Walk Off the Earth honours Mike ‘Beard Guy’ Taylor at massive memorial concert


As they’ve done time and time again through the years, Walk Off the Earth performed to an adoring crowd in Burlington, Ont., Sunday night — but this time, one member’s absence weighed heavy in the air. 

The band was there as part of a concert to honour the life of keyboardist Mike « Beard Guy » Taylor, who died of natural causes in his sleep on Dec. 29.

Thousands of people packed Burlington’s Civic Square to pay their respects, and catch a glimpse of the band performing for the first time without the 51-year-old father of two.

« Music heals, » vocalist Sarah Blackwood said. « We’re hoping that eventually, over time, it will help us keep his memory alive and bring him with us on the road, and bring him with us in all the music that we continue to make. »

It was an emotional night, with tears staining the cheeks of the band and audience members alike, as they huddled together in frigid temperatures.

The band said Taylor died ‘peacefully from natural causes … in his sleep.’ (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The indie pop group was joined onstage by several juggernauts of Canadian music, including members of Arkells, Barenaked Ladies, Monster Truck, Saint Alvia, Scott Helman, USS and The Dare Nots.

Many spoke of Taylor’s passion for music and community, and thanked the crowd for being there to support the band and his family.

Shawn Kelly and his family came to Burlington from Niagara to catch the show, and have seen the band several times.

« They’ve just been like a really big part of our family, and the fans are like a big family themselves, » Kelly said.

« So when you lose one of your own, you want to come out and pay your respects. »

Walk Off the Earth exploded on YouTube with a cover of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know back in 2012. It featured all the band’s members playing the track on one acoustic guitar, and has since been viewed more than 185 million times.

The band has also released several singles and EPs, with the most recent being Subscribe to the Holidays, which came out last November.

Many in the crowd at Sunday’s show held candles. (Peter Power/Canadian Press)

The band won a Juno in 2016 for group of the year, and has also won a CASBY Award, Canadian Radio Music Award, and a Streamy Award.

As the band’s star rose, Walk Off The Earth never forgot the city where it got its start, said Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward. She told the crowd that Taylor, who was a hockey coach and ran a freight company, will be the honourary recipient of the first « key to the city » program in Burlington’s history.

Members of Walk Off the Earth watch a video of Taylor at the tribute concert in his honour held in Burlington, Ont., on Sunday. (Adam Carter/CBC)

« Walk Off The Earth and Mike never forgot us, and never forgot their roots, » she said.

« We will never forget the legacy he left. »

Next month, the band is embarking on the first leg of a world tour that was planned before Taylor died. The first show is scheduled for Truro, N.S., on Feb. 9.

Arkells frontman Max Kerman joined The Barenaked Ladies for a rendition of the band’s hit, ‘Lovers in a Dangerous Time.’ (Adam Carter/CBC)

The band said it isn’t planning on immediately replacing Taylor. His keyboards stood untouched on stage throughout the show Sunday night, covered in candles to mark the man who was on everyone’s minds.

« I think we’ve all taken a moment to slow down and think about what means most to us. Think about family, think about what we’ve done, and what legacy we’re going to leave, » said Joel Cassidy, the band’s drummer.

The candle-lit keyboards of Mike ‘Beard Guy’ Taylor during a Walk Off The Earth Memorial & Tribute Concert in Burlington, Ont., on Sunday. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press)

« The one bit of comfort I’ve found in this is he lived life to the absolute max. He really did live life like every day was his last, and he left an incredible legacy. »



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Mike Duffy appeals ruling blocking him from suing Senate for suspension


Sen. Mike Duffy is asking Ontario’s Court of Appeal to overturn a decision blocking him from suing the Senate for millions of dollars over his dramatic and protracted suspension without pay more than five years ago.

Last month, Justice Sally Gomery ruled the Senate’s decision to suspend Duffy is protected by parliamentary privilege — a centuries-old right designed to protect legislators from having to answer to judges for doing their jobs.

The appeal Duffy’s lawyers filed today says the ruling erred in law on a number of fronts, and essentially equates parliamentary privilege with immunity.

Duffy is asking the appeal court to set aside Gomery’s ruling and order the Senate to cover his legal costs.

Duffy is seeking $7.8 million in damages in the wake of the high-profile investigation of his expense claims, which culminated in his acquittal on 31 criminal charges in 2016.

