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The Poppy Family: Am I The Only Fan Left?

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Which Way You Goin’, Billy?”  “I Thought of You Again.” “Seasons in the Sun.”  “Concrete Sea.”  “Rock ‘n’ Roll (I Gave You the Best Years of My Life).”  “Where Evil Grows.”  Don’t tell me you don’t remember those songs.  And while I guess I’ll understand if you say that you didn’t like Terry Jacks’s voice, and I’ll also understand if you found “Seasons in the Sun” a bit much in one way or another, I’m still going to defend this talented Canadian group and call for them to be remembered.

When you think of sitar in rock and roll, you think of George Harrison, right?  Fair enough.  But did you know that The Poppy Family had not only a sitar player (Craig McCaw) but also a tablas player (Satwant Singh)?  Don’t tell me Canadians aren’t cool.  It was the late sixties, and a very young Susan Pesklevits married her rhythm guitarist, Terry Jacks.  They apparently got the “Poppy Family” name out of the dictionary, and they became an early success story in Canadian music.

Rod McKuen?  Jacques Brel?

Terry Jacks had his biggest hit with a lyric adapted by flower-power-era poet Rod McKuen from a 1962 song by Jacques Brel, “Le Moribond.”  (Look it up – it’s a cool story of adaptation.)  I still like “Seasons in the Sun,” although I’m admittedly a sentimental soul; but I also really like the pure sound of Terry’s, Susan’s, and The Poppy Family’s songs, so different from anything else being released at the time.  The Poppy Family made only two records, and even Terry’s and Susan’s solo hits dried up forty years ago, but those voices – especially Susan’s, powerfully reminiscent of Karen Carpenter’s – deserve to be remembered.

What Now?

Terry Jacks is now a respected environmental activist, and Susan, now in her mid-sixties and recipient of a kidney transplant courtesy of her brother Billy – yes, that Billy! – is still a singer.  I hope they will both be remembered for the truly lovely music they gave us, music that to my ears still sounds fresh and, I’ll insist, sincere.


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