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Obituaries: Helix Drummer Greg Hinz, Métis Fiddler Angus Beaulieu

This week, we also acknowledge the passing of broadcaster Bill Cunningham, Dex Romweber of Flat Duo Jets and New Zealand songsmith John Donoghue.

Greg Hinz

Greg Hinz

Courtesy Photo

Angus Beaulieu, a Métis fiddler remembered as 'the personification of music' in the Northwest Territories" died on Feb. 10, at age 89.

His nephew Tom Beaulieu told CBC News that Angus had been battling cancer.


Angus Beaulieu played the fiddle for more than 70 years. CBC reports that "in an interview for Musicians of the Midnight Sun, a CBC radio series about the North's most celebrated musicians, he talked about playing the fiddle at a dance for the first time when he was 14. He said he had to stop playing because his arms became too tired, and he was so embarrassed that he considered never picking up the fiddle again. He overcame that early embarrassment with great success."

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Beaulieu was known for playing Métis crooked tunes, where the piece deviates from the usual number of beats for the style of music. He was a founding member of The Native Cousins — a musical group that travelled around the Northwest Territories.

He collected antique violins at his home in Fort Resolution and made some himself, including one shaped in the Métis flag.

Fellow N.W.T. fiddler Linda Duford told CBC that ""Everybody loved Angus because he was such a nice person and willing to share, share his stories, share his music."

Bill (William Robert) Cunningham, a renowned Canadian TV journalist, died on Jan. 31, at age 91.

An official death noticereported that “few journalists anywhere have had a more diverse career. Bill embraced the craft at a young age, writing a weekly high school column for the Moncton Times when he was just 14.”

“He went on to become a pioneer of television journalism which, in the second half of the 20th century, helped bind this country together much as the railways, the telegraph and CBC radio did before it. Bill played a large role in shaping all three of Canada's major English networks. He reported from every region of the country and from far-flung corners of the world.”

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"As the head of news at the CBC, Bill pioneered the concept of journalist-anchors, who replaced announcers that simply read copy placed before them. CBC's evening news program is called The National to this day because Bill decided more than 40 years ago that the show needed a title with more oomph and half the verbiage of The CBC National News."

In 1974, Cunningham became Vice President of news for the fledgling Global TV Network in 1974, and was later recruited by CTV. He had an impact there first as executive producer of W5 and then as a host and reporter as well as the program's managing editor.

He then rejoined the CBC, resuming his role as a foreign correspondent.

The recipient of many honours, Cunningham received a Gemini Award for lifetime achievement followed by an Honourary Doctorate from Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan University) in 2009.

A celebration of life will be held in May. To obtain details, leave a private message in the condolences section on the funeral home website with your contact information. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Yonge Street Mission would be appreciated.

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Greg 'Fritz' Hinz, longtime drummer of Canadian hard rock band Helix, died on Feb. 16, after a nearly year-long battle with cancer. He was 68 years old.

Helix frontman Brian Vollmer posted this message on social media: "It is with a heavy heart that I must announce the passing of Greg 'Fritz' Hinz, drummer for Helix since 1983, after 10 months fighting cancer. At a future date there will be a Memorial Service. Fritz was like a brother to myself, Brent, Kenny, and many other people who worked for the band."

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Helix formed in 1974, and Hinz was part of the lineup for the most notable period of the band's career. The group then comprised Vollmer on vocals, guitarists Brent "The Doctor" Doerner and Paul Hackman, bassist Daryl Gray and Hinz. He joined in 1983 and stayed in the band until 1996, before returning to the group 13 years later, continuing to tour and record with the band. Helix's most recent studio album was Old School (2019).

Hinz first made a mark in Ontario prog/hard rock band Starchild in the mid-'70s. He is featured on that group’s 1978 debut album, Children of the Stars, prior to leaving and later joining Helix.

In his post on Helix's official Facebook page, Brian Vollmer recalled that "I met Fritz way back around the late '70’s when he played for the Cambridge based hard rock band Starchild.

"Fritz was the funniest guy you’d ever want to meet. We could be in the seriousest of situations and he could say something and everyone would burst out laughing. He had that kind of personality everyone wanted to be around. Add to that his ability to attract scores of women at our gigs. Fritz was Helix’s 'David Lee Roth.' The most frequent question asked by girls outside the buses on the Quiet Riot/Whitesnake Tour in 1984 was, 'Do you know where your drummer is?'"

"Fritz was the consummate rock drummer: It was his craft. He prided himself in his playing, and well he should have. He had a style all his own. Check out the bridge to the chorus in 'Heavy Metal Love.' Such a simple lick-playing on the off time, but Fritz learned that playing his first instrument-the accordion-in an 'oom-pah-pah band.'"

"Fritz joined the band in 1983. This means that he’s been in the band for over 40 years, with the exception of when he moved to Florida for a couple of years. The world has lost one of it’s great rock drummers. He loved his drums and he loved drumming and performing. He took great pride in everything he did. I’m going to miss him so much. My heart is breaking now."

