Host of CBC Ra­dio’s ‘Vinyl Café’ loses can­cer fight

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Stuart McLean, a best-sell­ing au­thor, jour­nal­ist and hu­morist who was “firmly com­mit­ted to cel­e­brat­ing the pos­i­tive, joy­ful and funny side of life” through his pop­u­lar CBC Ra­dio pro­gram “The Vinyl Cafe,” has died. He was 68. His death was con­firmed by the CBC. “We were deeply sad­dened to learn that Stuart McLean passed away ear­lier to­day. Stuart was an ex­cep­tional sto­ry­teller who has left an in­deli­ble mark on CBC Ra­dio and count­less com­mu­ni­ties across Canada,” reads a state­ment from Su­san Mar­jetti, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of ra­dio and au­dio for CBC English Ser­vices.

In De­cem­ber, McLean an­nounced he was sus­pend­ing the long-run­ning pro­gram to fo­cus on treat­ment for melanoma, which he was di­ag­nosed with in late 2015. He said his first round of im­munother­apy treat­ment that win­ter was not com­pletely suc­cess­ful and he needed to un­dergo an­other round this year.

“The Vinyl Cafe” ra­dio show, which fea­tured a mix of sto­ries, es­says and mu­si­cal per­for­mances, was spun off into best­selling books and be­came a tour­ing pro­duc­tion in 2008. The show’s sto­ries cen­tred on Dave, the owner of a se­cond-hand record store, and also fea­tured Dave’s wife, Mor­ley, their two chil­dren, Sam and Stephanie, and var­i­ous friends and neigh­bours.

A post­ing on the of­fi­cial “Vinyl Cafe” web­site said the staff be­hind the show was “find­ing com­fort in mem­o­ries of our dear friend.”

“Stuart al­ways em­pha­sized that the world is a good place, full of good peo­ple, try­ing to do their best. He be­lieved in peo­ple’s ex­tra­or­di­nary ca­pac­ity for love and gen­eros­ity. And he had faith in our abil­ity to work to­gether for the com­mon good,” the mes­sage reads.

“Stuart con­nected us — to our coun­try and to each other. He entertained us, he made us think, he made us smile. Occasionally he made us cry. And, through all of that, he re­minded us that life is made up of small mo­ments. We never know which ones will be for­got­ten and which ones will stay with us for­ever.”

McLean’s pub­lisher, Vik­ing — an im­print of Pen­guin Ran­dom House Canada — said in a state­ment that he made in­di­vid­u­als feel they “were part of his de­light­fully idio­syn­cratic ‘Vinyl Cafe’ fam­ily.”

“In so do­ing, he brought us all to­gether, con­nect­ing us with sto­ries of road trips, mu­si­cal mem­o­ries and neigh­bour­hood ad­ven­tures. That lovely lit­tle fam­ily will re­main in our hearts, as will Stuart.”

Born An­drew Stuart McLean on April 19, 1948, in Mon­treal, he at­tended high school in the city’s Lower Canada Col­lege, and grad­u­ated from Sir Ge­orge Wil­liams Univer­sity — now known as Con­cor­dia Univer­sity — in 1971.

McLean made the foray into jour­nal­ism in the for­mat that years later would help ce­ment his star sta­tus: ra­dio. He pro­duced doc­u­men­taries for CBC Ra­dio’s “Sun­day Morn­ing.”

In 1979, the Al­liance of Cana­dian Cin­ema, Tele­vi­sion and Ra­dio Artists awarded him the best ra­dio doc­u­men­tary prize for con­tribut­ing to the “Sun­day Morn­ing” cov­er­age of the Jon­estown mas­sacre in Guyana.

Fol­low­ing his stint with the pro­gram, McLean was a reg­u­lar colum­nist and guest host on CBC’s “Morn­ing­side” for seven years. “The Morn­ing­side World of Stuart McLean” was a na­tional best­seller.

McLean had been up­beat about his can­cer set­back and told fans in an on­line mes­sage posted in De­cem­ber that he ex­pected to re­turn to work.

“I don’t want you to worry about me. A year ago I told you that I ex­pected this to be just a bump in the road, not the end of the road. I still be­lieve that to be true. I hope we will meet up again — on the ra­dio or in the­atres. We’ll make sure to tell you be­fore that hap­pens,” McLean wrote.

“In the mean­time, look af­ter your­selves and each other. And know that this isn’t good­bye. It’s just ... so long for now.”

The CBC said a pub­lic tribute would be an­nounced at a later date.

McLean was an of­fi­cer of the Or­der of Canada and a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at Ry­er­son Univer­sity in Toronto. He also re­ceived the Cana­dian Book­sellers As­so­ci­a­tion Life­time Achieve­ment Award in 2014.

On Twit­ter, co­me­dian Mark Critch of the CBC show “This Hour Has 22 Min­utes” paid tribute to McLean.

“I wrote sev­eral #stu­ar­tMa­clean par­o­dies for ‘22.’ They were easy to write be­cause I was such a fan of his work. I’ll miss his Canada,” Critch tweeted.

Mu­si­cian Dono­van Woods tweeted: “So sad to hear of Stuart McLean’s pass­ing. ‘Vinyl Cafe’ played one of my songs once & when I heard HIS voice say my name I nearly passed out.”

McLean is sur­vived by his sons and two grand­chil­dren.


Au­thor and hu­mourist Stuart McLean is pre­sented with the Of­fi­cer of the Or­der of Canada medal by Gov. Gen. David John­ston in Ot­tawa in Septem­ber 2012.

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