Top 10 Terry Jacks Songs

Terry Jacks Songs

Feature Photo: Bell Records, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

When thinking about the top ten Terry Jacks songs, odds are fans are going to recognize “Seasons in the Sun” most. However, there is more to this Canadian-born singer-songwriter than the biggest hit single of his career. Originally born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on March 29, 1944, he spent some of his childhood in the city before the family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. It would be at this Canadian West Coast city Jacks would form a band known as The Chessmen.

In Due Season

Between 1964 and 1966, Jacks and his bandmates were regional fan favorites after successfully recording and releasing a string of local hits. After his run with The Chessmen was done, he paired up with his future wife, Susan Pesklevits, to form The Poppy Family. Together, they scored several hits, nationally and internationally. While The Poppy Family was at its peak, Terry Jacks received an award in 1970 for his music production efforts. This triggered an interest in the Beach Boys to help them produce their 1972 album, Surf’s Up. It was a working relationship that could have featured “Seasons in the Sun” on that album but it wasn’t meant to be. Realizing their musical styles weren’t as compatible as initially thought, the recording artists went their own separate way. “Seasons in the Sun” would wait a couple of years before Terry Jacks would record and release it as a solo artist. By this time, his marriage to Susan Pesklevits was over and The Poppy Family’s run as a musical group was done.

While “Seasons in the Sun” became the signature hit that would put Terry Jacks on the map as a solo artist, this wouldn’t be the last time he’d make his mark as a chart-hitting singer-songwriter. The span of his career featured an impressive collection of written and recorded material, as well as producing hit songs for other artists. Chilliwack’s success with “Crazy Talk” and “There’s Something I Like About That” came from the creative penmanship of Terry Jacks. He was also the man behind the successful production of several recording artists such as George Jones, Buddy Knox, Nina Mouskouri, and Valdy.

Seasons Change

In addition to his accomplishments as a singer-songwriter, Terry Jacks is also known for his documentary works. He has produced a series of environmentally-themed features such as the award-winning The Faceless Ones, as well as The Tragedy of Clearcutting, The Southern Chilcotin Mountains, and The Warmth of Love (The Four Seasons of Sophie Thomas). These filmed productions began after Jacks began to withdraw from the music industry as a performer. There is also 1986’s Seasons in the Sun, a movie adaptation sharing similar characteristics to one of the music industry’s most endearing hit songs. All of these films were brought forth by Terry Jacks in the 1980s as he became involved with certain environmental issues that plagued the Canadian nation.

As for the discography of Terry Jacks, he recorded and released four studio albums, three compilation albums, and an EP. Of the sixteen singles he has recorded and released as a solo artist, all but two made an appearance on various music charts throughout the world. However, Jacks was not a fan of making media appearances or touring. He preferred a reclusive lifestyle. At one point, he owned his own publishing companies first Gone Fishin’ Music Ltd. then Sunfish Publishing. As successful as he was as a recording artist, Terry Jacks preferred to work as a producer.

Top 10 Terry Jacks Songs

#10 – I’m Gonna Capture You

The debut single from Terry Jacks as a solo artist was “I’m Gonna Capture You.” It peaked at number sixteen on the Canadian RPM Top Singles Chart in 1970. The song was about a man’s physical attraction to a woman he hoped he could win over. In the song, the idea was to captivate the love interest’s heart with charm and wit. Among the fans, it captured their hearts as a Terry Jacks favorite.


#9 – Christina

On the Canadian RPM Top Singles Chart, “Christina” became a number nine hit for Terry Jacks in 1975. This track came from his second studio album, Y’ Don’t Fight the Sea. The song was about a woman always on the move, uninterested to find a special someone in her life. As for Terry Jacks, he sang as the narrator who fell in love with her but realized that love will never be returned.


#8 – Endless Sleep

“Endless Sleep” was an original 1958 hit by Jody Reynolds that was covered in 1969 by Terry Jacks. At the time, he was part of The Poppy Family lineup. This was a rockabilly teenage tragedy song that was inspired by Reynolds to write after listening to Elvis Presley’s big 1956 hit, “Heartbreak Hotel.” At the time, The Poppy Family performed as a psychedelic group from 1968 until 1972. Together, they recorded and released two studio albums and a compilation album before going their separate ways.


#7 – Don’t Fight the Sea

In 1976, “Don’t Fight the Sea” was a single released by Terry Jacks that peaked as high as number thirty-one on the Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Songs chart. His friend, Al Jardine, released his own version of this song in 2011. The influence of the Beach Boys can be heard here as Bruce Johnson, Mike Love, Brian Wilson, and Carl Wilson each joined in on the song’s recording. It was sold as a limited edition vinyl and the proceeds went to the victims of the Japanese tsunami that took place on March 11, 2011. “Don’t Fight the Sea” was another song that was supposed to be a Beach Boys release in 1976 after it was recorded for the album, 15 Big Ones. It wouldn’t be the first time a song Terry Jacks wrote with the Beach Boys didn’t quite make the cut as one of their recordings.


#6 – Crazy Talk

“Crazy Talk” was a big hit for the Canadian rock group, Chilliwack after it was released as a single in 1974. It was written by Terry Jacks as he worked on the production of their album, Riding High. The song was about a woman’s constant jibberish and lying ways. It was one of many songs written by Terry Jacks for other recording artists that would become a big hit on the music charts. On the Canadian Canadian Singles chart, it peaked as high as number ten. On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Crazy Talk” squeaked in at number ninety-eight as a minor hit.


