Kenny Shields, lead singer of classic Canadian rock band Streetheart, has died at age 69.
Shields died early Friday morning in a Winnipeg hospital, where he underwent cardiac surgery, bandmate and close friend Jeff Neill confirmed.
Shields’s wife and daughter were with him when he died around 3 a.m.
“The ones that he loved were by his side and he wasn’t in pain. And he just slipped away,” said Neill, who knew Shields since 1977.
“He was sort of at peace with the world. It’s a very humbling experience when you go in and you see one of your very best friends like that, and the courage that he had there was quite something.”
Streetheart had planned a cross-country tour this summer to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the band. The tour was cancelled when Shields fell ill earlier this month.
“At his peak, there was no better singer/frontman on the planet than Kenny Shields and I would throw Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart and anyone of that ilk into that category.”
– Jeff Neill
While performing a Canada Day show in Sherwood Park, Alta., Shields appeared confused and was forgetting lyrics, Neill said.
They got him back to Winnipeg and he was diagnosed with hypoxia, which was causing a deficiency in the amount of blood and oxygen getting to the brain.
Neill announced Shields’s illness on the official Facebook page for Kenny Shields and Streetheart and continued to post updates about his condition.
“Kenny, as some of you may know and many have speculated on, has a very sick heart. In lay terms, he has approximately 20 per cent efficiency on the left side of his heart, which has caused his right side to become damaged in an attempt to compensate,” Neill posted July 5.
“This has created a dangerous buildup of fluid in his lungs along with other serious internal issues.”
Neill said Shields had been dealing with heart issues for a number of years and some time ago had one of his valves replaced.
While in the hospital this month, doctors were working to find ways to help Shields “but in the end, his heart was just too weak,” Neill said.
Born and raised in the farming community of Nokomis, Sask., in 1947, Shields started playing in bands in Saskatoon, where he moved to attend university.
He relocated to Winnipeg in the mid-1970s and became part of a band originally from his home province.
The band soon returned to Saskatoon.
When it broke up in 1976, Shields and some of his bandmates hooked up with a couple of new musicians and began rehearsals in Regina for what would become Streetheart, the prairie powerhouse band of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The band soon relocated once again to Winnipeg. Its numerous hits, a mix of their own tunes and covers, include:
- Here Comes the Night.
- Under My Thumb.
- Tin Soldier.
- Look In Your Eyes.
- What Kind of Love Is This.
- One More Time.
- Snow White.
“At his peak, there was no better singer/frontman on the planet than Kenny Shields and I would throw Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart and anyone of that ilk into that category,” said Neill. “He was magic.
“He could light up a room, whether it was a club, whether it was a concert hall or an arena.”
The band earned six gold albums, four platinum albums, a gold single, two Ampex Golden Reel awards, a Music Express People’s Choice Award as Most Popular Canadian Act and a Juno Award.
In September 2003, Kenny Shields and Streetheart were inducted into the Western Canadian Music Association Hall of Fame.
Shields became a fixture on the Winnipeg music scene, doing solo shows as well as performing with his old mates.
“Kenny gave everything he had, every night when he was performing,” Neill said. “He was ultra talented and had the most unique voice. He will be remembered as one of Canada’s greatest frontmen.”
The band was scheduled to perform a farewell concert at the Winnipeg Classic RockFest later this summer. The show was slated as the “final farewell performance by members of Streetheart” and an event to “honour the incredible legacy of Kenny Shields.”
Other Canadian rockers including Honeymoon Suite, Harlequin, The Pumps and Orphan were also on the bill.
An update on the Facebook page for the event says the show will go on: “Kenny Shields was so looking forward to performing for his fans in Winnipeg where Streetheart first began, so this special tribute will give Winnipeg a chance to honour and thank Kenny for all the great music memories he’s given to us all over the last 40 years, he deserves this!”
With files from Meaghan Ketcheson