It’s been pretty rough sledding lately for Susan Jacks; health-wise.

Fortunately we can begin the story with the good news.

“I’m doing well,” says the angelic voice of the iconic Canadian pop group ‘The Poppy Family’.

“Last year was a pretty scary one for me. I had a kidney transplant in 2010 and had some issues since then. It didn’t seem too serious although they couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t responding as well as they hoped.”

After rounds of tests that proved inconclusive, Jacks kidneys began to malfunction – rapidly.

“A biopsy showed that I have an extremely rare kidney disease called Monoclonal IgG3 with only 200 known cases worldwide.”

If that weren’t enough, she fractured a knee and became virtually immobile.

“I had blood clots in my legs caused by the extensive medications as well as the fracture and it was decided – due to my other emerging problems, I should remain in the hospital for a few days.

Unfortunately, I got sicker and sicker the longer I was in; I developed pneumonia, sepsis as well as a number of other infections.  All the while, my transplanted kidney (I named him Wilson) was rapidly failing and I was becoming weaker by the day.”

Jacks was told her body just plain old shut down at one point and was put on life support and placed in a medically-induced coma.

As I mentioned at the outset, the news did indeed get better and after a three month hospitalization, Susan Jacks finally returned home before Christmas.

Embarking in the music biz as a relative youngster, it was in 1968 with Susan as vocalist that The Poppy Family literally soared, ‘Beyond the Clouds.’

The Poppy Family
Susan Jacks with The Poppy Family in the sixties: (back row l-r) Satwant Singh, Terry Jacks, Craig McCaw

“Even when I was on a national TV show at fifteen, I never realized the magnitude of it,” she says of the group’s impending fame.

“I just loved to sing. I think the first time it really hit that there was a ‘big time’ was when I was in LA with the Poppy Family. We were picked up by the record label rep to do an interview with Billboard Magazine. I remember he turned his head slightly as he was driving and said “Oh, by the way, ‘Billy’ has officially reached a million sales”.  Hearing that it was a million seller was amazing, especially in those days. I think I was on a cloud for the rest of the day.”

‘Billy’ refers to the band’s signature classic, ‘Which Way You Goin’ Billy’. The song topped the pop charts in 1969 and firmly placed The Poppy Family atop the international musical map. The significance of Billy is not lost on the singer.

“Even when I was on a national TV show at fifteen, I never realized the magnitude of it,” she says of the group’s impending fame.

“When I first heard ‘Billy’ it was called “Which Way You Goin’ Buddy?” and it was the same story about love gone wrong but written from a guy’s point of view,” she says.

“I didn’t think the song was very strong from a male point of view although I thought the melody was very strong so I suggested it be re-written from a female point of view.

To be honest, I had no idea I would end up singing it. Terry (former husband Terry Jacks) re-wrote the lyrics to be better suited to a female and we discussed changing “Buddy” to a guy’s name to make it more personal.

We went through my brother’s names (I have six brothers) just to see if any of them fit and Billy’s name was perfect. Billy tells me he used that as a way to attract girls through his teenage years.”

With a career spanning some fifty years, Susan hopes to again resume her career and has plans in the works.

“I perform with my band fairly often although the past few years have been a challenge with the transplant and subsequent complications,” says Jacks.

“Now that most of that seems to be sorted out I’ll be performing more as well as recording a new CD. I’ve invited (former band mates) Satwant Singh and Craig McCaw to join me on a few of my shows in the past and we did a Poppy Family reunion show in 2014 to an audience of close to 100,000.

It was so wonderful to perform a whole show together again. We’ve talked about doing more in the future. We’ll see what happens.”

Fingers crossed.

Despite her dire health situation of late, the Susan Jacks story comes to a much happier conclusion.

“The recovery has been a challenge,” she adds, “but considering I wasn’t expected to live through it, I don’t ever complain.

I’m just happy to be here.”

We all are Susan!

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