#5 – Rock ‘N’ Roll (I Gave You the Best Years of My Life)

In 1975, Terry Jacks covered Kevin Johnson’s 1973 hit, “Rock ‘N’ Roll (I Gave You the Best Years of My Life).” In 1974, Mac Davis and Terry Jacks each covered their own version of this hit song. For Jacks, “Rock ‘N’ Roll” peaked as high as number five on the Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Songs chart, and at number twenty-two on its RPM Top Singles Chart. However, Davis’s version was the more popular in America as it peaked as high as number four on its US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart and at number fifteen on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Australian-born Jonson’s version was the only one that earned a chart position in his home nation, as well as in the UK. When it was written by Johnson, it was his autobiography told in a song that lasted over three minutes. While many will argue the version performed by Terry Jacks isn’t as good as Johnson’s, bear in mind both men had very different music styles. It boils down to a fan’s personal preference.


#4 – Concrete Sea

“Concrete Sea” peaked at number sixteen on the Canadian RPM Top Singles Chart and on the RPM Adult Contemporary Songs chart after it was released as a single in 1972. This was the first single released from his debut album, Seasons in the Sun. At the time, it was his most popular hit as a solo artist. When he began to record as a solo artist, he was careful not to adopt some of the more heartfelt songs that were sung by Susan’s voice. At the time, the two were a couple. However, the marriage ended in divorce in 1973.

As a song, “Concrete Sea” was a song to describe the urban landscape that didn’t sit well with Terry Jacks. The environmentalist in him was already showing signs it was about to transform the man and his career in a new direction. Instead of embracing the internet, Jacks moved to a remote territory in northern British Columbia so he could spend more time in the great outdoors instead of having to contend with urban life.


#3 – If You Go Away

“If You Go Away” was the second recording Terry Jacks made that was an adaptation of a Jacques Brel song. While it didn’t quite make the global impression “Seasons in the Sun” did, Jacks still experienced a decent hit from it. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number eight. It was a number twenty-four hit in Germany. The Belgian title of “If You Go Away” was “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” Its 1959 original had its lyrics written in English by Rod McKuen. Since McKuen’s rewrite, several recording artists covered this song.

Partly derived from Franz Liszt’s musical score of “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6,” “If You Go Away” was a ballad performed with sadness by a narrator who dreaded the idea of their loved one going away. It was the vulnerability in the vocal performance by Terry Jacks that made “If You Go Away” such a tear-jerking favorite. This song was covered by many different artists but few captured the emotional essence it was designed to be. Terry Jacks sang “If You Go Away” as if it was his own personal experience.


#2 – Which Way You Goin’ Billy?

At the time of its 1969 release, “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” was a big hit for The Poppy Family. This Canadian-based rock group had Terry Jacks and his future wife, Susan, as part of the lineup. It became a number-one hit in Canada and Ireland, as well as a number-two hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song also peaked as high as number seven on the UK Singles Chart. “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” was written by Terry Jacks while Susan performed the lead vocals. At the time, it was addressing her then-husband whom she knew was about to put an end to her marriage with him. “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” became certified gold with the Recording Industry Association of America after selling over one million copies.

Adding to the appeal of “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” was the Vietnam War. Among baby boomer fans, the lyrics Jacks wrote seemed to take on a whole new meaning as families had loved ones sent overseas to fight a war many Americans didn’t believe in. Although this song is identified as a signature tune for Susan Jacks, it was the songwriting talent of Terry Jacks that made it so special.


#1 – Seasons in the Sun

Originally, “Seasons in the Sun” was a 1961 Belgian song titled “Le Moribund.” In English, it was “The Dying Man.” In 1963, the lyrics were rewritten by an American singer-poet named Rod McKuen. This beautiful soft ballad was sung as a dying man bidding everyone he loved his farewells. It was recorded and released for the first time in 1964 by the Kingston Trio. When an inspired Terry Jacks wrote, recorded, and released his own version of “Seasons in the Sun” as a single in 1974, his performance turned this tear-jerker into legend. His version didn’t have a broken-hearted man dying but someone who made peace with himself.

At one point, “Seasons in the Sun” was intended for Surf’s Up, a Beach Boys album the boys from California asked Terry Jacks to help them produce. However, things didn’t go as planned and the song was never completed as it was explained it simply wasn’t suitable Beach Boys material. In 1973, Jacks took it upon himself to record the song his own way from his Vancouver studio. The legendary piano parts and double bass parts performed in the second verse came from a young David Foster.

On a global scale, “Seasons in the Sun” became a number-one hit in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. On the US Billboard Hot 100, and US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart, it peaked at the very top of those two charts. It also sold over three million copies in the United States and it became certified gold. “Seasons in the Sun” also earned gold certification with the British Phonographic Industry after selling over five hundred thousand copies.

Despite the opinions of some modern-day critics, Terry Jacks’ version of “Seasons in the Sun” earned the distinction of becoming one of the biggest-selling Canadian-made singles of all time after surpassing fourteen million copies sold so far. Speaking as a fan, this is a great song that made a thoughtful and sensitive approach to our own mortality. Among individuals who’ve experienced terminal illnesses, “Seasons in the Sun” held special meaning for them as they could relate. As for the people left behind, this is a touching song that often gives them the motivation to honor their dearly departed by becoming better versions of themselves.

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