John Martin, widely regarded as Canada's father of music video programming, died Thursday morning (Feb. 23) in his sleep at Toronto's East General Hospital following a lengthy battle with cancer. He w
John Martin, widely regarded as Canada's father of music video programming, died Thursday morning (Feb. 23) in his sleep at Toronto's East General Hospital following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 57.
After a stint in the current affairs department of the government broadcaster CBC-TV, Manchester-born Martin left to create and launch the weekly tabloid music show "The New Music" at Toronto TV station CITY-TV, owned by CHUM Ltd. The program went to air on Sept. 1979 and runs today nationally on MuchMusic, also owned by CHUM Ltd.
With "The New Music," Martin sought to develop for television programming that would offer the same type of information found in such music print sources as Rolling Stone and England's New Musical Express--programming that treated pop music in serious journalistic light.
As director of music programming, Martin conceived and launched specialty TV channel MuchMusic that went on air in Canada nationally in 1984. Initially a discretionary pay-TV channel, it became a part of basic Canadian cable service in 1989.
For many, Martin and MuchMusic remain even today inseparable as a concept.
Under Martin's direction, MuchMusic adapted a radio format to TV, with on-camera VJs serving the function of DJs. In addition to a playlist of pop and rock videos, the station presented daily segments or weekly shows devoted to rap and hip hop, heavy metal, and country. Programming also included studio and concert performances, interviews, and music and arts news coverage.
Also under Martin's tenure, MuchMusic was a prime force in helping to launch the careers of such notable Canadian acts as Bryan Adams, Blue Rodeo, the Cowboy Junkies, and Sarah McLachlan.
Barenaked Ladies' profile was boosted in Canada when it appeared on the second show of the Martin-conceived interview series "Intimate & Interactive" in 1992." We didn't have an album yet,' recalls Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies. "It was a real turning point at the beginning of our career.'
In 1993, Martin left MuchMusic to work as an independent filmmaker. In 1999, he directed the acclaimed film biography of legendary Canadian guitarist Lenny Breau, "The Lenny Breau Story." It was a co-venture with Toronto's Sleeping Giant Productions and Winnipeg's Buffalo Gal Pictures.
Says former MuchMusic publicist and long-time friend Bill Bobek, "John Martin gave me -- and millions of others I'm sure -- one of the most creative, exhilarating and fun-filled rides through the music and music television industries that could ever have been imagined. He did so much for the artists and the fans."
Martin is survived by his son David and sister Madelaine Caldwell.