Gowan is a strange animal – but it has worked for him

Juno Award-winning solo artist and Styx lead singer returns to Peterborough Musicfest July 6

1980s Canadian pop star Gowan returns to Peterborough Musicfest for a free concert on Wednesday, July 6 at Del Crary Park
1980s Canadian pop star Gowan returns to Peterborough Musicfest for a free concert on Wednesday, July 6 at Del Crary Park

For all his rock/pop music success, Gowan remains the personification of one not knowing where life will lead him or her.

In the 1970s as a student at Neil McNeil High School in Scarborough Ontario, a teenaged and very talented Lawrence Gowan fronted the cover band Rhinegold at school dances. Among the songs featured on the band’s set list were popular hits of the day, such as Styx’s “Lorelei” and “Come Sail Away”.

Fast forward to May 1999.

The solo recording artist now known as Gowan is working on a new studio album, when a phone call from Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw no doubt made his jaw drop. Asked to fill in for departed Styx lead vocalist Dennis DeYoung, Gowan agreed to join the band on a 53-date tour. Life had indeed come full circle except now the venues, such as London’s Wembley Stadium, were somewhat larger than the dimly lit high school gymnasium of his youth. The pay was better too.

Armed with an impressive arsenal of 1980s hit singles such as “A Criminal Mind”, “You’re A Strange Animal”, “Guerilla Soldier”, “Cosmetics” and “Moonlight Desires” to go along with 1990 hit ballad “All The Lovers In The World”, the 59-year-old Scottish-born singer/keyboardist returns to Del Crary Park’s Fred Anderson Stage after 18 years, headlining Peterborough Musicfest on Wednesday, July 6 at 8 p.m.

He arrives with an impressive resumé highlighted by two Juno Awards from 12 nominations and platinum status for four of his six studio albums.

“Without my consent, as a child I was brought to the tropic of Canada (from Edinburgh) and settled among the unparalleled beauty of Scarborough,” recalls Gowan on his website at www.gowan.org.

“My marks in high school were of a calibre that left me no option but to pursue the occupation of rock star.”

While that lofty ambition no doubt left his high school guidance counselor unimpressed, Gowan formed Rhinegold, and subsequently honed both his vocal work and stage presence.

“Rhinegold spent five years casting its pearls before swine and was summarily dismissed from the party at the end of the 1970s,” recalls Gowan.

But he didn’t sit idle long. Come 1982, Gowan was in the recording studio, the end result being his self-named debut album. That was followed three years later by Strange Animal, a commercial breakthrough success. The timing was perfect, notes Gowan.

“My antics were captured in a new medium known as the music video, and the 1980s rejoiced and took me to its bosom,” he says.

“There I was nurtured, and awarded with Junos and platinum albums and ample parking spaces.”

Strange Animal, recorded at England’s famed Tittenhurst Park, brought Gowan a pair of 1985 Juno Awards: Best Video for “Criminal Mind” and Best Album Graphics for Strange Animal alongside designers Rob MacIntyre and Dimo Safari.

Four more studio albums took him through the decade into the 1990s with singles such as “When There’s Time For Love”, “Soul’s Road” and “Dancing On My Own Ground” returning him to the Canadian pop music charts. In 1997, Gowan released “Healing Waters” as a tribute to the late Princess Diana. Two years later, the phone rang and opportunity knocked in a very big way.

“I was asked to abandon my solo vessel and take up with a fine crew of Americans,” recalls Gowan.

On the other end of the line that May day was Styx’s guitarist. Familiar with Gowan’s vocal talent and stage charisma, Tommy Shaw asked him to tour with Styx, replacing lead singer Dennis DeYoung. Gowan did so and was subsequently named the permanent replacement for DeYoung, recording two studio albums with Styx, Cyclorama (2003) and Big Bang Theory (2005). Over the 17 years since, Gowan has performed more than 1,600 concerts worldwide with Styx.

“He’s brought new energy and excitement to the stage … I don’t think I’ve had this much fun playing live in many years,” praises Styx guitarist James (J.Y.) Young.

Inducted into Scarborough’s Walk of Fame in 2011, numerous accolades have come and continue to come Gowan’s way. During the same year he last appeared at Musicfest, he received a National Achievement Award from the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN).

Currently, besides his work as a solo performer and with Styx, Gowan is reportedly working on a new album which will feature material conceived and written by Rhinegold way back when — a reversing of the full circle he’s traversed so well to this point.

“Moonlight Desires” – Gowan

Peterborough Musicfest is presenting 19 free-admission concerts during its milestone 30th anniversary season, each staged Wednesday and Saturday nights.

Overseen by general manager Tracey Randall and staff, a board of directors, and numerous volunteers, Peterborough Musicfest’s stated mission is to “provide diverse, affordable live music to enrich cultural and economic prosperity in our community.”

For more information on this concert and/or the 2016 season, visit www.ptbomusicfest.ca or phone the Peterborough Musicfest office at 705-755-1111.

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Paul Rellinger
Paul Rellinger a.k.a Relly is an award-winning journalist and longtime former newspaper editor still searching for the perfect lead. When he's not putting pen to paper, Paul is on a sincere but woefully futile quest to own every postage stamp ever issued. A rabid reader of history, Paul claims to know who killed JFK but can't say out of fear for the safety of his oh so supportive wife Mary, his three wonderful kids and his three spirited grandchildren. Paul counts among his passions Peterborough's rich live music scene, the Toronto Maple Leafs, slopitch and retrieving golf balls from the woods. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @rellywrites.