Singing the songs of his father
Stan Rogers’s Northwest Passage is a Canadian classic, a song of nation-building courage and sacrifice that helps define our folklore. In the Canadian folk canon, it’s right up there with Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy and Ian Tyson’s Four Strong Winds.
Rogers, born and raised in Hamilton, wrote and recorded it in 1981. Less than two years later, he died with 22 other passengers in a fire aboard an Air Canada DC-9 on the tarmac of the Greater Cincinnati Airport.
Stan’s son Nathan was three years old at the time of his father’s death. His memories of Stan are not about music. They are about running errands, going to the grocery store, the day-to-day things of domestic life.
As Nathan grew older, however, his father’s legend grew larger. The four albums Stan released while he was alive continued to gain millions of fans following his death.
And, in a few years, it became apparent that Nathan had not only acquired his father’s stature, but also his distinctive baritone voice.
Nathan could not escape the legacy of his father’s music, so he embraced it.
“When I was learning to play guitar, some of the first songs I learned were from the Stan songbook, Fogarty’s Cove,” Nathan says from the home in Winnipeg he shares with his wife and five-year-old daughter. “I had heard it all my years growing up, so it wasn’t a big stretch to go and investigate the music.”
Nathan moved to Winnipeg shortly after graduating from Westdale Secondary School to work and study. He became involved in the city’s lively folk music scene and has recorded two albums of his own songs, as well as performing with the roots trio Dry Bones.
In recent years, however, he has toured extensively across Canada, singing only the songs of his father, Stan Rogers. Nathan and his band bring that tour to the Molson Canadian Studio at Hamilton Place on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
“The Canadian public has responded to this music in a very emotional way,” says Nathan, who is now 33, the same age his father was when he died. “They respond in a way that is linked intrinsically with their personal lives and their sense of Canadian identity.”
“That is such a powerful thing and such a beautiful thing to be a part of.”
One of Stan’s songs that Nathan performs is, of course, Northwest Passage.