His claim against the Senate alleges « an unprecedented abuse of power » when a majority of senators voted to suspend him without pay in November 2013, before any criminal charges had been filed.


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Mike ‘Beard Guy’ Taylor from Canadian band Walk Off the Earth has died – National


Mike Taylor, keyboardist and vocalist of Canadian band Walk Off the Earth, known as the “Beard Guy,” has died, the band confirmed Sunday.

Canada’s Walk Off the Earth capitalizes on major YouTube breakthrough

“It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved brother and band member, Mike ‘Beard Guy’ Taylor,” the band said in a statement on Twitter. “Mike had a love for life that was unmatched and a willingness to give that went beyond ordinary means.”

The band said that he passed away peacefully from natural causes last night while in his sleep. He has left two children.

Walk Off the Earth, from Burlington, Ont., became famous in 2012 after posting a cover of Australian artist Gotye’s Somebody that I Use to Know, with all five bandmates playing the song on a single guitar.

WATCH: Walk Off The Earth On New Christmas Album

It became one of the most-watched clips on YouTube in 2012 and has since gained over 185 million views since being posted January 6, 2012, with viewers especially taking notice of Taylor on the far right and his stoic appearance.

“6 years later, I still want to become as majestic as the beard guy,” one viewer commented eight months ago.

The band had planned on kicking off a world tour with a set at CBC’s New Year’s Eve celebration in Niagara Falls Monday, but a representative for the band said they will no longer be performing tomorrow. The show, which also features The Sheepdogs and Burton Cummings, will still go on.

-With a file from The Canadian Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Walk Off the Earth band member Mike Taylor dead


Mike Taylor, the keyboardist and vocalist in the Canadian indie pop group Walk Off the Earth, has died, according to a statement released Sunday by the band.

« It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved brother and band member, » the Burlington, Ont.-based band wrote on Facebook.

« Mike had a love for life that was unmatched and a willingness to give that went beyond ordinary means, » the statement said, adding Taylor died « peacefully from natural causes » Saturday night in his sleep.

Walk Off the Earth are best known for their cover of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know, which the band released on YouTube in 2012 and has since been viewed more than 185 million times.

The band was scheduled to perform alongside Burton Cummings, The Sheepdogs and Avenue Inn in Niagara Falls, Ont., on New Year’s Eve as part of a CBC television special. That concert was also set to kick off a 2019 world tour for the group.

Jillian Santella, a media contact for the group, said Walk Off The Earth will not be performing Sunday, however the event will still be taking place.

A photo posted to Instagram on Christmas Eve showed the five band members dressed in holiday costumes wishing their fans a « safe and Happy Holiday! »

« We love you all so much and we hope to see you at a show in the New Year, » the post said.

Taylor, known by some fans simply as the « Beard Guy, » had two children, whom the Facebook statement notes « he adored more than anything else in the world. »


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Une juge empêche Mike Duffy de poursuivre le Sénat pour sa suspension sans solde


Ottawa — Un juge ontarien a porté un dur coup au sénateur Mike Duffy dans sa tentative de récupérer les sommes d’argent dont il a été privé durant sa longue suspension sans solde il y a cinq ans.

La juge Sally Gomery a déclaré vendredi dans sa décision que la décision du Sénat de suspendre Mike Duffy est protégée par le privilège parlementaire. Cela signifie que M. Duffy ne peut pas poursuivre le Sénat pour ses actions.

Elle retire le Sénat de la poursuite intentée par Mike Duffy, qui réclamait plus de 7,8 millions à la chambre haute, à la GRC et au gouvernement fédéral.

Le sénateur réclame des dommages-intérêts à la suite de l’enquête largement médiatisée sur ses remboursements de dépenses, qui a mené à un procès lors duquel il a été acquitté de 31 chefs d’accusation en avril 2016.

Il a déposé sa poursuite en août 2017, alléguant « un abus de pouvoir sans précédent » lorsqu’une majorité de sénateurs ont voté en faveur de sa suspension sans solde en novembre 2013, avant qu’il ne fasse l’objet d’accusations criminelles.

Dans sa décision, la juge Gomery soutient que d’autoriser un tribunal à examiner les actions du Sénat envers M. Duffy entraverait la capacité de la chambre haute de fonctionner en tant qu’organe législatif indépendant.


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Honesty about mental health key to Leafs coach Mike Babcock’s playbook


Mike Babcock, the Maple Leafs coach, wanted to talk about a problem in his family.