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Other bandmates and musical comrades have also been quick to pay tribute to Hinz. Noted rock guitarist and author Sean Kelly (Lee Aaron, Crash Kelly) posted this on Facebook: "I'm gonna miss you, Fritz...you were a hero who became a musical collaborator, and best of all...a friend. I loved playing with you, so much soul and swing, one of my favourite drummers. You always had a smile and a kind word, and I always left our time together smiling and laughing. It's a Long Way To Heaven, but I know you already have them all in stitches up there. Thanks for the inspiration and friendship, it was an honour to have rocked with you and a gift to have known you. Rest easy, Fritz."

Kelly also explained to Billboard Canada that "I worked with Fritz in Helix. While we only played live together a few times in that band, it was through working with him on some Helix studio albums that I came to see what a joyful, happy presence he was, and a fine musicians as well. He was a relentlessly upbeat soul."

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Honeymoon Suite drummer Dave Betts crossed paths with Hinz on the rock 'n roll highway over a long period of time. He told Billboard Canada that "I first met Fritz in 1985 during a small Canadian tour with Helix. A solid, gifted player (with a rather unique left handed grip) who was quick to smile and clearly seemed to be a great guy. I last saw him just over a year ago when we were part of a bill at a festival in Key West, FL. As always, he looked great, sounded great and was a pleasure to spend a little time with. He was one of the good ones and will be missed. RIP"

Veteran Toronto rock journalist/magazine publisher Drew Masters (M.E.A.T Magazine) sent this tribute to Billboard Canada: " In a biz full of egos and attitudes, Fritz possessed neither. He was, genuinely and effortlessly, the epitome of the 'nice guy' - always smiling, always helpful, always sharing advice, always awesome… and always the funniest guy in the room."

"He was greatly respected and loved by his musical counterparts and fans alike. As the drummer of Canadian rock legends Helix, he was the glue that cemented the band, both musically and personally. The rock world has lost one of its best."

International

John 'Timberjack' Donoghue, a nationally successful New Zealand folk-rock singer-songwriter, died on Feb. 9, of cancer, at age 75.

Donoghue played in such notable N.Z. outfits as The Cheshire Katt, The Dizzy Limits, Timberjack, the Bulldogs Allstar Goodtime Band, Human Instinct and The Warratahs, as well as pursuing a solo career from the '70s on.

From 1972 to 1975, Donoghue and producer Terence O'Neill-Joyce released two albums and four singles of Donoghue's original compositions on the Ode Records label.

He won Album of the Year at the NZ Music Awards for Spirit of Pelorus Jack, the Timberjack Donoghue debut album, and the title song is considered a NZ classic. It was inspired by and dedicated to "Pelorus Jack," a world famous New Zealand Dolphin.

Read an extensive profile of Donoghue on N.Z. music archive Audioculturehere.

Dex (John Michael Dexter) Romweber, an American rockabilly/roots rock musician, died on Feb. 16, at age 57. A cause of death has not been reported.

Romweber was best known as one-half of the seminal two-piece Flat Duo Jets. He also fronted the Dex Romweber Duo with his older sister Sara Romweber.

The heyday of Flat Duo Jets was 1990-98, though two more albums were released after the group broke up in 1998. Romweber then pursued a solo career, before creating the Dex Romweber Duo in 2006 with Sarah on drums. They performed and record together through 2013.

Romweber's status as an underground favourite was confirmed in 2011, when he was profiled in a full-length documentary.At the time, Rolling Stone wrote that "A wild cult hero gets his due in Two Headed Cow, a new documentary about the life and music of Dexter Romweber. The co-founder of North Carolina rockabilly band the Flat Duo Jets, Romweber later became a solo artist noted for his primitive, post-punk brand of rock and influenced famous musicians to follow, many of whom appear in the film."

The documentary opens with opens with a testimonial by Jack White, who has long acknowledged Romweber as a major influence. Other peers lauding Romweber in the film include Cat Power, Exene Crevenka (X) and Neko Case.

Cervenka told Rolling Stone that Romweber’s possessed combination of rockabilly raveup, surf pop, crooners’ ballads and other time-tested genres can transport listeners effortlessly into any era of music. “He is classic, timeless, transcendent, pure,” she said. “He has a talent few people will ever have.”

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50 Cent

50 Cent

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50 Cent Takes A Victory Lap at Toronto's Cabana Pool Bar: Canadian Concerts of the Week

Also this week: it's festival season, with Hillside, Le Festif! and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival all happening on the same weekend.

Summer is in swing, and that means festival season. While many of the biggest ones take place in August, this weekend sees a handful of folk or adjacent events with the perfect summer vibes. Find those below, after our concert of the week featuring one of the biggest rap success stories of the last two decades.

Concert of the Week

50 Cent at Cabana Pool Bar, Toronto — Saturday, July 20

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