I first heard Sherry Kean’s 1984 People Talk at the University of Winnipeg radio station. I had a show, I think it was from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday. The station was in the basement and was broadcast only within the university (unlike now, when it’s on the FM band). The single “I Want You Back” might have been on the station’s playlist, or I might have put the record on out of curiosity. Anyway, I loved it – still do. Kean has a very distinct delivery, and an ability to hit some pretty impressive notes. And the songs are great. Not just “I Want You Back” but the title track, “Would You Miss Me,” and “Universe of Two” are all super-catchy and fun, out Lauper-ing Lauper.
So whatever happened to Sherry Kean?
According to the bio material I’ve come across, she was born Sherry Huffman and was originally the lead vocalist for a Toronto band called The Sharks, along with David Baxter, Bazil Donovan and Cleave Anderson.
“The band released only one single before Kean left to pursue a solo career. Baxter joined Kean’s solo band, while Donovan and Anderson went on to join Blue Rodeo.
“Kean signed to Capitol-EMI, and released the EP Mixed Emotions in 1983. The single “I Want You Back” was released in early 1984 and became a hit; it was followed by her full-length album debut, People Talk (Capitol ST-12328), later that year. Kean won the Juno Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist at the 1984 Juno Awards, and was also nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year at the U-Knows. “Would You Miss Me?” was also released as a single, but did not replicate the chart success of “I Want You Back”.
I came across this footage of Kean at a gala in Toronto for the 1984 UKnow Awards. The event was held at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, ON. Artists and celebs appearing include Spoons, Nash The Slash, Sherry Kean, Paul Humphries (Blue Peter), Live Earl Jive & Beverly Hills, Men Without Hats, Peter Noble, Parachute Club, Lorraine Segato, Billy Bryans, Billy Idol and the late BB Gabor.
Kean later released the country album Maverick Heart in 1987, which earned her another Juno Award nomination for Country Female Vocalist of the Year at the 1989 Juno Awards.
More importantly, she changed her hairstyle, from the Louise Brooks-ingenue bowl-cut of People Talk to big-haired country gal.
In a 2013 interview with the Pictou Advocate, Kean recalls performing outside at Ontario Place:
“It was a beautiful summer day and I went out on stage and the first two or three rows at the front of the stage were filled with girls about 16 or 17 years old with my hair cut (a short, sharp bob, dark in colour) knowing the words to my songs. It was really quite amazing because you wear your hair and clothes in a certain way and you think, ‘Wow, these girls are doing the same’.”
Kean had what she called a very different look.
“I had to fight for my look,” she recalls. “At the time, big hair was popular but I wanted my hair and a velvet dress. I look back on that look and think it’s kind of timeless.”