“Country music is a form letter. You fill in the blanks. You move from one broken heart to the next one and from this marriage to that divorce, from a beating here to a beating there.”
Welcome to our weekly Sunday music section called, “Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians.”
By David Eisenstadt.
June 27, 2021: Ben Mink is best recognized as k.d.lang’s long-time collaborator. Together they penned the hit tune Constant Craving, and more.
Grammy Award nomination – k.d. lang (MTV Unplugged)
Record of the Year for “Constant Craving”
Mink is also known as the “Movie Music King” wrote the Victoria Times Colonist’s Glen Schaefer.
He has also worked with a ‘Who’s Who’ of talented musicians – Susan Aglukark, the Barenaked Ladies, Elton John, Feist, Geddy Lee and Rush, Heart, James Hetfield, The Klezmatics, Alison Krauss, Daniel Lanois, Ann Murray, Roy Orbison, and Wynona Judd.
So, how did this Canadian songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and music producer assemble such an impressive CV?
As the son of Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors raised in Toronto, Mink said, “My formative years were steeped in Jewish music and popular folk-country, blues, and rock. My father, raised in a strict Ger Chassidic household had a wonderful voice and took every opportunity to use it. My mother was less religious, but from a very cultured Warsaw family.”
Ben first joined Mary-Lou Horner in January 1969, the rock/country house band at Toronto’s landmark club, The Rock Pile, in the former Masonic Temple. “We opened for many great bands including Led Zeppelin.” He then performed with The Blazing Zulus, Stringband, FM, and Murray McLauchlan’s Silver Tractors.
On Rush’s 1982 album Signals, he played electric violin. In 2000 he co-wrote, produced/played violin and guitar on Geddy Lee’s My Favourite Headache. He recorded with Rush again on their 2007 album Snakes & Arrows and appeared live with them on their 2015 final R40 tour.
Mink connected with k.d.lang while with the French Canadian band CANO during the World Science Fair in 1985 in Tsukuba, Japan. This led to the recording of her first major album for Sire Records, Angel with a Lariat. Lang received a Juno Award in 1986 for Most Promising Female Vocalist wearing a wedding dress on stage. Thus began a nearly 20-year collaboration where he performed, co-wrote, and produced several of her albums. He also played violin, guitar, and mandolin with k.d.lang’s band, The Reclines. They remain close friends, “sharing lots of mutual respect and history.”
Besides Angel With A Lariat (2 self-composed and one co-written) their body of work includes Absolute Torch and Twang (8 co-written songs and co-produced the album, including Luck In My Eyes, and was a Grammy-nominated album, winning for Best Country Record); Red Hot And Blue (produced and performed on So In Love); Ingenue (8 co-written songs including Constant Craving; co-produced the record which won a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal); Even Cowgirls Get The Blues (soundtrack album for Gus Van Sant film – 13 songs co-written and album production); All You Can Eat (10 songs co-written and co-produced); Invincible Summer (2 songs co-written); Watershed (2 songs co-written); Hymns Of The 49th Parallel, (includes Hallelujah) and Reintarnation (co-wrote 8 songs, remixed and produced the album).
Mink has also played with Willie P. Bennett, Bruce Cockburn, Dan Hill, Mendelson Joe, Ian, and Sarah McLachlan, Methodman, Prairie Oyster, Raffi, Jane Siberry, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, and Valdy.
The “Movie Music King” provided the soundtrack to Fifty Dead Men Walking, winning a Leo for Best Musical Score for a Feature Length Drama and a 2010 Genie Award nomination for Best Achievement in Music – Original Score. Mink garnered awards for TV soundtracks, including a 2007 Gemini for Best Biography Documentary Program, a story about British-Canadian engineer William Sampson. In 2011, Constant Craving from Ingenue was used in the 7th episode of the 3rd season for its closing number.
Reflecting on his Jewish upbringing, “That old-world sensibility has informed every project I’ve worked on, including Ingenue, which owes a debt to Klezmer and Yiddish cabaret. It’s the paradigm by which I process most everything.”
Mink is one of a few artists who has ever shared songwriting credit with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. He and k.d.lang received co-credit for the Rolling Stones single, Anybody Seen My Baby in 1997 after Richard’s daughter noted the chorus was similar to Constant Craving, (co-written by Mink and k.d.lang in 1992).
The Rolling Stones – Anybody Seen My Baby (Bridges To Bremen)
While a prolific collaborator, he only released one recording under his name, Foreign Exchange (1980/Passport Records).
Mink taught at UBC, Simon Fraser and Western Washington Universities and lectured at NYU. He delivered the introductory speech for k.d. lang’s Governor General’s Performing Arts Award induction at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Canada.
He produced/performed on klezmer recordings for The Black Sea Station, a North American klezmer super group’s debut record, Transylvania Avenue, Chava Alberstein with The Klezmatics, Finjan, and others.
Since 2018, he has “mentored up-and-coming performers and (done) community service. He serves on the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Board and the VSO School of Music.” In 2019 he was a solo guest on Songbird North and guest violin soloist and string arranger on Ann Wilson’s album Immortal.
From his Vancouver, BC home he told me that he’s been busy “experimenting with ambient electronic soundscapes, writing nautical fiddle tunes and curating my parent’s personal musical archives.”
Credits: Core Music Agency; Ben Mink; Nonesuch Records/YouTube; The Rolling Stones/YouTube.
A complete list of David Eisenstadt’s articles can be viewed under Music Online in the Category section.
Do you have comments or questions about Ben Mink? Contact David Eisenstadt at email@example.com
David Eisenstadt is Founding Partner of tcgpr.com the Canadian Partner of IPREX Global Communication and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.
-Thanks for the Mink piece. Enjoyed it. – TP, Sydney, Australia
-When I first saw k.d.lang perform a few years ago, at a local shopping mall, who would have guessed that Ben Mink played a role in her success. Looking over Mink’s body of work is mind blowing. – MRB, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
-I forwarded your article about Ben Mink to Jean Mink – who married my cousin – lovely article about her brother/roots/country music, etc. -SS, Toronto, Canada
-Very cool article for sure… k.d. and the Stones — couldn’t ask for better. – ER, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
-You continue to surpass yourself and raise the bar higher! – MS, Toronto, Canada
-Very cool! – PW, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
–Ben has an interesting record of collaboration and participation with well-known and famous artists and bands with interesting roots. Thank you for sharing. – SG, Toronto, Canada
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