Show­case: One Life, One Verse at a Time

A Cana­dian song­writer and mu­si­cian re­flects on the past ex­pe­ri­ences that shaped him into the hus­band, fa­ther and grand­fa­ther he is to­day

Our Canada - - Contents - By Jim Hen­man, Hal­i­fax

Meet mu­si­cian and song­writer Jim Hen­man, one of the co-founders of the iconic Cana­dian band, April Wine.

The day my dad brought home an old Stella guitar ended any no­tion of me ever be­com­ing a priest. That Stella, along with my love for songs on the ra­dio and the de­sire for glam­our and fame, made me ex­cited for my fu­ture. My song­writ­ing be­gan when a pretty girl be­came the ob­ject of my af­fec­tion and in­spired me to write my first song at the age of twelve.

My fam­ily de­cided to move from our foggy fish­ing vil­lage of Clam Har­bour to Waver­ley, N.S., in 1963. It was in this vil­lage that I met an­other guitar player, Myles Good­wyn, and we be­gan our 55-year friend­ship. We were both young guitar play­ers at the time, and none of our other friends played. Around this time, I joined the school band for the va­ri­ety show and got Myles on board, too. Myles, three other high-school friends and I started a Top 40 band called Wood­ies Ter­mites. It be­came a large part of my “mu­si­cal ed­u­ca­tion.”

Un­for­tu­nately, the band mem­bers dis­persed af­ter grad­u­at­ing from high school and I de­cided to en­rol at St. Mary’s Univer­sity. Dur­ing my sec­ond year, I had changed my mind about go­ing to school, but needed a plan to jus­tify my leav­ing. I con­vinced two of my cousins, Ritchie and David Hen­man, and my friend Myles to start some­thing new. It was a band des­tined for suc­cess—we called our­selves April Wine and our first gigs were at lo­cal high schools. We went on to tour On­tario through to the Mar­itimes and re­leased two sin­gles from our first al­bum within the first two years. April Wine is still per­form­ing 50 years later un­der Myles’ lead­er­ship.

Af­ter two years of liv­ing a mu­si­cian’s life, I knew I needed a change, and at 25 years old I went back to

school to study med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy. Upon grad­u­a­tion, I got mar­ried, had two chil­dren and moved to the sub­urbs. De­spite hav­ing put my mu­si­cal ca­reer on hold, my evenings at home con­sisted of writ­ing and record­ing songs in my lit­tle base­ment stu­dio af­ter the kids went off to bed.

Dur­ing my mid-30s, a car­ing friend of mine con­vinced me to quit drink­ing. I went through a dras­tic per­sonal change and spir­i­tual awak­en­ing at this point of my life, and my first mar­riage fell vic­tim to it. The only con­so­la­tion I found was to call my kids ev­ery day to tell them I loved them.

It seemed like I turned my head around and “swoosh,” I only had ten years be­fore my re­tire­ment. I wanted to be pre­pared. My idea of “readi­ness” was co- writ­ing songs, work­ing on CD projects, mu­si­cals, and book­ing more house con­certs and song­writer cir­cles. The key to re­tire­ment was there.

A big part of my life, it seems, in­volves my re­la­tion­ships with oth­ers. One friend, Peter Henry, sug­gested we co-write a song about his ex­pe­ri­ence as a fa­ther. It was called “Down’s Re­ally Up” and was to be used as a fundraiser for the Spe­cial Olympics. An­other friend­ship ma­te­ri­al­ized out of the blue when I met a doc­tor at the air­port in Mon­treal who in­vited me to visit her home coun­try. Due to that spon­ta­neous con­ver­sa­tion, the unique ex­pe­ri­ence of Uruguay be­came mine for the next seven months.

There was also the time an old friend sug­gested work­ing on Moose Fac­tory Is­land, near James Bay. I stayed there for seven months, was em­braced by the lo­cal In­dige­nous com­mu­nity and was wel­comed to their sweat lodges and feasts. I also had daily lunch by the river with my Cree friend, Arthur Gun­ner. This was an­other eye-open­ing time in my life.

These ex­pe­ri­ences and oth­ers have shaped me into the per­son I am to­day. When I left Moose Fac­tory, I de­cided it was time to move back to my small cot­tage in Nova Sco­tia on the At­lantic Ocean. I ea­gerly re­turned to my her­mit-like life­style. Morn­ing spir­i­tual read­ings, jour­nalling, pray­ing and med­i­tat­ing while over­look­ing the ocean be­came my daily rou­tine. Of course, I al­ways found ex­tra time af­ter lunch to work on some un­fin­ished songs.

My very brief, but mean­ing­ful, two years with April Wine al­lowed me to be in­ducted into the Cana­dian Mu­sic In­dus­try Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Cana­dian Mu­sic Hall of Fame—home of the Juno Awards—in 2010. These events en­cour­aged me to com­plete an­other five projects since 2012.

The project that speaks the most to me about re­la­tion­ships is the CD called “Edge of Heaven.” My nine sib­lings and I wrote and recorded this in sup­port of MADD Canada af­ter a dis­as­trous auto ac­ci­dent al­most took a sis­ter from us.

My wife Suzanne and I de­cided to visit Cuba this past win­ter. In the midst of the trip, the Florida school shoot­ing oc­curred and left us both very emo­tional and in dis­be­lief. With the sup­port of Suzanne, I im­me­di­ately be­gan com­pos­ing a song in re­sponse to the tragic event. “Some of These Chil­dren” was re­leased to CBC in June. It also led to a part­ner­ship with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Hal­i­fax, with 50 per cent of all funds from itunes sales and ra­dio play be­ing do­nated to their cause. A friend of mine, Tim Mo­han, was kind enough to pro­duce a pow­er­ful video in­ter­pre­ta­tion to go along with the song (www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9j5i3­zotc8).

It has been quite a jour­ney for this 71-year-old grand­fa­ther. I am still per­form­ing for song­writer cir­cles, fes­ti­vals, house con­certs and play­ing acous­ti­cally with Myles Good­wyn, who has been the driv­ing force be­hind the sus­tained suc­cess of April Wine. Dur­ing my va­ca­tion in Cuba, I picked up paint­ing as a hobby and, in some ways, it re­minds me of song­writ­ing. It brings me back to when I was 12 years old. n

Above: April Wine co-founders Jim Hen­man (left) and Myles Good­wyn per­form in Waverly, N.S., in 2017. Left: cover of Jim’s new sin­gle, avail­able on itunes.

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