1982 made his initial appearances in Los Angeles and New York. In 1984 he undertook his first major tour in the US and by 1986 was a dominant figure in the children's music market there, setting a precedent with the high production and packaging values of his recordings.
Videos and Publications
The videocassettes A Young Children's Concert with Raffi and Raffi in Concert with the Rise and Shine Band were released in 1984 and 1988 respectively, each garnering several awards including the latter's 1990 Gemini Award for best children's program. Two Raffi songbooks were issued in 1987 and a third in 1989; picture books illustrating Raffi's songs were introduced in 1987. Everything Grows was nominated for a (US) Grammy Award in 1988 as best children's record, as was Bananaphone in 1994. 'Baby Beluga,' 'Apples and Bananas,' and 'Shake My Sillies Out' are among Raffi's most popular children's songs.
Later Recordings and Tours
In 1989 he recorded his third album for adults, Evergreen, Everblue, (TR-0060, CD and cassette), comprising songs about the environment. Although he later curtailed his concerts for children, Raffi continued recording children's albums, namely Raffi on Broadway (1993), Bananaphone (1994, winner of Juno award for best children's album), Raffi Radio (1995), The Singable Songs Collection (20th Anniversary Special Edition, 1996), Raffi's Box of Sunshine (2000), Country Goes Raffi (2001), Let's Play (2002) and The Best of Raffi (20th Century Masters Series, 2003). He has also written several books for children. Raffi toured extensively throughout Canada and the US 2002-3.
Awards and Recognition
Raffi was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 1983, and has received a variety of awards and honours including the Junos' Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award (1990), the United Nations Environmental Achievement Award (1992), the Order of British Columbia (2001), and numerous recording industry awards in both Canada and the US.
Other Artists on Troubadour Records
Troubadour Records also has issued LPs by Fred Penner and the Junior Jug Band (see Ken Whiteley). The label's distribution was handled first by A & M then taken over by MCA in the USA in 1990 and in Canada in 1991.