Susan Jacks, lead singer of Canadian pop group The Poppy Family, has died aged 73.
She died in a British Columbia hospital while awaiting a kidney transplant. She suffered from kidney disease. “I am saddened by the passing of Susan Jacks,” Terry Jacks, teammate and ex-husband of Jacks, wrote on Facebook. “She had a good heart and sang my songs beautifully. I know she will live beyond the clouds.”
Jacks had previously received a kidney transplant in 2010 from his older brother, Rick Pesklevits, but complications from infections led to his death on April 25.
“She was overwhelmed with the infection and her heart stopped,” Pesklevits told CBC, remembering her sister as someone who was “always singing.”
Born into a family of eight children in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Jacks moved with her family to Haney, British Columbia when she was 9 years old. At age 15, she began appearing regularly on Hop Musica Canadian national television program.
In 1966, at the age of 18, she asked Terry Jacks to accompany her on the guitar for a few performances; Craig McCaw then joined on lead guitar. The trio first started performing as Eternal Triangle and Powerline before settling into the Poppy family. Susan and Terry Jacks married in 1967, and McCaw soon introduced drummer Satwant Singh to the band.
Their first album together, released in 1966, spawned two hit songs. “Which direction are you going Billy?” reached No. 1 in Canada and No. 2 in the United States Billboard Hot 100. “That’s Where I Went Wrong” was another Top 10 hit in their home country, while also breaking into the Top 50 in the United States
Watch the Poppy Family perform “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” in 1969
Their next and final album as the Poppy Family only featured Susan and Terry Jacks after McCaw and Singh left in 1970. poppy seeds, released in 1971, featured several hit songs, including “Where Evil Grows”, “Good Friends?” and “Not good at crying.”
Susan Jacks pursued a solo career and released her debut album, I thought about you again, in 1973. The title track earned her a Juno Award nomination for Canadian Female Vocalist of the Year. It also included the single “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, which was written over a falling out with her husband, who produced the album. The couple divorced the same year. (Terry Jacks then had a No. 1 solo single in 1974 with “Seasons in the Sun”.)
“The funny thing about ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ is that Terry and I had a fight,” Susan Jacks recalled. Gold mine in 2020. “He had a short attention span, so I had to condense my words into short sentences so he wouldn’t lose interest, so I said, ‘You don’t know what the love, and I can’t understand it. ‘ He didn’t say anything but came back a bit later and said he wrote this song with the same things I just said. Well, at least we got a song out of it.
Listen to “You Don’t Know What Love Is” by Susan Jacks
Jacks would release several more solo albums during his career. In the early 80s, she married Canadian Football League player Ted Dushinski and moved to Nashville, where she became a composer for a local publishing company.
She returned to Canada in 2004 when her husband developed lung cancer. At that time, he was diagnosed with kidney failure. She began to scale back her work commitments as she dealt with her health, but a transplant in 2010 helped her continue performing and recording. “When I came out [of the transplant]I had a whole new appreciation for life and changed my outlook on things forever, where I feel like I can handle anything,” she said in 2020.
Jacks was working on a new album at the time of his death. “Doctors say the reason I’m so ready for a transplant is because of my attitude,” she said. “I love life, I’m happy to be here and I have a positive outlook on everything.”
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