Susan Elizabeth Jacks (nee Pesklevits), singer, songwriter (born 19 August 1948 in Saskatoon, SK; died 25 April 2022 in Surrey, BC). Susan Jacks was the second Canadian woman (after Lucille Starr) to earn a gold record in the US, for "Which Way You Goin' Billy." The song earned her and her first husband, Terry Jacks, two Juno Awards in 1970. Three solo Juno nominations followed, as did a Grammy Award nomination for a children's song. Susan Jacks was inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2010.
Early Years and Career
Susan Pesklevits moved with her family to Haney, BC, at age nine. A child star, she sang on radio, at Royal Canadian Legion dances, and on the CBC TV series Let's Go and Music Hop. On the latter, she met Terry Jacks. They married in 1967 and formed the bands Powerline and Winkin,’ Blinkin’ and Nob, before settling on the name The Poppy Family. They had several hits, including “Where Evil Grows.”
At age 20, Susan Jacks reached a pinnacle singing "Which Way You Goin' Billy." The song reached No. 1 in Canada and on the Cashbox charts and No. 2 on the Billboard charts. It also won two 1970 Moffatt Broadcasting Canadian Talent awards. The Poppy Family appeared at Expo in Osaka, Japan; recorded in Canada, the US and the UK; and in 1973 toured the Maritimes and Ontario and entertained troops in Europe.
Jacks cited the Everly Brothers, Connie Francis, Tony Bennett, The Beatles and Dusty Springfield as her influences. However, music industry convention cast Jacks in a saccharine "lost little girl" and "pretty voice" image, and she experienced resistance when she began to explore other styles. Though she welcomed touring opportunities, Terry Jacks disliked performing live. The Poppy Family disbanded when the couple divorced in 1973.
Susan Jacks's solo career began with the hit singles "You Don't Know What Love Is" and "I Thought of You Again." In 1975, "You're a Part of Me" reached No. 18 on the adult contemporary charts and "Anna Maria" was on RPM's pop and country charts. Her career included performances at the 1973 Pacific National Exhibition and at Expo 86. She also led a touring band and arranged its music. Taking on rock and country stylings, she released the 1976 singles "Memories are Made of You" and "Love Has No Pride." "Evergreen," "Another Woman's Man," and "Tell Me About It" were all country hits.
Terry Jacks produced her Ghosts album (1980), with a sound not far removed from the Poppy Family's. Susan then engaged manager Bruce Allen to bring out a more energetic rock-oriented sound; the result was Forever (1982).
In 1983, Susan Jacks signed with Nashville's Compleat label and moved to the US to record country-rock and later country adult contemporary music (e.g., the hit single "Tall Dark Stranger"). She was a staff songwriter, demo singer and producer in Nashville, and managed a music publishing business. Among her hits as songwriter was 1988's "Tell Me About It." She was declared best new country vocalist in Oklahoma in 1984. She toured Canada occasionally, including Poppy Family material in her shows.
Later Life and Death
Into the 2000s, Jacks lived in Nashville, where she was an executive with computer and telecommunications firms. She moved back to Vancouver in 2004 after her second husband, former CFL star Ted Dushinski, was diagnosed with cancer. (He died in 2005.)
In 2010, Susan Jacks received a kidney transplant from her brother, Billy, who was the inspiration for “Which Way You Goin’ Billy.” Jacks became an advocate for organ donation. She died at a Surrey hospital at age 73 while waiting for a second kidney transplant.