Not a problem in what he calls his hockey family. Things are going awfully well around Toronto’s NHL team this season. And not a problem in his immediate family, either; this wasn’t about his wife and three adult children. Babcock’s point of contention, brought up unprompted in an exclusive interview with the Star this past week, was aimed at members of his extended family, who could probably stand in as members of almost anyone’s. To Babcock’s eye, they’re seeing loved ones struggle with mental health issues and refusing to confront the issue.

In an exclusive interview, Leafs coach Mike Babcock opens up about the impact of mental health issues and ways to make things better: “The conversation, in my opinion, is still the greatest thing we can be doing.”
In an exclusive interview, Leafs coach Mike Babcock opens up about the impact of mental health issues and ways to make things better: “The conversation, in my opinion, is still the greatest thing we can be doing.”  (Mark Blinch / GETTY IMAGES file photo)

“I don’t know if I’m allowed to, but I’m going to talk about it anyway: The people in my family whose kids are struggling (with mental health challenges) … The parents won’t admit to it,” Babcock said. “They won’t admit to it. What they want to do is to make sure they’re showing everybody that everything’s perfect — you’ve got a perfect house, a perfect car, go to school. What a crock.”

Babcock paused a moment, as if incredulous, and continued.

“If you won’t admit it, how are you going to help your child?” he said. “That, to me, is the biggest thing I’ve seen over the past couple of years.”

Talking about mental health issues isn’t always easy for some of us. It’s still seen, in unenlightened eyes, as a shameful weakness to be hidden, not a treatable illness better brought into the light. And Babcock wanted to make the point that he knows this to be true first-hand. Even though he’s the famed coach of hockey’s richest franchise — even though he’s been a high-profile advocate for mental health initiatives in the few years since he saw two family friends lost to the ravages of the disease in one grim summer — his extended circle is not immune to the unhelpful cone of silence. Even among his own relatives, there are those who still choose blind eyes and zipped lips over openness.

Still, statistics say one in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness, which means everybody knows somebody affected, which is why continuing the public discourse remains vital. And so Babcock keeps talking.

“The conversation, in my opinion, is still the greatest thing we can be doing,” Babcock said.

The societal fixation with keeping up appearances in the age of social media is a sore point with the coach. If he’s risen to become the game’s highest-paid coach while styling himself as an obsessively competitive perfectionist, off the clock he sees the obsession with curated personal utopias as an unhealthy pursuit.

“That’s what today’s world is all about. Instagram — I’m not on it, but I just see from my kids. The projection out there is that everything’s perfect. What a crock,” Babcock said. “What mental-health talk, to me, is about is … life’s messy, period. And there’s tough times for everybody. And just because I can put a suit on at night and it looks like everything’s going good, that doesn’t mean it’s going good necessarily. And the same for our athletes.”

Still, anyone who’s watched Babcock work knows he’s a demanding boss who’s been known to test the limits of his players’ self-confidence and expects his athletes, as he says, “to bring it every night.” I asked him how he reconciles what he knows about mental health with his penchant for fostering cutthroat internal competition that keeps players on edge.

“I disagree with that, 100 per cent. We’re not trying to put anyone on edge. We’re trying to be demanding and supportive,” Babcock said. “We believe that people play better when they know you care about them, when they know you’ve got their back, when they know the parameters. But we expect you to do it right.”

Babcock insists his public persona as the uncompromising, hard-driving coach doesn’t jibe with a private reality that’s geared toward the well-being of every single player.

“The image that’s out there of who I am and the amount of time we spend dealing with each individual and being concerned about them is totally different,” Babcock said. “What’s wrong with doing it right? I think somewhere along the way, we think that being demanding is harsh. No, it isn’t. It’s real. Why do you want slippage in your life? Just do it right. I don’t think you’re holding anyone to a standard they don’t want. These athletes want to be the best they can be, so we’re demanding on them. That doesn’t mean we’re not loving and caring and appreciative and supportive.”

Babcock was speaking in support of the Movember Foundation, which raises funds for various causes including mental health. Last month, teams in the Greater Toronto Hockey League sold Movember Babsocks, a special-edition printing of the popular hosiery that bears the coach’s jaw-prominent caricature. Five dollars from each $20 pair went to Movember’s young men in sports program, another $5 went to the minor-hockey team. The team that sold the most socks wins a practice at the Maple Leafs’ Etobicoke training facility to be presided over by Babcock and his staff. Perhaps the lucky winners bend the coach’s ear on what he sees as his high-flying team’s lingering weaknesses.

