Feb 09, 2023

By Andy Johnson

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The Canadian arts community is mourning the passing of Toronto singer-songwriter, visual artist and activist Mendelson Joe.

Joe was a fixture of Toronto’s arts community for over four decades. His partner and gallerist Karen Robinson confirms his passing, choosing to end a battle with Parkinson’s disease with a medically assisted death.

He taught himself to play guitar at age 11.  At 19 he began performing as Joe Mendelson.  In the late ’60s he teamed with guitarist Mike McKenna to form blues rock outfit McKenna Mendelson Mainline.

Over his career he made 30 albums and confessed to writing at least 50-good songs.  His last album, “Art is the Healer” was released in 2012.

He began painting in 1975 and his work would go on to be housed by the Canada Council Art Bank, the Portrait Gallery of Canada and in numerous private and corporate collections worldwide including that of Zoomer Media founder Moses Znaimer.

Moses tweeted, “over the years, when he was short of dough, he’d hit me up for money, so I would buy a painting for fairly hefty prices, which is how I came into the possession of what could well be the world’s largest collection of Mendelson Joe self portraits.”

He added. “no question he was an original; stern, dogmatic and true to his environmental and political principles.  RIP crusty old pal.”

Mendelson Joe was 78.

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