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(2019 - Winter Issue)


Legions of fans worldwide have enjoyed the pop, jazz, classical and soulful songs and performances by multiple Grammy-nominated and seven-time Juno award winner Gino Vannelli. Among his most notable fans—the late Pope John Paul II. At the Pope’s request, Vannelli performed for him at the Vatican, Parole Per Mio Padre (A Word to My Father), a tribute to Vannelli’s father Joseph.

At 67, Vannelli retains his fit shape and signature curly locks. His hits since the 1970s include People Gotta Move, I Just Wanna Stop, Living Inside Myself, Black Cars, Wild Horses and It’s Only Love. Though successful with pop music early in his career, Vannelli never limited himself musically and is equally adept at performing classical music with renowned orchestras. One of his proudest musical accomplishments came with the release of Canto in 2003 on which he sang songs in French, English, Italian and Spanish. 

Born and raised in Montréal, musical influences included his own father who sang with Montréal dance bands and trumpeters like Maynard Ferguson. Legendary drummer Buddy Rich was a favourite of Vannelli’s and drums were his instrument of choice when he was young. (Guitar and piano followed.) 

In 1974, after his first big hit, People Gotta Move, Stevie Wonder invited Vannelli to be his opening act on tour. After years of commercial success but disenchanted with the record industry and his label at the time, Vannelli retreated from recording and touring to focus on a journey that took him around the world for a few years studying humanities, philosophies and world religions.

Family, wellness and staying true to himself and his music keeps Vannelli focused and grounded. After living in Montréal, New York, Los Angeles and Amsterdam, he chose to settle with his wife Patricia into a small community along the spectacular Columbia River Gorge on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. 

Slowing down is not in Vannelli’s repertoire. Planning a multi-country tour to promote his latest album, Wilderness Road, teaching Master Classes in voice, sound engineering and producing from his Oregon studio, and performing on stage, Vannelli continues to push the boundaries of his musical and literary genius. 

Did you ever want to be something other than a musician?

In my youth, I was quite enamoured with the Royal Canadian Navy. I wanted to join and see the world. I also loved literature so much that I desired to become a literature teacher. 

Favourite performances?

There are a couple of performances I did with the Swedish Radio Orchestra. The song I sang for the Pope. Opening for Stevie Wonder at the start of my career was a real opportunity. He asked me personally, so that’s what made it different. It wasn’t done through managers and agencies. 

What’s special about where you live in Oregon?

The Columbia River Gorge is a spectacle and should be considered one of the wonders of the world. The Columbia River snakes through a hundred miles of mountains that soar three to five thousand feet up. The hiking trails are amazing.

Favourite destinations?

I enjoy the Netherlands. I lived there for a couple of years. I have South American friends with whom I love spending time. I love the coastal areas of California and Oregon as well as the California and Nevada deserts. I also love the Ozark Mountains.

Any dream destination?

I think the world has so many incredibly beautiful places, but they mean less without someone you care about to share them with you. 

Do you chat with strangers when you travel?

I always make it a point on planes, buses or trains to speak to my neighbour. I get to see how people really feel and think.

What item do you always take on trips?

A Canadian-made Godin guitar.

You have an interesting marriage vow with your wife Patricia.

Never say anything we both couldn’t take back. I wrote a song called Words Can Kill, so I believe once you venture into that dark territory of name-calling there’s a respect lost. Amazingly enough, to this day, we have both never even whispered a pained “please” or an offhand “shut up” to each other.

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