Terry Jacks is a Canadian singer, songwriter and record producer. Born in Winnipeg on March 29, 1944, Jacks was once a member of The Poppy Family, which was formed in 1968 together with his first wife, Susan Pleskevits (Susan Jacks). The group produced one of their hit singles, “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” Jacks recorded “Seasons In The Sun” in 1973. The single became a massive hit, peaking at #1 in the US, UK as well as Canadian music charts in 1974. He recorded his own rendition of “If You Go Away,” which did well in the UK charts. From the late 1970s onwards Jacks gradually withdrew from the music spotlight, although he continued to write and produce songs especially for other artists. He is now an active environmentalist and lives with his family in Vancouver.
Terry Jacks’ early life and career
Canadian singer-songwriter, musician and producer Terence Ross “Terry” Jacks was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on March 29, 1944. He was later brought up in Vancouver. His parents had wishes for him to be an architect, but Jacks resisted them and instead followed his own path to become a musician.
During his teens Jacks brought along his guitar and joined a band called the Chessmen. They rose to become a successful act in Canada, scoring four top ten hits in 1964-1966.
The Poppy Family
During the Chessmen’s appearance on a Canadian television music program, Jacks met his would-be first wife Susan Pesklevits. After Jacks married Pesklevits, they later formed their own act, The Poppy Family in 1968. Pesklevits, of course, became Susan Jacks, a name which she has been using professionally even after she and Jacks divorced.
The Poppy Family became globally famous through their song “Which Way You Goin’ Billy,” written by Jacks. It reached the US Top 10 in 1970. But their following releases didn’t go anywhere. In addition to that, Jacks’ aversion to performing live and pressures of stardom led him to break up the Poppy Family in 1973.
Jacks also produced his wife’s records, including her album I Thought of You Again.But despite (or because of) the strains they had of being a married couple working together professionally, he and Susan Jacks divorced in 1973.
Terry Jacks’ solo career, and his hit “Seasons in the Sun”
Terry Jacks’ solo career was highlighted by the syrupy ballad “Seasons in the Sun.” The song was based on a 1962 French-language song “Le Moribond,” by Belgianchanson singer-songwriter Jacques Brel. The English-language adaptation had been written by Rod McKuen, but Jacks later made some modifications in the lyrics. In 1974 “Seasons in the Sun” was released on Canada’s Goldfish Records and distributed by London Records; while in the US the single was issued on Bell Records. It went to #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100, US Billboard adult contemporary singles chart, and on the UK charts as well. The single was from Jacks’ debut album, also titled Seasons in the Sun.
“If You Go Away”
Jacks followed the success of “Seasons in the Sun” with another English-language version of a Brel song. It was “If You Go Away,” based on Brel’s ballad “Ne Me Quitte Pas;” this is perhaps one of the most covered songs of all time. English lyrics were also written by McKuen. Jacks’ rendition was less successful though, peaking at #68 on the US chart. But in the UK it went to #8.
He also released his own version of Kevin Johnson’s “Rock ‘n Roll (I Gave You the Best Years of My Life)” in 1974. It peaked at #97 on the Billboard Hot 100 but it became more successful in Canada. (#22 pop, #5 adult contemporary).
Later on, Jacks moved on to producing work, working with other artists such as the Beach Boys, Nana Mouskouri, DOA and Chillwack. He worked with the Beach Boys and in fact produced the band’s version of “Seasons in the Sun” years before his own, but it was never released. In 2011 Al Jardine (who’s also Jacks’ friend) and his fellow Beach Boys released his own version of Jacks’ “Don’t Fight the Sea.”
Terry Jacks as an environmental activist
As he gradually faded from the music business, Jacks has also taken up documentary filming. With his interest and passion slowly going toward pro-environmental causes, Jacks also filmed videos touching on environmental themes and concerns including The Tragedy of Clearcutting and The Warmth of Love. In the 1980s Jacks was instrumental in obstructing the operations by large-scale pulp and logging companies that were suspected in not abiding by anti-pollution laws in Canada. He has won several accolades for his pro-environmental work.
Jacks presently lives with his family in Vancouver.