Family and friends are mourning the sudden passing of a legendary Manitoban musician.
Vince Fontaine, the founder of the Juno Award-winning band Eagle & Hawk died Tuesday in Winnipeg. His niece, Nahanni Fontaine, made the announcement on behalf of the family.
"Husband, father, son, grandson, cousin and uncle, Vince was a proud member of Sagkeeng First Nation," Nahanni writes. "Vince's love of music was only outshone by his measureless devotion to his family, friends and community — we, who remain stunned and devastated by this great and unexpected loss."
On behalf of our Fontaine family, it is with terrible sadness and shock that I announce the sudden passing of my dear Uncle Vince Fontaine today: Tuesday, January 11, 2022. pic.twitter.com/w6xJFtDn4c— Nahanni Fontaine (@NahanniFontaine) January 11, 2022
Fontaine's brother-in-law, Winnipeg musician Steve Bell, says that Fontaine "suffered a massive heart attack and died within feet of hospital doors." Bell made the comments in an online tribute made early Wednesday morning.
"With shattered hearts we mourn the tragic loss of my beloved brother-in-law, Vince Fontaine," Bell writes. "I’m so proud to call Vince 'brother.' And so terribly grieved for my sweet sister Dorothy and their amazing kids, Aleah, Gabrielle and Joe."
Fontaine formed Eagle & Hawk in 1994 with former Winnipeg Blue Bomber, Troy Westwood. Eagle & Hawk won dozens of music awards over the years, including a Juno for Best Music of Aboriginal Canada Recording in 2002. The band also took home three awards at the 2004 Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, as well as more Juno nominations in 2004 and 2006, and countless nominations from various awards ceremonies.
While Westwood would leave the group in 1997 due to his football commitments, Fontaine remained an important figure in Westwood's life. "(I) could never express how much you meant to me brother," Westwood says in a Twitter post made Tuesday evening. "So many precious memories. You taught me a great deal brother. Thank you, brother."
Shocking news today.— Troy Westwood (@TroyWestwood) January 12, 2022
Vince Fontaine of Eagle&Hawk has passed to the spirit world.
Could never express how much you meant to me brother.
So many precious memories.
You taught me a great deal brother.
Thank you brother.
Much sympathy to his beautiful family.
Rest In Peace.
Eagle & Hawk had success not only in Canada but around the globe doing several European tours and playing in various countries.
Fontaine also formed an Indigenous supergroup called Indian City in 2011. He worked with Don Amero, William Prince, Pamela Davis, and Neewa Mason on the first project, and the album Supernation won Best Pop Album at the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards. The group has won several more awards and nominations over the years.
"Words will fail me right now," Amero writes in a tribute on his Facebook page. He calls Fontaine's passing sudden and unexpected. "My heart is heavy. I believe we’ll walk together again in the next life my friend. Travel safe until we meet again."
Fontaine was influential not just in the rock and pop music world but also had a big impact with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. "Our collective hearts are broken," the WSO says in an online post Wednesday morning. "Mr. Fontaine worked extensively with the WSO," the post says.
The work included the WSO's Indigenous Music Festival, which ran from 2009 through 2011. The WSO says that Fontaine worked closely with former music director Alexander Mickelthwaite. "Mr. Fontaine was the festival manager and an instrumental part of the intent and meaning behind the event."
The WSO offers its condolences to Fontaine's family and friends saying, "This is a tragic loss for Manitoba's Indigenous community and Manitoba's music community overall."