Born in Winnipeg in 1944 and the oldest of five boys, it was always assumed Terry Jacks would carry on in the family architecture business. In fact, that’s what he was studying at UBC after the family had moved to Vancouver when he joined his first band.
Like virtually every other corner of Canada in the early ’60s, the west coast was led by a handful of groups that played the local teen centres and hall dances, and when Jacks joined The Chessmen at 17, he’d already had a hand in several genres in several groups to little or even less success, including a surf band called The Sand Dwellers, which never played live but released a pair of singles.
By the time The Chessmen called it quits in 1966, they’d released four singles (two on London Records and another pair on Mercury) to moderate success, and toured with Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Buddy Knox, Roy Orbison, and The Beach Boys. The band had also made several appearances on CBC TV’s “Music Hop,” which showcased talent in five regions across the country. This is where he met his future wife, Saskatoon native Susan Pesklevits.
The two started performing together as a duo off and on, and one thing led to another, and after adding a couple of members, formed The Poppy Family. They struck gold in ’69 with the first million-selling song ever recorded in BC, “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?.” It won four Junos, topped the charts in Canada and peaked at #2 in the US, and eventually sold over two and a half million copies.
But Jacks never enjoyed performing on the road, and after a string of other singles, his plan was to phase out The Poppy Family, and concentrate on solo albums, thereby gaining double the exposure. He formed Goldfish Records and produced Susan’s debut solo album in ’73. Musical, creative, and other differences however caused the couple to split later that year, thus ending the band and all its intended derivatives.
With US distribution through Bell Records, he had his own hits while producing his then-wife, as well, beginning with “I’m Gonna Capture You” in 1970, which peaked at #16 in Canada. Released nearly two years later, “Concrete Sea” matched that success, and a cover of Buddy Holly’s “I’m Gonna Love You Too,” b/w “Something Good Was Over Before It Ever Got To Start” made it to #7.
But it was in ’74 with the title track to the SEASONS IN THE SUN record (his first full length album) that he saw his biggest success. The song was a reworking of Rod McKuen’s adaptation of Belgian singer Jacques Brel’s 1962 tune. It eventually sold nearly 12 million copies worldwide and became the epitome of the times, as well as arguably the most syrupy song ever written. While earning him four Junos, it stayed on the charts for 17 weeks in Canada and almost that long in the US. The b-side to the original 45 “Put The Bone In” was written by Jacks, and was reportedly a deliberately bad song, complete with poor mix, thus drawing more attention to the a-side. Ironically, Jacks almost never recorded “Seasons In The Sun,” as he’d pitched it to The Beach Boys while working with them, as well as Larry Evoy of Edward Bear. In return, Evoy was trying to talk Jacks into one of his songs – “Last Song,” what would turn out to be that band’s biggest hit.
“Concrete Sea” and “I’m Gonna Love You Too” were included on the album, and other tracks included a cover of The Everly Brothers’ “Since You Broke My Heart,” and two written for him by songwriter Craig Wood – “Pumpkin Eater” and “Sail Away.”
Jacks tried to duplicate the success of “Seasons In The Sun” by recording another McKuen/Brel tune, “If You Go Away” a year later on the Y’ DON’T FIGHT THE SEA album, but the song barely made a dent in the charts. “Rock & Roll (I Gave You All The Best Years Of My Life)” however, became his secong biggest selling single ever, peaking at #5 on the Canadian adult contemporary chart, and #22 on the pop chart. “Christina” made it to #9, while “Holly” stalled before cracking the top 40. The title track, the final single off the record, made it to #33.
He retreated to production work for the next few years, working with Chilliwack, Nana Mouskouri, DOA, Valdy, Buddy Knox, and others. He was still sporadically releasing singles – “In My Father’s Footsteps” in ’76, “Hey Country Girl” a year later, and “Greenback Dollar” in ’81, the only one of the three to crack the top 10 in Canada. None were released as singles Stateside.
After he married his manager Margaret Zittier, the compilation INTO THE PAST was released in the fall of 1982. As well as his solo hits, it contained the previously unreleased “You Keep Me Up,” and a remake of The Poppy Family‘s “Where Evil Grows.”
He returned in 1983 with PULSE, for which Jacks brought in Bob Buckley (Straight Lines/Body Electric and writer/producer for the likes of Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Our Lady Peace, Simple Plan, and Aerosmith) as co-producer. The album’s only single “You Fool Me” reached #26 in Canada, and also featured “Where Evil Grows,” the lead-off “Voice Of America,” “Television,” and “Rainy Eyes.”
He switched to Attic Records for 1987’s JUST LIKE THAT. The title track was the only single, which reached #17. Following its release, he retired from the business due to his dislike of touring. Since then, he’s stayed active by getting involved in environmental issues (a subtle topic of several of his songs over the years), and founded Environmental Watch, dedicated to pressuring large-scale pulp and logging companies to comply with Canadian pollution laws.
His environmental work has earned him several awards, including from the United Nations and from the Western Canada Wilderness Committee. His commitment to the planet has also led to work in documentary film and video, producing several shorts pertaining to issues across the globe. The video “The Faceless Ones” also earned a pair of Environmental Gold Award during the 1992 New York International Film Festival.
Jacks found himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2001. RCMP responded to a call to his Sechelt, BC home, where they levelled a charge of improperly storing a firearm, as well as a charge of spousal abuse, although the rifle was not related to the alleged assault. The two divorced less than a year later. In 2008, he married Diane Soza, and he still performs occasionally throughout Canada and Europe.