April Wine's Myles Goodwyn had 'knack for writing beautiful songs'

The whole April Wine story doesn’t happen without Myles Goodwyn, bandmate Brian Greenway says.

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Brian Greenway, who has been playing guitar in April Wine for 46 years, got a text Sunday afternoon letting him know the band’s co-founder, lead singer and main songwriter, Myles Goodwyn, had died. Greenway couldn’t believe it.

“I was just stunned,” Greenway said on the phone from his home in St-Lazare on Monday afternoon. “At first I thought it was a bit of a hoax because it was coming from his phone line as a text. I remember writing back — ‘What? Is this happening?’ ”

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Then he learned it was Goodwyn’s wife, Kim Goodwyn, who was texting him and he realized it was true.

“I was just lost for words,” Greenway said. “And it hasn’t really hit yet. There have been so many emails and texts offering condolences. But you have to grieve, too.”

Goodwyn died Sunday in Halifax surrounded by family. No details of his death have been revealed. He was 75.

Goodwyn was born in Woodstock, N.B., in 1948 but grew up in Nova Scotia. It wasn’t an easy childhood. His mother died at a young age and the family didn’t have much money.

In a 2016 interview, he talked to me about those years.

“When my mom died, our whole family became dysfunctional,” Goodwyn said. “Four males living under the same roof, but there were never any hugs, never any communication. We were four lost souls roaming around that household. So I took to music. It was music that saved me.”

April Wine formed in Halifax, but they quickly moved to Montreal in 1970 to try to make it big. They had received a letter from Donald Tarlton (Donald K. Donald) and Terry Flood, who ran Aquarius Records, and the band wrongly assumed that meant they had been signed to the label. When they turned up at the Aquarius offices here, Tarlton and Flood were surprised to see them, but they eventually did sign them and the rest is history.

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Their first hit was You Could Have Been a Lady in 1972, but it wasn’t until the ultra-catchy hard-rocking number Roller in 1978 that they really broke in the U.S. and internationally. They had a slew of big hits in the second half of the ’70s, notably Just Between You and Me, Sign of the Gypsy Queen, and Rock ‘n’ Roll is a Vicious Game. They were famous for their mix of rocking tunes and big ballads.

April Wine sold more than 10 million albums and remains one of Canada’s best-known bands. Goodwyn had been involved with the band right until the end, but he announced last December that he would no longer be touring with them. His last show with April Wine was in Truro, N.S., last March.

And Goodwyn wrote virtually all of the key April Wine songs, a fact he was proud to underline in his 2016 autobiography, Just Between You and Me.

“At the risk of sounding vainglorious and self-serving, no one in AW ever wrote a hit song but me. And I’ve written more than one, thank heavens. I know that and they know that.”

Said Greenway: “He had a knack for writing beautiful songs that touched an awful lot of people.”

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The whole April Wine story doesn’t happen without Myles Goodwyn, added Greenway.

“It all starts with him,” Greenway said. “You can go back to the rehearsal room and that one song, Roller. Nothing would have happened without him bringing that song to the table.”

Goodwyn was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame this year, and that meant a lot to him. The last time Greenway saw his old friend and bandmate was when they were inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto in September. They spent a couple of hours chatting about the old days.

Greenway talks of how there was something really Nova Scotian about Goodwyn, something rural, even though he lived in the Montreal area from 1970 until 2018.

“He grew up in a ’50s Maritime kind of place,” Greenway said. “There’s a very different style of musician down in Halifax. He grew up in a very poor (family) and so when he got something, he wanted to hang on to it before someone could take it away from him.”

I tell Greenway that Goodwyn was very headstrong and that I meant that as a compliment. That’s how you have to be to make it in the vicious game that is rock ‘n’ roll, I added.

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“He never backed down from anyone or anything,” Greenway said.

And more than anything, he loved making music. I first met Goodwyn in 2001 at his 19th-century farmhouse in Rigaud. Sitting in his dining room with the three other members of the band at the time — Greenway, Jim Clench and Jerry Mercer — Goodwyn explained why he was still out on the road more than 30 years after the band formed.

“You just love the music, it’s in you,” Goodwyn said. “You can’t help it. There’s nothing else I want to do. It’s clear for guys like us that we just don’t want to stop.”

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