Kenny Shields, the longstanding vocalist for Streetheart, the Saskatoon rockers that relocated to Winnipeg, died on Friday, July 21, at St. Boniface General Hospital, according to Robyn Stewart, executive director of the Western Canadian Music Alliance. He was 69.
Streetheart was known for a series of hit songs throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, including “Action,” “Look in Your Eyes,” and a cover of the Rolling Stones classic “Under My Thumb,” and also for partially birthing Vancouver rockers Loverboy when guitarist Paul Dean left in '79 to join that band, joined later by Streetheart drummer Matt Frennette and eventually bass player Ken "Spider" Sinnaeve.
Streetheart received a Juno Award, two Ampex Golden Reel awards, a Chimo Award from Music Express Magazine, and were voted the most popular Canadian act at the Peoples' Choice Awards. In 2003, Streetheart was inducted into the Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
The singer underwent emergency surgery for a heart ailment, which forced the band to cancel all of its touring plans for 2017. They were to play a final farewell concert on August 29, at the Winnipeg Classic RockFest, in Winnipeg.
Reaction to the news from many who had been inspired by Shields' role as a charismatic frontman was swift.
Reached on vacation, Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall president and CEO Deane Cameron - formerly president and CEO of EMI Music Canada and the man who signed Streetheart to Capitol - said Shields was an impressive performer.
"Kenny Shields was a powerful singer and extraordinary entertainer. He led Streetheart through that golden era when Canadian rock helped the country to find its place in international pop culture," said Cameron.
"As a man, Kenny was kind, uplifting and lots of fun to be around. He had the magic that makes an artist special and always lived life to its fullest. He had true Western Canadian spirit and energy. Count him among the Canadian great music pioneers! We will miss him for certain. Thanks Kenny for all the great music moments and the wonderful memories."
Ralph James, CEO of the United Talent Agency and former member of Winnipeg rockers - and Streetheart tourmates - Harlequin, said "there was a massive outpouring of grief on this one. He was a unique guy. Even though they were from Saskatchewan, Queen City Kids and Streetheart both moved to Winnipeg and lived in Winnipeg the whole time. I saw him perform a couple of times recently and he still had it. Like everybody else, he didn't look the same like he used to, but he still had the goods for sure. He was a pivotal guy and certainly a figurehead in Western Canada."
Honeymoon Suite drummer Dave Betts posted: "Saddened to learn this morning of the death of Kenny Shields. A remarkably wonderful human being who had no airs at all and who always had time for fans and fellow musicians alike. He will be missed by so many. Best to his family and band mates."
April Wine founder Myles Goodwyn also expressed his condolences: "I am sad to hear of Kenny`s death this morning. He was a great soul. A nice man, great singer and a sincerely kind person... it`s a great loss to all of us that knew him, and his music. Rest in peace buddy, you are missed. Condolences to his family."
Shield's last performance was on Canada Day at Sherwood Park, Alberta. He is survived by his wife Elena, daughter Julia and sister Sharlene.