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Ian & Sylvia

One of the most popular acts of the early-'60s folk revival, Canadian duo Ian Tyson (b. 1933) and Sylvia Tyson (b. 1940) made several fine albums that spotlighted their stirring harmonies on a mixture of traditional and contemporary material. While these recordings can seem a tad earnest and dated today, they were overlooked influences upon early folk-rockers such as the Jefferson Airplane, the We Five, the Mamas and the Papas, and Fairport Convention, all of whom utilized similar blends of male/female lead/harmony vocals. They were also inspirations to fellow Canadian singer/songwriters such as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Gordon Lightfoot. Like most acoustic folkies, after the mid-'60s they moved into folk-rock and country-rock, though the results were less impressive than their early work.

Tyson took up folk music in his 20s while convalescing from a rodeo injury, and teamed up with Sylvia Fricker after moving to Toronto in the late '50s. In 1960, they moved to New York, where they were signed by Albert Grossman, famous for managing Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Their self-titled debut (1962) began a successful series of recordings for Vanguard, on which they helped expand the range of folk by adding bass (sometimes played by Spike Lee's father Bill) and mandolin to Ian's guitar and Sylvia's autoharp. Just as crucially, they ranged far afield for their repertoire, which encompassed not just traditional folk ballads, but bluegrass, country, spirituals, blues, hillbilly, gospel, and French-Canadian songs.

Ian & Sylvia were among the first to cover songs by Dylan, Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, and Phil Ochs, and also began writing material of their own. Although original compositions were never at the forefront of their early LPs, a couple of them would become very influential indeed. Ian's "Four Strong Winds" would be covered by the Searchers and (in the '70s) Neil Young, and Sylvia's "You Were on My Mind," given a far poppier treatment by the We Five, became one of the first big folk-rock hits.

By 1966, Ian & Sylvia had started to rely primarily on original material, and begun to use electric instruments. While some of these tracks were outstanding, generally their folk-rock lacked the focus and consistency of their acoustic recordings. In the late '60s, they would take stabs at country-rock and straight country music, even hooking up with young producer Todd Rundgren for the 1970 album Great Speckled Bird. The quality of their records, and the size of their audience, declined steadily after they ended their association with Vanguard in 1967. In the '70s, they split up, professionally and personally (they had married in 1964). Both have since pursued solo careers: Ian's was far more successful, as he moved into country music, recording albums of songs with cowboy and rodeo themes that received much popular and critical acclaim in Canada. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
full bio

Comments

garrickconne c t i o n
If you follow folk music, you will know that Ian and Sylvia were the heart and soul of that genre, but for such a very brief time. But, long enough to win our hearts!
1966, Case Tech, Cleveland, Ohio, a roommate played his Ian & Sylvia albums every day - Play One More,Norther n Journey. Fan ever since.
I fell in love with these two back in 1967, I had just returned from a tour in Vietnam.I met another Marine stationed at the Command and Staff College at Quantico,Va where we were stationed.He was from the Catskill Mountains in NY. Introduced me to his girlfriend in the mountains on a visit on the 4th of July . She used to sing with the Cavendish Treo. Became good friends with Ian&Sylvia. I was introduced to their music and have their albums till this day. I want to thank Pandora for bringing th
spadent
In my mind, Ian & Sylvia were the premier duo of the genre. I can listen to their songs all day long and never tire of them .... ultimately the penultimate statement for any performer or group.
charb
Dated? Maybe the later stuff, but much of their earlier work sounds timeless to me - The French Girl, The Renegade...
smarbawa
splendid performers they were, in the intimate Cellar Door in Georgetown, in the late 70's. they'd stand face to face, seemingly ignoring the audience. Bill Lee was an indispensibl e member of the ensemble--he backed up Lightfoot, who also performed there. I seem to recall a strong guitar in that group, too.

(same venue featured John Denver, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins...)

would treasure some live recordings of those performances . . . s i g h !
crownoverj6
I saw them perform at The Bear in Chicago in 1963 and fell in love with them and their music. Bought their albums and played them forever. Thanks for allowing us to enjoy them once more.
nolajean
I saw Ian and Sylvia perform at McGill University in Montreal in the 60's and was an instant fan. Now having moved to the States it is such a treat to hear their music again. Great memories are flooding to the service. Thanks, Pandora!
i have loved the harmonic blending of the voices of Ian and Sylvia,throu g h o u t my life. I watched their television show in the late sixties. I love Sylvias solo efforts as well. Listen to her vocals on Truckers Cafe,and try to locate a copy of their album.The Great Speckled Bird.{The same name as an Underground Newspaper from Vancouver}.
I was at Davidson College and saw the I&S concert that Marvin Bethune saw. It was great and I&S have been a favorite of mine too ever since.
Tony Orsbon
guild6steel
I saw Ian & Sylvia along with Tom Paxton at Ravinia (north of Chicago) in 1965. It was in 1967 that my interest in folk music grew along with my appreciation of Ian & Sylvia. I ultimately purchased all their LP's at that time. After their move to the folk-rock movement (Great Speckled Bird), my interest declined. However, they still provide many hours of good listening from those folk years.
Fell in love with Ian & Sylvia in my college days. Still love the harmonies. Please add The Great Speckled Bird album to your mix.
I saw Ian & Sylvia in a coffee house in Washington D.C. in 1967.I was with the folk group The Windy Hill Singers the previous 2 years and we recorded Four Strong Winds. It was always my favorite and brings back many good memories.
rhonsu
Their music had a tremendous impact on me in my college years. Their harmonious mix was unmatched. They will always be high on my favorites list. Rhonda Ford
mbethune58
Heard Ian & Sylvia at Davidson College in the late 60s and they remain among my favorites 40 years later: Marvin Bethune
they are like old friends from long ago, I have not heard them in years. I have always loved them. Thank you for bringing them back to me from another time.
THANK YOU PANDORA FOR BRINGING BACK THE SWEET MEMORY OF SOME OF MY EARLY FOLK MUSIC FAVORITES.
These two were among the first of the folk singers that I remember while growing up in the 50's and 60's. It's very good to hear them again!!
I have missed their music for years, now I have it again.
I SURE LIKED THE SONGS BY THESE TWO PEOPLE,NEVER HEARD A SONG BY THEM THAT I DIDN`T LIKE,IAN TYSON AS A SINGLE ACT WAS ALWAYS SO GOOD,THEY BOTH WERE TOPS WITH ME..GOOD ONE`S COME AROUND AND THEN AFTER SO MANY WONDERFUL SONGS THEY BREAK UP AND ARE GONE,THANKS PANDORA FOR KEEPING THEM BOTH TOGETHER,SUC H GREAT TALENT..

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