\ By Gary 17 \
With all the outsized egos now populating that “great stage in the sky” you can bet there are plenty of musical disputes that break out. Fortunately for the departed artists, but sadly for us, they now have a cooler head to help good sense prevail, as radio music director, band manager, record company promoter and talent scout Greg Simpson passed away at 71 years of age on Wed. June 10.
I got to know Greg a little bit through our mutual membership in the Canadian Classic Rock internet chat forum in the first decade of this century, when he was one of the few consistent voices of compassionate reason in a group that was pretty much defined by the verbal antics of no-holds-barred artists of some repute.
But Greg was always able to add a reasoned, sensible perspective amid the maelstrom of spats and one-uppmanship of people like Bob Segarini, Greg Godovitz, Sebastian Agnello, Jaimie Vernon, David Henman and many other driven icons of the Canadian music biz.
It was a role that, perhaps because his chilled demeanour stemmed in part from his lifelong love of marijuana, seemed to come naturally to the amiable father to three girls and friend to many talents, who succumbed in hospital in London, Ontario a couple of days after suffering a stroke that created an inoperable blot clot, according to his daughter’s post on Facebook.
He wasn’t someone who craved the public eye or official adoration. Throughout a 54-year career in music he was a behind-the-scenes behemoth who helped the careers of countless performers as a music selector, artist manager, record company consultant and in his later years as an organizer for Canadian Music Week and the Great Lakes Blues Society.
And through it all Greg maintained a civil, level-headed and likeable demeanour, becoming known as much for his kindness as for a prodigious memory for dates, names and musical trivia that continued to amaze friends and acquaintances right up until his death. He was also a devoted fan of the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson and it seemed appropriate, his daughter noted in her Facebook post, that it was a Wilson track that was playing on the random shuffle in the hospital when he passed.
Following announcement of his death last week and since, hundreds of artists famous and obscure, myriad musical friends and co-workers from his over five decades spent enabling talents, posted condolences and reminiscences on Facebook. In addition to their gratitude for the role he played in their careers, words like “loving” and “kindness” recurred dozens of times.
Greg was a pillar of the London area music scene going all the way back to his days in the 1970s programming FM radio and as a music arts teacher at Fanshawe College, and as evidenced by a tribute from the London Music Hall, which noted he was “a respected and devoted champion of the London music scene. a dear friend and a vital member of the music industry who supported and helped strengthen our venue at it’s earliest stage.”
Similar expressions of appreciation were expressed by members of the Great Lakes Blues Society and Forest City Music Awards, both of which he helped to re-energize in recent years after returning to London following a sojourn of a couple of years out west back in B.C., where he had been born.
In the 1990s he had become instrumental to many music careers after founding Mindbenders Music, an artist management, music consulting and radio promotions firm, through which he worked with talents such as Kim Mitchell, Holly Cole, Lee Aaron, Strange Advance, Carole Pope, Luciano Pavarotti, and Lighthouse, while also consulting for radio, nightclubs, record labels, and industry events, including coming on board to help manage Canadian Music Week.
For Greg Simpson family and friendship were the motivating factors in his life. As he reflected on his life just this past March, he said, “much to my consternation, I never got rich, at least in money … but rich in friends? Not many are as satisfied as I am that in my life the friends I’ve made over those 55 years have, by and large, remained my friends.
“There’s not much work left anymore, compared to earlier years, but there sure are a priceless number of friends . Thanks for sharing the journey with me.”
A more detailed account of Greg’s life and career was written in 2018 by Jim Ji Johnston and appears under the title “RIP: The Incomparable Gentleman, Greg Simpson” on the fyimusicnews website. There is also a podcast online from last month in which Greg discusses his life and career with interviewer Tommy Solo.
A celebration of his life will be held once social gathering restrictions have been lifted. In addition to his former wife Judy, he is survived by daughters Abby Simpson, Jacqueline Simpson, Nikki Simpson and sisters Nadine Simpson and Wanda (Sinclair) as well as a half-brother and half-sister and several nieces and nephews.