Haydain Neale Remembered

compiled by Bill Delingat

It was another star studded night at the Phoenix nightclub in the heart of Toronto, a scene that we are getting all too familiar in seeing as fans and family gather to pay tribute to a fallen star as his voice has been silent all too soon.

Nelly Furtado, Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo), K-Os, and Chantal Kreviazuk were among the artists that fans were privileged to see as they honored the musical legacy of Jacksoul’s Haydain Neale.

Photo Credit: Bill KingPhoto Credit: Bill King

Photo Credit: Bill KingPhoto Credit: Bill KingThe Jacksoul frontman was grievously injured in a car crash while driving his Vespa in the summer of 2007 and spent the better part of the last 2 years in hospital, fighting the uphill battle to what everyone hoped would be a full recovery. Finally in the last 6 months, Neale returned to work and on Dec 1 2009, Jacksoul were ready to release their 5th and most decisive CD. The ten songs were awaiting the final touch since being laid down in 2007, prior to the accident. Speculation was high as Neale was back in the studio with his bandmates with interviews arranged to promote this comeback career high album, "SOULmate," The album was a gift to fans for their loving support after he was seriously injured in a traffic accident his family had said. Haydain Neale, died Nov. 22 at the age of 39, after a seven-month battle with lung cancer.

Photo Credit: Bill KingYasmin his daughter spoke to the crowd "In the two years and four months (since the accident) my family has rode this emotional rollercoaster,” she said, and recalled a lasting memory the Neale family shared before he died. "Battling every disbelieving doctor, every negative nurse, and pleading with some angels to keep my dad's positive energy here, it was all worth it in that one moment.”

Neale's wife, Michaela, talks of his songs as mostly about love and encouraged the audience to embrace the message in his music. "Those of us who are fortunate enough to have been touched by Hayden's music directly know that the subject he wrote most often was about love, in fact love was the guiding force in his daily life," she said. "Haydain would love to see us all here gathered tonight, celebrating his life, listening to his music, loving each other all in one room, but he'd also like us to wake up tomorrow and remember to keep loving each other, no matter what life throws at us."

Photo Credit: Bill KingThe concert was headlined by Furtado, who thanked Jacksoul for helping give her early career a boost, as she once was the opener for the band in the same venue back in 2000.

Cuddy performed the Blue Rodeo song "Try," which Jacksoul had covered. The last time he got together with Neale was at a Blue Rodeo show in Vancouver, where Neale joined the band to sing the song, Cuddy said.

Photo Credit: Bill KingPhoto Credit: Bill King"He had an enthusiasm that - if you wanted to put a word to it - it was love. He was a guy who really wanted to transfer joy through music," Cuddy said.

Although the band Jacksoul had received some airplay and award recognition, with two Juno Awards and five nominations, they were still on the verge of star status and Cuddy hoped the concert would give a little more exposure to Neale's music.

"People should be aware of what a talent he was," Cuddy said. "The man can sing and that's a much rarer gift than you think. Somebody with the spirit and the rhythm and the vocal chops to actually do what he did - Canada doesn't produce those all the time, he was a treasure."

Photo Credit: Bill KingPhoto Credit: Bill KingAnother performer at the concert, Keshia Chante, broke down when talking about Neale's legacy. "He broke the barriers, he wasn't just an R&B artist, he was soul, he had funk, he had rock, he had reggae, he had everything," she said. "He stuck to his artistic vision and his soul and his heart."

Michaela said,” Haydain wrote so eloquently in the liner notes of his last album 'mySOUL', "I think music can heal and educate... I'll always be proud that; our music was a positive force for not just love between couples, but love of self, community and the world. It's been a crazy place, this earth, since the last record. And if we could all exercise some true tolerance of each other’s existence; some understanding of each other’s cultures; and accurate knowledge of our common histories, we would then find ourselves in a much better world indeed." said Michaela.

As Toronto and the world of music say goodbye to another of our great talents the feeling of the evening was that of love and happiness as “SOULmate” hits the airwaves we will all feel that love Haydain Neale always brought out of us.

All proceeds from the sale of 'SOULmate' will go to the Haydain Neale Family Trust.

Haydain Neal Benefit at the Phoenix:

Photos by Bill King