“We have to get heavier,” Babcock said. “That doesn’t mean acquiring more players. That means learn to play heavier. We need to be more battle proven, and we’ve got to play better defensively. That doesn’t mean eliminate our offence. That means be better defensively — give up less.”

Babcock also cited the career arcs of historically great NHL captains Alex Ovechkin and Steve Yzerman, who both had to wait until age 32 to first hoist the Stanley Cup. He said his 20-something stars might yet endure more “playoff miseries.”

“Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’d like instant gratification. That’s the world we live in. That’s not reality,” he said. “Often you need battle scars, disappointments. That’s the springboard for opportunity in life. No different than mental health. Everybody has momentary setbacks. Can you continue to push through it?”

So what does Babcock do when he sees a member of his extended family suffering a setback while those around them apparently feign obliviousness? Life’s messy. Babcock said that no matter how much he talks, “it doesn’t necessarily mean anyone’s going to listen.” The thought has occurred to him that maybe he’s crossed a line, that maybe it’s none of his business. He’s not sure there’s an easy answer. But silence certainly doesn’t seem like one.

“The biggest thing is, you’ve got to be willing to have the conversation,” Babcock said. “To me, you’ve got to be willing to speak your mind a little bit. Once you know — and you know through your personal skills — that you’re crossing the line, then you’ve got to back off. In saying all that, I think it’s still important to try to help. I really believe that. We all need help in our life … I just think that as we continue to have this talk.”

Dave Feschuk is a Toronto-based sports columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @dfeschuk


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Mike Woods achieves rare Canadian cycling feat at road race worlds


Mike Woods, the second Canadian to win a Spanish Vuelta stage earlier this month, became the country’s first cyclist to reach the podium at the road race world championships in 34 years with a third-place finish on Sunday in Innsbruck, Austria.

In 1984, Canada’s Steve Bauer won a bronze medal at the road world championship in Spain, just a few weeks after he captured the country’s first Olympic medal in road cycling at Los Angeles.

« My ears were ringing because the people were so loud and I could hear their cow bells, » said Woods, an Ottawa native. « Even before the race, I told myself I’d try to get inspiration and energy from what the fans bring to the race. There were so many fans today. »

The 31-year-old led Sunday’s race with less than 10 kilometres remaining before bowing to Spain’s Alejandro Valverde, who sprinted to his first world title after a grueling race of six hours 46 minutes through the Austrian Alps.

Valverde led a group of four in the final kilometre, including Woods, and just remained ahead in the sprint, with Romain Bardet of France taking the silver.

From left, Ottawa native Michael Woods, winner Alejandro Valverde of Spain and Romain Bardet of France battle to the finish in the men’s elite road road race in Austria. (Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)

Sunday’s victory came 15 years after Valverde won silver in Hamilton, a feat he repeated in 2005 in Madrid.

« This is the greatest day of my career. It means everything to me to take this victory, » the 38-year-old Valverde said through an interpreter after becoming the first Spanish world champion since Oscar Freire won the title in 2004.

Sunday’s title came a year after he suffered a fractured kneecap in a fall in the Tour de France, forcing him to end his 2017 season prematurely.

Valverde, who served a doping suspension earlier in his career, positioned himself for the win when he went ahead of the pack together with Bardet and Woods for the final five kilometres.

He is planning to retire following the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

2nd at Liè​ge-Bastogne-Liè​ge

Also representing Canada in Sunday’s race were Rob Britton (Rally Cycling), reigning national road race champion Antoine Duchesne (Groupama-FDJ) and Hugo Houle (Astana).

Woods, who rides for the EF Education First-Drapac, or Cannondale-Drapac, was second in the prestigious Liè​ge-Bastogne-Liè​ge one-day race in April, the first Canadian to reach the podium at the event.

In May, he was also runner-up on Stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia and ended up 19th after being slowed by illness.

Woods, who makes his home in Spain these days, is a former elite distance runner at the University of Michigan.

He switched to cycling after a recurrent stress fracture in his foot and turned heads early in the 2016 season with a fifth-place finish in his first road race as a World Tour pro at the Tour Down Under in Australia.


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