DREAMSCAPES WINTER/SPRING 2024
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TOM WILSON HEALING THE PAST
 
(2024 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: BILL KING



Tom Wilson, a Canadian music icon, a sage in the creative arts, with three Juno awards and several gold records, no doubt has left an indelible mark on Canada’s music landscape. He’s collaborated with superstars Sarah McLachlan, Colin James, Billy Ray Cyrus and R&B legend Mavis Staples to name only a few.

To boot, the veteran musician, who was raised in Hamilton, Ontario, is a revered artist whose vivid paintings of Indigenous culture and identity reveal a complex world. So complex, Wilson discovered that he was adopted during a conversation with a Mohawk woman named Janie Lazare he had known since childhood as his cousin. Turns out Janie was his birth mother and cousin of Bunny, the woman he knew as Mom.

“My truth was hidden from me—I was born a Mohawk baby, and finally I’m becoming a Mohawk man,” he writes in his critically acclaimed autobiography, Beautiful Scars, which was the title of a documentary film released in 2022, chronicling the journey of self-discovery, tracing his Mohawk roots.

Appointed to the Order of Canada last June, Wilson is on a new quest to put the Mohawk culture into the light where he says it belongs. “We have to stop pointing fingers and yelling at each other and start listening. If I have any role to play on this planet right now, it’s to encourage people to have this conversation,” he shared in this DreamScapes exclusive.

DS: Since the writing of Beautiful Scars has your life changed? Are you now at a crossroads?

TW: No, I’m going straight ahead. I’m not even looking at the road ahead. I’m paying attention to where I am now. The most important lessons I’ve learned—anxiety is in the future, and depression is in the past. The only way to sustain ourselves is by grounding ourselves in the moment. This takes care of my creative endeavours, my health, and my relationships with my family. So, that’s the most important rule I try to live by.

DS: Has there been a reckoning in your life?

TW: A profound one. The reckoning started 10 years ago when I discovered that I wasn’t the big, puffy, sweaty Irish guy I thought I was. I learned I was adopted, and the woman I thought was my cousin my whole life turned out to be my mother. I also found out I’m Mohawk from Gananoque, Ontario. The other reckoning, to put it plainly, is that this past December 12th, I celebrated 24 years of being clean and sober.

DS: What projects do you have in play?

TW: I just wrote a play that’s opening in April, which is very exciting, with the musical director from Come from Away, Bob Foster. I’m exactly where I wanted to be. When I was four years old, I knew I wanted to be a communicator, an artist, and live the life of an artist. Now, at 64, I get to live that life. I go from my studio to paint and create art exhibits. I’m writing my second book for Random House and working on music projects with Daniel Lanois and Terra Lightfoot. I’m also writing for Colin James, The Trews, and others. I feel completely alive and creatively fulfilled.

 
 
 
 
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