Ritchie Yorke, the colourful and often controversial Australian music journalist who became a major supporter of Canadian artists from the late 1960s through to recent times, died in Brisbane on February 6th after a lengthy illness. He was 73.
Yorke was a fierce advocate for Canadian music and a friend to many Canadian artists during the 18 years he lived in Canada (1968-1986) and for a long time after returning to his homeland. Ritchie was instrumental, along with the likes of Pierre Juneau (then Chairman of the CRTC), Walt Grealis, John Mills (CAPAC) and other such proponents, in the introduction of Canadian Content regulations in 1971. Shortly thereafter he was one of the key organisers of the Maple Music Junket, an ambitious project that had 130 major UK and European journalists flown by private jet to spend a week in Canada listening to, writing about and attending sold out concerts of some of the country's then top acts in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
Ritchie was a personal friend and confidante to many of the world's media-shy artists like Van Morrison, John Lennon (Yoko Ono wrote the foreword to his 2015 book "Christ You Know It Ain't Easy: John & Yoko's battle for world peace"), Procol Harum (he organised the Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra concert and album that yielded the group's only worldwide Gold album), and particularly Led Zeppelin (who he frequently introduced at concerts worldwide and about whom he wrote in 1991's Led Zeppelin: The Definitive Biography.
As well as being the Canadian Editor of Rolling Stone and Billboard magazines while in Canada, Yorke wrote for most other music papers around the world and he became the Senior Music Writer for the Brisbane Sunday Mail for 20 years after returning to Australia in 1986.
As the author of many diverse music books covering the rock era; a broadcaster on television and radio of countless music documentaries and shows; a music historian and rock/R'n'B aficionado, a peace activist and a music journalist with fine writing skills, Yorke imbued it all with an energy, enthusiasm and charisma that few have been able to match. Yorke has left a particularly indelible imprint on our music lives - particularly us Canadians.