Dianne Heatherington in-memorium
Born in Winnipeg in 1948, Dianne Heatherington grew up wanting to be a singer, and her first professional group was The Merry-Go-Round when she was barely out of high school. The alumni of that group included Bill Wallace, future member of Brother, Gettysbyrg Address, The Guess Who, Crowcuss, and Kilowatt.
The band was on the circuit for a couple of years when they were asked to play at Winnipeg’s Man-Pop Festival in 1970. Heatherington was personally credited for getting Led Zeppelin to play, as although they were booked, paid, and scheduled to appear, they tried to back out using the poor weather clause in their contract when it began to rain. The story goes that she took to the TV and radio waves and shamed them in person until they relented.
Already a local media darling, she agreed to host her own TV series the next year on CBC, entitled simply, “Dianne,” effectively spelling the demise of The Merry-Go-Round. The show ran for two seasons, and she moved to Toronto and sought out bigger fame and fortune. Her departure from Winnipeg was so greatly felt that it was immortalized by The Guess Who‘s “Bye Bye Babe” (written by Wallace and Kurt Winter) in ’73 on their ARTIFICIAL PARADISE album.
She formed a band that became a staple on the club scene throughout the GTA during the ’70s, and courted offers from different labels. In 1975, four of her songs appeared on a CBC Radio compilation album – “Queen Jealousy,” “Check It Out,” “Lovin’ You’s So Easy,” and “My Old Man.” She signed with GRT Records in ’78 and began working on her debut album, but when the label went bankrupt before the record was finished, she purchased the master tapes, finished the album, and released it in 1980 after agreeing to terms with Epic.
Produced by Keith Whitey, whose resume included the likes of FM, Neil Harrison, Iolis, and The Undivided, two of the three singles were covers, starting with her version of The Crystals’ “He’s A Rebel” (penned by Gene Pitney). It climbed the charts while she appeared on a number of TV programs to promote the album, when the original “Mr Nice Guy” followed suit and nearly broke the top 40. By the end of the year her cover of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” had also entered the charts, fuelling a number of shows across Canada. Other noteable cuts included her rendition of Bruce Cockburn‘s “Mama Just Wants To Barrelhouse All Night Long” and the self-penned “Don’t Lie To Me,” which appeared as the b-side to the first single.
In 1980, she was the focus of a one hour CBC TV documentary called “Soul Survivor,” which chronicled the challenges of a woman in the music business. She was rewarded in the spring of ’81 with a Juno Award nomination for most promising female vocalist, but lost out to Rough Trade‘s Carole Pope. While still performing, she caught the acting bug in ’82, when she appeared in one episode each of the quickly forgotten series, “Seeing Things,” and then “Hear No Evil, See No Evil.”
She moved to New York in ’83 while also working on other artists’ projects, including the David Suzuki environmental awareness album entitled DAVID SUZUKI NARRATES ‘SPACE CHILD.’ Along with Heatherinton appearing on four songs, the soundtrack also included the likes of Shirley Eikhard, Lisa Dalbello, and Kim Mitchell.
While in the Big Apple, she was the weekend performer at Joe’s Bar, one of the hottest tickets in the East Village. For nearly two years she sang rock songs on Saturdays, and at the insistence of the bar owner, country and western on Fridays. Audiences loved her, but depsite her ability to cover both genres, she wasn’t able to land a record deal. After returning to Toronto in ’85, she continued on the circuit, and even moonlighted as a lounge jazz and blues act. But frustrated with the music business, she gave up singing all together in 1987 to pursue a career in acting.
She landed the role of a waitress in the blockbuster “Cocktail” in ’88. And although it was a bit part, it led to other jobs, including the made-for-TV movie “Liberace: Behind The Music” later that year. Although Heatherington was diagnosed with cervical cancer in May of 1993, she continued to work, appearing in the coming years in more TV movies – “Taking The Heat,” “To Save The Children,” and “The Shamrock Conspiracy,” and on the big screen in “Perfectly Normal” and as the co-star in the AIDS-awareness film, “Zero Patience.” At this point, she’d also returned to music, singing lead on the movie’s theme song, “Control.”
Her acting bug also had a side effect, when recognizing a need for security after one location’s set was vandalized and hundreds of thousands of dollars had been stolen, she set up a security company. The Dianne Heatherington Location Security company became a leader in the industry in the Toronto area, providing 24 hour location security for both big budget and TV movie sets.
Although now in retirement, Heatherington returned to Winnipeg in 1995 for the Red River Relief concert, appearing on stage for the first time in two decades (and in some cases – the first time) with some of the city’s other music alumni and personal friends, including Bill Wallace, Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Les Q, and Chad Allan, among many others.
She succumbed to cancer on October 22, 1996, and a number of tribute concerts were held over the next few years in both Winnipeg and in Toronto, raising money for both cancer research, as well as the establishment of a music scholarship in Heatherington’s name at the University of Manitoba.
HEATHERINGTON ROCKS (1981)
Mr. Nice Guy
In The Heat Of The Night
Don’t Lie To Me
He’s A Rebel
Rock ‘N’ Roll Gypsies
Mama Just Wants To Barrelhouse All Night Long