A Tribute to Bill Bourne (March 28th, 1954 - April 16th, 2022)
Legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Bill Bourne died on April 16th following a long battle with bladder cancer. He had recently turned 68. Upon the news of his death, his Facebook page was flooded with memories from hundreds of friends, fans, and fellow musicians.
Known for his fingerstyle guitar picking and distinctive vocals, Bourne traversed the musical genres of folk, country, and blues through his solo work and numerous collaborations. He was nominated for and received numerous Juno awards, and was respected and admired for his generosity, professionalism, and down-to-earth nature. Bill Bourne often mentored and encouraged emerging musicians, and lived a relatively private life when he wasn’t touring.
Bourne lived in McCauley for a time and could often be found having coffee at Spinelli’s. He taught free guitar lessons for young people through the Boyle Street Community League at one point, and he often performed at numerous events and venues in the area – including the Heart of the City Festival.
In 2018, the Heart of the City Festival decided to give musicians and songwriters the opportunity to be mentored by a seasoned musician. Bill Bourne was an obvious choice as mentor for this program. He chose to work with Wendy Gregson and Renee McLachlan. The duo met with him for three sessions and wrote a song called “Ancient Rhythm” which they played in a windstorm on the main stage at Heart of the City that year.
Bourne had difficulty choosing who to work with for the mentorship program as he felt that all the candidates were worthy. In his typically generous way, Bourne gave each of the applicants the opportunity to spend two hours with him. Ten bands and solo artists took him up on his offer. Bourne told the musicians that finding interesting and new rhythms was key. He also advised that once a songwriter has gotten a song polished and has performed it, they should immediately record it and move on to the next song.
For Bill Bourne, music and spirituality were connected. Throughout these meetings, he spoke about how mystical music is and how one can express spirituality through music.
In his obituary, people were asked not to weep, but “to love each other, and dance and celebrate” – the latter request referring to one of Bourne’s most famous songs. His music will live on as his legacy, with its messages of peace, love, and kindness that he shared so freely.
Corine Demas is the President of the Heart of the City Festival. Paula E. Kirman, when she is not editing Boyle McCauley News, is a musician who had the privilege of working with Bill Bourne for a number of performances and projects.