Legendary Roy Forbes brings range of hits to Red Deer
For more than 40 years now, he’s been, as described, a, “Prominent and critically-acclaimed artist who has made enduring artistic contributions to the Canadian music scene as a performer, recording artist, songwriter, producer and broadcaster.”
Indeed. From his solo recordings that began with the 1975 album Kid Full of Dreams to his collaborations in UHF, to his work hosting CKUA and CBC programs, Forbes has proven to be an inspired artist who has never lost touch with the magic of music.
His most recent CD, Strikin’ Matches LIVE! was released in late 2014.
From the get-go of a recent interview, there is no doubt Forbes is grateful for not just his rock-solid standing on the Canadian music scene but also for the longevity of his tunes which continue to resonate with audiences.
“I was on a local radio show the other day, and they were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the host,” he said. “So we were talking about 1977. I also played my song Right After My Heart which was actually written in 1973 - and I still play it every night that I’m on stage. It’s cool that I managed to get a song that still stays - it still feels current to me.
“But I’m not 20 singing Right After My Heart, I’m now 64 singing Right After My Heart,” he added with a laugh.
His story reads like a charmed tale of a young guy with big dreams.
“When I got my guitar at 14, things started to fall into place,” he recalled. “I had always dreamed of playing music - and I always knew I wanted to.”
Within three weeks of getting that guitar, he penned his first song Hey Girl. “Within a year I had a band and we were playing Beatles and Stones - all kinds of stuff from that era. And The Who. You might think of me as a folkie, but really I grew up as a rock and roller.”
In 1971, 18-year-old Forbes left his B.C. hometown of Dawson Creek for Vancouver. It wasn’t long before folks were taking notice. That same year, he landed a headline-making appearance at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
The adventure took off from there. “In July of ‘71 I was down in Vancouver. And I started doing what I’m doing now.”
Forbes has since toured extensively in Canada and the U.S. over these past three decades.
His first record, Kid Full Of Dreams, received a Juno nomination in 1976 while 1998’s Crazy Old Moon received a 1999 Juno nomination and a 1999 West Coast Music Award, one of several WCMAs he has received over the years.
Looking back now, Forbes recalls growing in a decidedly musical home which no doubt influenced his artistry later on.
“My own musical sensibility has always been fairly broad - my ears have always been open to all kinds of music,” he said. “I was out there playing my tunes and the odd cover, but at home it was a different story. I would be listening to Otis Redding, David Bowie, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald and Bob Marley.”
He recalls his older sister introducing him to all kinds of different tunes. “Otherwise, it would have been all country and rock and roll - which is fine; that would have been good! She brought in jazz, show tunes, a bit of light classical - she was kind of my ‘CKUA’.
“It was quite musical at home. I had uncles that played guitar - and my sisters and I sang all of the time,” he said. “We’d do Everly Brothers tunes and I’d put a third harmony in there even though there wasn’t one on the record.”
Tinges of those musical genres have trickled into his own music over the years, too.
“Let Me Make It Up To You Tonight owes a lot to Billie Holiday,” he pointed out. “There’s a tune I wrote for UHF that shows my inner Bob Marley as well.”
These days, Forbes continues to adjust to being legally blind following an accident a couple of years ago. “I’m adjusting to the next chapter, and I tell you, music has pulled me through that. It was six months of vacillating between heaven and hell trying to figure it out. We thought I might get my sight back - there was a slim chance.” But last June, doctors said he was legally blind. “By the end of July I was back onstage doing shows - and I’ve written a pile of new songs.
“Nothing is in the planning stages yet, but I’m really working towards a new album. There’s nowhere to go but forward.
“Music is also a wonderful thing. That’s what also keeps you going, and the connections that you make with an audience.”
For ticket information to his Red Deer show, check out www.centralmusicfest.com.