All Categories: A B C D E F G H I J K L M Mc N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z Welcome Home
Local Folders.. A B C D E F G H I J K L M Mc N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z
-1 +1

"SEB" 2002 Obituary


SEBASTIAN 

SEBASTIAN o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.toronto_star 2002-12-15 published
Rocker worked lifetime of magic
Lovin' Spoonful guitarist dies at 58
Zal YANOVSKY ran noted restaurant
Nicolaas VAN RIJN Staff Reporter
Zal YANOVSKY believed in magic.
As a member of the Lovin' Spoonful it got him his first big hit, the 1960s "Do You Believe in Magic," which helped put the group second only to the Beatles in record sales for a while.
And, after the music died, it got him to Kingston, where the man known as the Jewish version of Ringo Starr -- for his resemblance to the Beatles drummer -- started a restaurant, Chez Piggy, that is known across the land for its fare and welcoming atmosphere as a meeting place.
"He had an unorthodox style of playing, to say the least," said Denny DOHERTY of the Mamas and Papas, who was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame with YANOVSKY in 1996. "There was not any book anywhere that he followed.
"And he is gone too soon."
YANOVSKY, 58, died suddenly at his farm home just outside Kingston Friday of a heart attack.
Survivors include his wife Rose RICHARDSON, his daughter Zoe, 2-year-old grand_son Max, a sister Buba and his first wife, the actor Jackie BURROUGHS. A private family service will be held Monday in Kingston.
Kingston Mayor Isabel TURNER, who said she was "shocked" to hear of the death of the man she'd casually greet on the city's streets, hailed him as "a part of the very fabric of our community.''
"He took a very old building, went in and not only cleaned it all up, but brought it back to its former glory," she said of the work YANOVSKY and his wife Rose put into restoring an 1880s livery stable for their Chez Piggy.
"He was one of the first to do that, and because of it, others looked at what he had done and followed suit, with the result being that quite a renovation has taken place in downtown Kingston."
To recognize their work, TURNER said, the couple was last year recognized with a heritage restoration award.
"He had a really wonderful life in Kingston," said Toronto writer Marni JACKSON, who used to work at YANOVSKY's first Kingston restaurant, the lakeshore Dr. Bull's, making cappuccinos.
"He's a heart guy, the guy at the heart of Kingston. He and his wife Rose were really crucial in restoring Kingston's downtown and keeping the tourist economy kicking along because Chez Piggy's was really the city's first gathering place."
Born in Toronto, YANOVSKY dropped out of Downsview Collegiate at age 16 to begin the peripatetic lifestyle that marked his early days.
"I was late the second day of school," YANOVSKY recalled in an interview. "They wouldn't let me in school 'cause I didn't have all my books. I never really went back to get 'em. I guess I really didn't want to get back to school."
Since he'd just learned to play the guitar a year before, YANOVSKY turned to the stage, working "the Toronto coffee houses with a cat named Roy GURAL," he recalled. "Then I worked in a coffee house in Kitchener and then I packed it in and went to Israel," where he worked on a kibbutz.
But, DOHERTY recalled, YANOVSKY didn't last long.
"He was fired because he'd driven a Caterpillar tractor through a building. He was trying to help his people rebuild the country, not tear it down, but... So they said 'You'll do better in Tel Aviv,' and he tried busking in Tel Aviv, but it didn't go, so he came back to Toronto."
For the next year he survived by sleeping in an all-night coin laundry at the corner of Dupont and St. George Sts., busking, playing coffee houses and swiping milk bottles off front porches in his neighbourhood.
"I used to steal milk bottles, sell them to the candy store and get deposit money," YANOVSKY once confessed. "Listen, I needed the dough, so I mooched around a lot. I still got a lot of debts to pay when I get back, but I wasn't very original with the milk bottles -- and my technique was not very lucrative."
Longtime friend Larry ZOLF, in a 1966 interview, laughed "I remember Zal from the days he was so poor he was claimed as a tax exemption by 27 people. I remember Zal in the days when he was so dirty he was condemned as unfit for human habitation by the Toronto Board of Control."
YANOVSKY finally caught a break when DOHERTY, then with a group named The Halifax Three, asked him to come aboard, and for a while it was The Halifax Three Plus One.
"He played lead blues, kind of a single string picking, when I met him in 1961," DOHERTY recalled.
"Zal had been into rhythm and blues, and folk music. Our gig paid him a couple of hundred bucks a week, and we toured a lot, so through that he met other musicians and started hanging around New York.
After a stretch playing with Doherty in Washington's Georgetown district, YANOVSKY returned to New York where he teamed up with John SEBASTIAN who wanted to put together a group.
The result was the Lovin' Spoonful, with SEBASTIAN on guitar, harmonica and autoharp, Steve BOONE on bass and piano, Joe BUTLER on drums and YANOVSKY on guitar.
The group was so impressive so quickly that it and DOHERTY's Mammas and Pappas were hailed by Time magazine in the mid-1960s as the two top groups in America.
The band's reputation soared as "Do You Believe in Magic" took over the charts, and for several years the Spoonful had a loyal and fanatic following. But by 1967 YANOVSKY was ready for other challenges.
A clash with San Francisco police over marijuana contributed to his decision, Friends say.
"I left because I don't want to compromise any more," he said. "I want to be completely responsible for myself. I want to make decisions for myself."
With the cash settlement he received from the Spoonful, one that he candidly confessed made him "crazy rich," YANOVSKY spent several years casting about for a new life.
He attempted a musical comeback of his own in 1968 with the album Alive and Well and Living in Argentina, but it was, to put it kindly, a flop.
Still, he would occasionally pull out his own review of the album, published in the Star in 1968 under his own byline, and cringe.
Then came a shot at television producing -- Magistrate's Court, a mercifully short-lived and unlamented soap YANOVSKY himself admitted was "awful" -- and a brief period playing with Kris KRISTOFFERSON in 1970.
Finally came the challenge of running a restaurant in Kingston.
"Zal's father Avram was a cook," DOHERTY recalled yesterday.
"He was a bohemian himself, an artist and a writer, so Zal was raised rather 21st-century. There was cooking in the family."
YANOVSKY "loved his later life," DOHERTY said.

  S... Names     SE... Names     SEB... Names     Welcome Home

SEBASTIAN - All Categories in OGSPI