Kenneth Paul Cooper is a familiar name to many in the Campbell River and Comox Valley area, but this month, the Band Manager for the Campbell River Indian Band will transition from a life dedicated to serving families and communities and embark on a new journey.
Cooper has been writing songs for much of his life, and on Saturday at 7, he will celebrate his passage from retirement to musician by sharing the songs and stories that helped shape his life in a performance at the Rivercity Players theatre (1080 Hemlock St.).
The show, aptly titled “The Time Has Come”, pays homage to Cooper’s longtime love of and dedication to songwriting, and will feature many of the songs from his 2014 album “This Lovers Dance.” For those who know Cooper, you can rest assured that the evening will not be without great humour and a well-crafted narrative. Though the focus of the performance will be his music, Cooper will share stories on the art of songwriting and the many people, places and events that were the inspiration behind his songs.
Like so many others, Cooper’s musical aspirations began at a young age. Originally from England, he began playing piano at the age of 4, but his interest waned after his family moved to Canada. When he was 15, he caught a live performance of Bob Dylan on CBC and was inspired to play again. Cooper picked up a guitar for $10 and taught himself to play, spending a lot of time hanging out at Gordie Brandt Music in Saskatoon. Brandt, a contemporary of Lenny Breau and regarded as one of Canada’s finest jazz guitarists, saw Cooper’s talent, dedication and drive and was a constant source of encouragement for him as he began writing songs and eventually performing.
Cooper’s musical career began in his student days at the University of Saskatchewan, when he began playing coffee houses and clubs, chasing down the art of cool in towns across Canada and in the UK. He was inspired by the musicians of the day – Dylan, The Beatles, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, James Tayler and Bruce Cockburn – and their influences can be heard throughout his music. Over the years, he has been compared to artists such as Mark Knopfler and Boz Scaggs, Van Morrison and Willy De Ville, and while he doesn’t deny the influences, he shy’s away from being compared to the likes of such great musicians.
In 2014, after years of writing songs, Cooper finally made the decision to record an album. Paul Keim, owner of Dove Creek Recording Studio in Comox, was happy to work with Cooper. “Ken had accumulated a pile of songs over the years that he wanted to document, and came to me to help him do it. My job was to be his editor, and I worked with him to produce his songs and document them in a way that reflected his vision for them. Ken is a singer-songwriter, in the sense of folk musicians, not pop music. His musical influence seems to be from old-school vocal jazz; he’s a lyricist, similar to Cole Porter’s music in that his songs tell stories that are based in personal experience.” Cooper’s music could be considered post-authentic: his repertoire is not filled with songs of teen angst, but rather he brings his personal history and influences to create the music that is inside him. It is not constrained by any particular genre – he is a singer-songwriter.
From his early days playing coffee houses and clubs, from the Prairies to Europe and now Vancouver Island, Kenneth Paul Cooper never gave up on his passion. Finally, on Saturday, he will say goodbye to his career and celebrate a new beginning. For Cooper, this is his way of thanking the community he has served for so many years. The time has come to celebrate the ‘rebirth of the cool’.