Shane Yellowbird, Cree-Canadian country music artist, dies at 42

CALGARY (CelebrityAccess) – Cree-Canadian country music artist Shane Yellowbird died Monday (April 25) at age 42. His family confirmed he was living in Calgary when he died. “Our brother was a talented artist who loved his children, music and sports,” reads the family statement. “We are all deeply touched by the tragedy and ask for respect and privacy during this time to mourn the loss of our loved one.”

Radio-Canada News reports that close friends and musician Crystal Shawanda have confirmed that he has a history of health issues, including epilepsy. “Several years ago he started sharing that he wasn’t doing as many shows because he was suffering from seizures,” Shawanda said.

Yellowbird became a country music singer/songwriter after a stuttering condition in his youth led him to sing to help alleviate the stutter. According to a profile on Yellowbird by First Nations Drum, he started seeing a speech therapist who suggested he sing his sentences to help him speak clearly. The technique proved effective and instilled a budding love of music in Yellowbird. Initially, he wanted to follow in his parents’ footsteps and become a rodeo cowboy.

Yellowbird released their debut album, Life call my name, in 2006. It won Best New Artist, Single of the Year (Beautiful Concept) and Best Video at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards. The Canadian Country Music Awards named him Chevy Trucks Rising Star of the Year in 2007, and “Pickup Truck” from his debut album became his first Top 5 song. In 2007, he was named Aboriginal Artist of the Year at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards. During his career he was nominated for JUNO in 2008 and won two Native American Music Awards in the United States for Best Country Recording in 2011 and 2012 for ‘Life Is Calling My Name’ and ‘It’s About Time’. respectively.

Tributes and statements popped up all over social media at news of his death.

“It was a shock. We just try to support each other and be there for each other. We have people all over Canada contacting us in the United States. We’re just trying to process that,” her sister Carmen Yellowbird said.

Shawanda said she thinks Yellowbird will serve as an inspiration to other budding Indigenous artists. “He was a precursor. He opened doors. What he has accomplished is enormous. No native male country music artist has yet done what he did. It shows the magnitude of what he has accomplished. He was the first to walk through that door.

Yellowbird is survived by his partner, Sarah and four children. A memorial service will be held in Maskwacis on Friday, April 29.