anadian-born Terry Jacks grew up admiring American rock'n'roll, especially the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, and Buddy Holly. "Buddy was the greatest," Terry recalled. "I used to have a job delivering papers in the morning, and all the money I earned was spent buying Buddy Holly 45s."
Terry began his own career as rhythm guitarist and lead singer for a Vancouver group, the Chessmen. They recorded extensively in Nashville and Los Angeles, but never managed to have a hit. "It was frustrating," said Terry, "and I had to find out why. So whenever I could, I'd hitchhike down to L.A. and study the record trade."
One night, while playing with the Chessmen on Canadian TV's "Music Hop," Terry met a young singer named Susan Pesklevits, who was then making her national debut. The two decided to team up, personally and professionally, as a husband-and-wife duo: the Poppy Family. Susan was lead vocalist, while Terry composed, arranged, and produced all their material. One tune, written quickly to fill up a B side, became a huge Canadian hit early in 1970. American listeners whose radios picked up the song from over the Canadian border demanded its U.S. release. The London label obliged, and before long, "Which Way You Goin' Billy?" reached number two in the States. In Canada, the tune was voted "Song of the Year" by RPM, the Canadian music industry trade paper.
The Poppy Family had one other Top 30 single, "That's Where I Went Wrong," issued later in 1970. After that, everything seemed to go wrong. "We stayed together as long as possible," Terry explained, "but it got to be too much for us. I liked making records, and sometimes singing live, but hated to go on the road. Susan enjoyed traveling." By mid-1973, both their marriage and their act had broken up.
Terry continued to write and produce for Susan, but was then open to outside projects. The Beach Boys called and asked him to supervise one of their sessions. In the studio, he had them cut one of his favorite tunes, "Seasons in the Sun." When the group refused to released the finished track, Terry began to consider singing the song himself.
Terry received permission, but not credit, for changing part of "Seasons in the Sun." He rewrote the last verse and rearranged the words and chords in the chorus in order to "lighten up" the song. He released it on his own label, Goldfish Records, and was amazed when it became the largest-selling single in Canadian history -- more than 285,000 copies sold in a matter of weeks. Bell's A&R vice president, Dave Carrico, heard the record, flew to Vancouver, and snapped up American rights. On February 14, 1974, it earned its first RIAA Gold Award, for sales of over a million copies. Eventually, it sold more than three million copies in the United States alone. Worldwide, the figure is over six million.
"Seasons in the Sun" is the story of a dying man, bidding farewell to loved ones who have shared his life. Shortly before Terry's recording came out, Jacques Brel retired, at the peak of his popularity. Fans around the world were stunned, but the composer would give no reason. Finally, the truth was revealed. After a quiet, six-year battle against cancer, Brel succumbed to the disease and died, on October 9, 1978.
In 1974 during the time the song was so popular, there was a rumor, at least in the US, that Terry Jacks had committed suicide after recording the song! I never questioned the story, and this was before the internet so it wasn't so easy to check the accuracy of these stories. It wasn't until I heard it by Westlife while in China in 2010, while talking to a friend about it, searched the internet for info on Jacks and the song that I was happy to find it actually was a rumor! It's also interesting to note that Westlife's version is a cover of Terry Jack's.
This is pretty inaccurate as far as the facts go. Link Wray didn't play on Seasons In The Sun, the lead guitarist was John Murray. Terry wasn't playing with the Chessmen when he appeared on Music Hop, the group had already disbanded and he appeared alone. It wasn't Susan's debut appearance on the TV show, she had been a regular on Music Hop since the age of 15. Terry and Susan didn't team up. In fact, many months later Susan asked Terry to accompany her for one of her personal appearances. The Poppy Family evolved from this appearance. The Poppy Family didn't break up in 1973, Terry fired the other members of the group in 1970 and Terry and Susan continued to record using the Poppy Family name until 1972. Susan left the marriage in 1973. Terry changed a few of the lyrics for Seasons In The Sun but never received permission to do so, according to Rod McKuen. A lawsuit was considered but the decision was made to not press charges because the song became such a hit. Terry wasn't asked by the Beachboys to "supervise" one of their sessions. In fact, the Beachboys were friends of Susan and Terry's and agreed to attempt to record a version of the song but it was never completed. Seasons In The Sun was recorded before Susan left the marriage and, in fact, Susan produced his vocals. The timelines here are pretty skewed as are the facts.
It obviously wasn't written by a Terry Jacks scholar, now you've set the record straight.
This song is part of my earliest memory. When I hear it, it takes me back to 1974, standing between my mom and dad. In dad's 64 Ford convertible. Warm summer day and before we took off, my mom ran back into the apartment, she asked me if wanted anything, and I answered I wanted my Booberry cereal. I loved the marshmallows. When she came back out to the car, dad turned the radio on, and this song came on the radio. I have a fondness for those songs...because it reminds me of my earliest memory and I can see my mom's face...vividly. She's gone now, and hearing Seasons in the Sun, reminds me of her. It's a wonderful song!
Thanks for stopping by Mike & sharing that memory.
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