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Kelly Jay Fordham, Cancon pioneer and keyboardist for Crowbar, dies at 77

Kelly Jay Fordham, the Canadian singer-songwriter whose 1971 hit “Oh What a Feeling” became the first song to reap the rewards of the Cancon era, has died at 77.

The member of rock band Crowbar passed away at a Calgary hospital early Friday after suffering a massive stroke on June 9 that permanently affected the left side of his brain, his son Hank Fordham confirmed.

The Hamilton rock act was originally hired by Ronnie Hawkins after the members of his previous supporting act, the Band, split off to start their own career.

The notoriously prickly Hawkins was dissatisfied with Crowbar’s abilities and later fired the act.

Crowbar — with Fordham on keyboards and vocals — eventually recorded their own album, and the single “Oh What a Feeling” marked their biggest success.

The song was buoyed to the top of the charts by Canadian content regulations which required radio stations to play a certain amount of homegrown music.

In the early 1980s, the musician switched gears to host the overnight radio show on Toronto’s CHUM-FM.

But Fordham’s life was beset by tragedy in his later years.

His daughter Tiffanny Rain Fordham became the centre of international headlines when she disappeared after getting into an elevator in Tokyo’s club district in 1997. She was never found.

In 2006, the mother of his three children was killed in a car accident, and six years later Tami Jean, his wife of 15 years, suddenly died from heart disease.

Fordham fell on to financial hard times in the years that followed as he suffered various medical and psychiatric issues, most notably diabetes and syllogomania, a hoarding disorder.

 

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David Friend, The Canadian Press