The musical legacy of local legend Bobby Dean Blackburn

Bobby Dean Blackburn has a star on the Mississauga Walk of fame for his legacy in the music world. Stella Acquisto catches up with the R&B legend.

By Stella Acquisto

“When Bobby plays the Blues it goes right through you, when he plays gospel he takes you to church. He’s amazing.”

Bobby Dean Blackburn has been a musician for more than 60 years.  He’s left a legacy in the music world playing rhythm and blues, which has gained him a star on the Mississauga Walk of Fame.

He went from singing gospel, to jazz, to rock and roll and then rhythm and blues.

He played with many icons in the past including Bo Diddley and Paul Butterfield and according to the Mississauga Walk of Fame was the first Black entertainer on Yonge street in Toronto.

Bobby Blackburn is my cousin and I remember him when I was a little guy, he was 16-years-old and that’s when he first started to play his music,” says Bobby’s cousin, Rob Green.

“As years progressed I used to see him go down to the Zanzibar or Coq d’Or on Yonge Street and he was one of the original Toronto scene musicians,” Green adds. “People would drop in from Los Angeles, New York. They would drop in to do sessions and play with him, just to play with Bobby because Bobby is a genuine musician. There’s nothing, nothing imitation about him whatsoever.”

Bobby’s legacy extends beyond the strings, he was the first Black coach in the Mississauga hockey league. He’s a descendant of the Underground Railroad and was the artistic director of the Emancipation Festival in Owen Sound, Ontario. At the age of 69, he released his first album called Don’t ask, Don’t tell.

“He’s on the Mississauga Walk of Fame and he also won the honorary award for the Black History Society,” says Green.

His sons have also followed in their dad’s footsteps with the band Blackburn and Keys.

“I have my four sons. They are all musicians which I think is a great legacy. They’re great musicians and they where Juno nominated and won all different kinds of awards,” says Blackburn.

At the age of 82, Bobby continues to play music and plans on releasing a new album this spring.

“When Bobby plays the blues it goes right through you, when he plays gospel he takes you to church. He’s amazing,” says Green. “He’s entrenched in the history of the Toronto music scene and he will forever be there.”

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