Kenny Shields, Singer of Streetheart, Dies at 69

Bob Olsen/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Streetheart photographed on Feb. 19, 1979.

Kenny Shields, the lead singer of legendary Canadian rockers Streetheart, a band which amassed six gold and four platinum records, including a gold single for their cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb,” died Friday (July 21) of heart failure in Winnipeg. He was 69.

In Canada, their hits included "Action," "Hollywood," “Draggin’ You Down,” "What Kind of Love is This,” “One More Time," and covers of Bert Berns-penned “Here Comes The Night,” Small Faces’ "Tin Soldier," and perhaps the best-ever cover of “Under My Thumb.”

The band formed in Winnipeg in 1977 and originally included Paul Dean and Matt Frenette, who left to form Loverboy. Streetheart called it quits in 1983 after releasing six studio albums, plus a "best of, and a double live album. They reformed in 1999 and have been active ever since.  

in 2017 they had been performing as Kenny Shields & Streetheart (KS&S), for what was billed as their final tour “celebrating Streetheart’s 40 years of great rock and roll and good times,” but announced its cancellation on July 7 in a lengthy post on the band’s web site. Their last show was booked for New Year’s Eve at Winnipeg’s The Club Regent Casino.

The line-up featured founding members Shields and keyboardist Daryl Gutheil, and Streetheart alumni, guitarist Jeff Neill, along with bassist Bruce Jacobs and drummer Tim Sutton. KS&S were also doing meet-and-greets after every show. In June, they also started selling two limited-edition vinyl compilations, 40 Volume I & II.

Neill’s post earlier this month explained “that due to the seriousness of Kenny Shields health issues, we have had to cancel the entire 2017 tour schedule for Kenny Shields and Streetheart.” He wrote the singer had a “very sick heart” and detailed the emergency surgery he underwent. Neill believed he was “currently out of grave danger but will be in recovery for some time.” The note explained, “He will no longer be able to fly or endure the physical demands of being on the road and playing live shows.”

Neill continued to keep fans and well-wishers informed of Shields’ critical condition, via the Streetheart Facebook and Twitter account, then Friday came the dreaded news.

“It is with deep sadness and regret that I announce that our dear friend and bandmate Kenny Shields has passed away quietly and peacefully early this morning at the St. Boniface General Hospital in Winnipeg MB. By his side were his wife Elena, his daughter Julia and his sister Sharlene,” Neill wrote, proceeding to thank the staff at “St. B” hospital.

“We are most grateful to each and every one of you for all the love, support and hope you have extended towards Kenny and his family over these last few weeks,” he added. “I know personally how much that meant to Kenny and, I know that your kindness contributed to his inner peace in the end… RIP my brother. You will be missed. You will never be forgotten. Xox.”

Upon hearing the news, other Canadian musicians also expressed their condolences. “Hot Child in the City” hitmaker Nick Gilder posted, “I'm sad to tell you the great Kenny Shields passed away this morning we did a show together last year and Kenny seemed ok at that time always a friendly nice guy RIP.”

“Metal Queen” Lee Aaron tweeted: “Great sadness today over the loss of a great Canadian talent. RIP Kenny Shields #streetheart” and rock singer Sass Jordan wrote, “Very sad to hear about #KennyShields.Sending love to his family and friends. Another member of Canadian music history gone. RIP brother.”

Warner Music Canada president Steve Kane also posted, “Very sad to hear of Kenny Shields' passing. Streetheart were one of the earliest success stories for Warner Music Canada and their music filled the airwaves when I was a kid. My condolences to Kenny's family and friends.”

And former MuchMusic VJ Michael Williams had this heartfelt message: “To my late musical friend whose album I purchased in Cleveland back in the day. Kenny Shields of Streetheart, I last saw them at McGill in Montreal. It was brilliant one of the best bands ever. I used to play them constantly at CHOM FM. I love and miss you already your music lives on forever with the memories of thousands of great shows and recordings. We are lucky you shared it all with us.Godspeed my friend! Blessings to your family, fans and friends. We all love you.”

A planned tribute to Shields at Winnipeg Classic RockFest is apparently still a go for Aug. 29 at Shaw Park, “as the members of Streetheart and special guests pay tribute to the legacy of the legendary Kenny Shields,” it reads on the July 19 post. It will be the final farewell performance of Streetheart, who will be joined by Honeymoon Suite, Harlequin and more.


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