Thursday, 8 August 2013

Parachute Club rises up

It was last heard on national television sung at the funeral of Jack Layton, the federal leader of the New Democratic Party who died in 2011. Lorraine Segato, lead singer of the Parachute Club actually sang it at the 1988 wedding of Layton and his wife Olivia Chow. It was that 1980s anthem of change: “Rise Up”.

That may have been the last time I saw them, but my association with Segato and the Parachute Club goes back almost 30 years.

Pop music
One day when I was maybe 14, I was visiting with my cousin Doris who told me she liked “pop”. I really wasn’t sure what she meant because I thought everything on the radio was pop.

No, she explained, she liked stuff like the Parachute Club, and asked me if I’d ever heard of them. Sure, I replied, I’d heard “Rise Up”. But there was more than that, so the next time I was at her place, we listened to the entire album.

The Parachute Club was one of the first Canadian bands to integrate Carribbean sounds such as reggae into their pop music.

"Rise Up" won the 1984 Juno for single of the year, and is the Parachute Club's most famous song. It came off the their self-titled debut album "The Parachute Club", which was produced by Canadian Daniel Lanois who would go on to produce musical legends such as U2 and their seminal album "The Joshua Tree", Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Peter Gariel.

Their second album, "At the Feet of the Moon" produced their second top 40 single: the album's title track. In 1985 they won the Juno for group of the year.

I have to admit, their sound changed over time, and I liked them more and more. The big change, I think, was when John Oates, of the group Hall and Oates, started working with them for their third album, "Small Victories", released in 1986. He even appeared in the video of their song “Love is Fire” where he accompanied lead singer Lorraine Segato. That song won the Juno for video of the year in 1987 .

The last single I heard was "Love and Compassion" at the beginning of 1987, off that same "Small Victories" album.

Social conscience
Segato was the face of the band. She was also one of the many Canadian artists who made up the group Northern Lights, which sang the anthem, “Tears are not Enough” for African famine relief. She always seemed to have a social conscience which explains her association with the Laytons and, by extension, the New Democratic Party.

The legacy
"Rise Up" has been used by a host of different causes over the years from gay rights to anti-racism and the New Democratic Party itself. It tuly is an anthem of the 1980s – a truly Canadian one.

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