Goodbye Urban

I never met Urban Carmichael. We once sat at different tables in the same restaurant, but that’s as close as I ever came. I never even heard him perform, save for a couple of snippets on the CBC here and there.

But our lives intersected in innumerable ways.

Urban’s sister lives just over our back fence, and her kids say hello to us every time we walk by (one of them comes over to the house to work for Catherine every Sunday afternoon, another walks Johnny and Jodi’s dog for them).

I worked with another sister during my time with the Legislative Assembly.

Mix another way, and add another couple of sisters, and you get The Carmichael Sisters — I bought their first CD soon after arriving on the Island, and I listen to it often.

We spent our first Christmas on PEI with Urban’s nephew, hunkered down in Catherine Hennessey’s old place on Dorchester St., and he’s since become a friend.

And of course almost all of our friends, acquaintances and co-workers here on PEI have regaled us with stories about working and playing with Urban over the years.

So although I never met Urban, I feel as though I know him through reflection in the eyes and hearts of others.

When last summer I made a little post about a benefit for Urban, I suddenly became, according to Google, an authority. And so I started to receive email messages. Like this one:

I hope you wont think my request is intruding on you. My wife and I only learned today about Urban Carmichael’s health while listening to CBC radio. We, my wife Anne and I, met Urban in 1986 in Saint John NB during ‘Festival by the Sea’ when Urban was representing PEI and we were part of a contingent from the Yukon. Because of the small numbers of both contingents, PEI and Yukon shared a common dormitory at the performers village. Urban kept us entertained 24/7 for the whole two weeks.

A dozen others followed, from all over North America. With the help of Urban’s friends and family, I managed to steer people in the right direction, and many of the correspondents wrote back to thank me, letting me know they’d made contact with Urban.

Urban died last night, at the age of 53. CBC Radio is reporting that he died surrounded by members of his family — they called him a “legendary Island entertainer” — and said he was born into a family of 10 (which means there are still more Carmichaels for me to meet).

This morning, picking up a cup of tea at Timothy’s, I ran into my friend, Urban’s nephew. And again I saw Urban in reflection, this time in a deep sadness in his eyes.

Goodbye, Urban.


Darren Peters's picture
Darren Peters on February 14, 2006 - 15:02 Permalink

Thank you very much from all of our family. You are a fine person.

Mark's picture
Mark on February 14, 2006 - 15:07 Permalink

God Bless

Anne and Brian's picture
Anne and Brian on February 14, 2006 - 15:34 Permalink

Thanks for happy memories Urban. We’re sure you’ll be called upon to do ‘benefits’ up there.

Andrew Sprague's picture
Andrew Sprague on February 14, 2006 - 17:36 Permalink

I had the pleasure of being back stage with Urban during his last ever public performance at Madly Off a couple weeks back in Charlottetown. I was a true honour to share the stage with he and his sister Margie on that night. The crowd was so appreciative. When they were through everyone was out of their seats, and there was narry a dry eye in the house. That alone goes to show the impact Urban had on the Island as a whole. There was hardly a person over 40 who didn’t know who Urban was, and Urban knew just about everyone over forty…and if he tried he could probably tell you a story about each and every one of them. That goes to show how much he loved the people here, and how much they loved him.
I only got to know Urban over the last five years. He had a way of making me feel so confident. He always wanted to know how things were going at the radio station, or how Sketch 22 was getting along. Though he never managed to see the show, he was so encouraging, that I felt as if he was one of our biggest fans.
I’ll always remember Urban Carmichael. As will so many others. He was truly one of the Island’s….Eastern Canada’s most beloved performers.

Sherry's picture
Sherry on February 14, 2006 - 19:27 Permalink

i listened to the notice on cbc this morning during my walk and cried the better part of it while thinking about Urban and the joy that surrounded him while he was here with us..

it was mentioned that he was surrounded by family and that his sisters “sung him out” (i believe that was the term used…) ~ so appropriate. Then cbc played a song by the Carmichael Sisters and i don’t think i can explain the feeling it left with me… it was incredibly moving.. sad but warm at the same time..

he was engaging, intelligent, warm, and quick-witted ~ one of my strongest memories of him was from a party in the country (a long time ago now..)where Urban landed along.. he took a quick look at those in the room and about 10 minutes later, sang a hilarious song based on many of those people and some of their strongest characteristics..everyone was crying with laughter.. he was a natural and i was stunned by his talent.

i was sorry to hear he had left us ~ the guitars will be ringing out in heaven

Kevin O'Brien's picture
Kevin O'Brien on February 15, 2006 - 19:52 Permalink

Over the years Urban supported hundreds of Island causes. His professional peak came, as if written in a novel, in his last performance. In the end he faced extreme circumstance with grace, acceptance and humour. In one way or another we’ll all someday have to pass through the same door, the trick (gift) will be to embody his example.

The Stan Rogers Folk Festival, dozens like it — and hundreds of smaller ones, will never be the same without him.

I once asked him about playing guitar with only his thumb, “How do you play a 7th or minor?” “Oh, that’s easy”, he said, “just sing a little off and it comes out perfect!”

julie's picture
julie on March 19, 2006 - 02:24 Permalink

Peter, you are a dear. Thank you for your kind words.It is so nice to hear. We are all richer for knowing you also.

Urban was quite the guy. I can’t believe he is gone. We talked at least twice a day. He was my best friend all my life. We all loved him so much and he was so good to all of us and our kids. He appreciated all you did for him too. Thanks so much for everything and especially for advertising the benefit and the copies. They were hanging from the rafters. He was so pleased. As he walked up the steps and saw all the people he said “Hmmm, seems like a dry run for the funeral, but that’s great!”

Yes, there are more of us to meet, and once I get out again after my broken wrist and cracked ribs (slipped on black ice three days after Urban’s funeral. ), I will drop by the Legislature and say hello. In the meantime, I hope we will bump into you somewhere. You are a princely fellow and we are all glad to know you. My sisters and I are going to do an Orwell Corner evening in late July or early August. I am still working on the CD “You May Leave My Island” . Hope to have it ready by fall now.Hugs from all the Carmichael clan. Julie

kratz's picture
kratz on October 1, 2011 - 06:00 Permalink

I look back at 5+ years and I lament for not hearing the cheerful, heartfelt, meaningful entertaining quality that Urban offered.

I think of him often. His words of advice still ring true.

I must say, he is truely missed.

Michael Mernin's picture
Michael Mernin on March 6, 2017 - 17:18 Permalink

We were on vacation in PEI in about 1999 or 2000 and I stumbled on "Come From the Heart" on CD. The kids and I loved it.
Fast forward a couple of years and I'm hunting for more Urban on the internet. And I found himself. By then he was quite sick. We had a nice but too-brief email correspondence and although I paid for just one, he sent me two copies of his self-published book full of whatnot.
What a charmer. What a gentleman. What a wit. Still miss him.
Terrific covers of "Immigrant Eyes" and "Howard Grey". "I'm not clinically lazy but I'll get out of doing what I can." And on and on.