Ian and Sylvia – Four Strong Winds (1963)

Canadian folk music icons Ian and Tyson were a massive force in music, with artists such as Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Harry Belefonte and Johnny Cash covering their songs. The couple recorded twelve albums between 1982 and 1972. Divorcing in 1975, Ian and Sylvia continued performing solo, and maintained their status as two of the most respected artists in the Canadian music industry. Ian Tyson died on December 29th, 2022.

In memory of Ian Tyson.

In the mid 1990’s in the city I grew up, there was a small restaurant on Charlotte Street called Wimpy’s Diner that wasaldecorated in vintage metal signs and Popeye paintings. It wasn’t part of the chain which can be found in cities all over Ontario today. In fact, the owners of this location were eventually sued at some point by that Wimpy’s chain and were forced to change their name to Pappy’s Place (after Popeye’s father), but despite the eventual name change it was always remembered as Wimpy’s Diner.

The food at Wimpy’s was cheap and disgusting, and I’m not sure if it was prepared right. The hamburgers were massive, the French fires greasy, the chicken wings uninspired, and I got food poisoning there on multiple occasions. I can still hear my mother telling me “Don’t eat at that Wimpy’s Diner” after listening to me be violently ill for the tenth time. But I didn’t learn my lesson and when I was in the 12th grade me and Cara and Jay would go to Wimpy’s almost every week and head down the long narrow aisle and climb into one of the booths hidden in the back of the restaurant. The seats were draped in the cliqued red vinyl, and each booth had one of those little jukebox modules which controlled a record changer in another part of the restaurant, and for a quarter you could listen to a fairly decent selection of classic 45 rpms. I’d go in armed with a pocketful of quarters and settle down to play DJ for the evening at the restaurant.

Well, I can’t remember clearly how or why we started doing this. I could guess, but but I don’t trust my memory. One of the records on the jukebox was “Four Strong Winds” by Ian and Sylvia. We would feed quarters in the jukebox and play this song over and over again. I mean, we’d listen to other songs as well, but we’d start with “Four Strong Winds,” play it another four or five times while we were there, and then play it one more time for good measure when we were leaving. For some reason we thought this was hilarious. Cara and I would get a case of the giggles and laugh like idiots every time the song would play, while Jay, always more reserved, would grin and chuckle. We loved the fact that we were making the entire restaurant and its staff listen to “Four Strong Winds” on repeat, over and over, because who would love that song that much? It was our own private joke that we thought was funnier than it probably really was.

I don’t know how we didn’t drive the staff insane by playing “Four Strong Winds” over and over again, and how we didn’t either get kicked out, or at least banned from using the jukebox. We thought it was a scream, but it really was pretty obnoxious. Honestly, nobody wants to hear any song on repeat, and especially not “Four Strong Winds.”

Ironically, over the years both Ian and Sylvia would often perform, although not together of course, at a concert venue about a block away from where Wimpy’s Diner used to be. Although I live near by, I’ve never gone to see either of them.

Now, of course, both Jay and I had a crush on Cara. I was more like the Duckie to Cara’s Molly Ringwald, although I never saw her wear pink (she usually wore black). But sparks flew between Jay and Cara, and eventually teenage drama ensued, and by the end of the school year we didn’t hang out anymore. Jay and Cara eventually got married and left town and raised a family. I’ve seen them a few times as an adult and with our teenage years far behind us, we recognized each other as old friends. They are nice people.

I don’t think about those years too often. I seem to have forgotten my teenage years, partially because time has faded the memories and partially because I just don’t’ want to. My teenage angst was next level, and it just wasn’t the happiest time of my life as people said it should have been. I came into my own later on (I had an awkward stage between the age of 15 till about 43). But music triggers memories, and hearing “Four Strong Winds” always brings me back to that back booth, eating shitty food, laughing like idiots and getting food poisoning again with Cara and Jay.

I don’t know what you did in Grade 12, but that was what I was doing. It might not have been cutting edge, but it’s a fun memory.

“Now our good times all are gone, and I’m bound for moving on. I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way” – Ian Tyson (1933-2022)

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