BlackHawk takes to CWSF stage Aug. 31
For Hub City Times
MARSHFIELD — For more than 20 years, BlackHawk has shared a unique sense of harmony with its fans, a harmony that has sold more than 7 million albums, scored some of the most distinctive country radio hits of the ‘90s, and drawn tens of thousands of fans to live performances.
Today BlackHawk continues to honor its past as it forges its future.
“When we started,” said BlackHawk co-founder and lead vocalist Henry Paul, “our individual careers as writers and performers gave us somewhat of a more creative sensibility. We were three guys whose goal was to approach country with smart songs and unique harmonies for people who may not automatically like country.”
“Even though the three of us had a love and appreciation for traditional country music,” said Dave Robbins, “we knew we weren’t going to be that. Henry was coming from Southern rock. Van and I were in Nashville but were writing country songs with pop sensibilities. When it came to our vocals, we wanted the three of us to be up front in the choruses like Crosby, Stills & Nash or The Eagles. What set us apart from the very beginning musically was being true to who we were individually.”
At the height of the trio’s success in 1999, Van Stephenson was diagnosed with an aggressive form of melanoma.
“Van’s contribution to the group was enormous,” Paul said. “He could be a tremendously gifted songwriter and a deeply spiritual guy. We found ourselves at a crossroads as a band, and it would have been an easy time for country music to count us out.”
“Two days before Van passed away, Henry and I went to visit him,” Robbins remembered. “Van was in a wheelchair at this point, and we took him for a stroll around his neighborhood. We spent the morning just talking, reminiscing about our career and good times together. Towards the end of our visit, Van said, ‘I’ve got two things to ask of you guys. First, do what you can to help raise awareness and find a cure for this thing. The other is don’t quit. There’s still a lot of great music left in BlackHawk.’”
Since Stephenson’s death on April 8, 2001, the band and its fans have raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars for The Van Stephenson Memorial Cancer Fund at Nashville’s Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.
“BlackHawk has a 20-year history of a certain kind of song craft as well as a quality of performance,” said Paul. “People have always come to our shows expecting a concert that is emotionally and musically engaging, and the band still sounds even better than the records, night after night, show after show. When we take the stage, we work as hard as we ever have. We owe it the music, we owe it to ourselves and Van, and we owe it to the fans. Now more than ever, that’s the true legacy of BlackHawk.”
BlackHawk comes to the Central Wisconsin State Fair on Aug. 31. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. For tickets visit centralwisconsinstatefair.com or call the fair office at 715-387-1261.