Cree country music singer Shane Yellowbird dies at 42

Yellowbird overcame stuttering to achieve accolades as a Top 10 country music artist that traveled the world

Shane Yellowbird, a Cree country music singer known for top 10 hits on Canadian radio and songs that included My Pickup Truck, Barefeet on the Blacktop and Watching You Walk Away, has died at 42 years old.

Yellowbird’s family has confirmed the death of the music star, citing he died on Monday and was residing in Calgary.

They told CBC news: “Our brother was a talented artist who loved his children, music and sports,” it reads. “We are all deeply struck by the tragedy and ask for the respect and privacy of this time to mourn the loss of our loved one.” 

The exact cause of death at this time has not been disclosed, however, Yellowbird had been suffering from epilepsy. 

Cree and Iroquois journalist Brandi Morin, who knew Yellowbird tweeted that Shane had been suffering from seizures: “Shane Yellowbird suffered w/ epilepsy & last few years it got really bad. He has been declared dead more than once including last year but he pulled through. In between, he was pretty healthy. He had one last grand mall seizure & didn’t make it out alive. Everyone (is) heartbroken.”

Shane’s former manager Louis O’Reilly shared with Native Viewpoint that he was saddened to hear the news. He shared his Instagram post as well as his thoughts regarding Shane’s passing. He also shared an experience with Shane at the Opry meeting with Mel Tillis.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Shane Yellowbird. Shane was a kind and humble man, who loved to laugh and make people laugh.

“I had the privilege of working with Shane Yellowbird for over a decade as his manager and seeing his immense talent blossom as he shared his songs, heart, and talent with thousands of fans across Canada and the world. Shane was a country music favorite for so many deserving reasons and will be missed by so many!”

“One of my favorite memories of Shane was his debut performance at the Grand Ole Opry. Mel Tillis was at the Opry that night. I can’t remember if Mel performed or was there to support his daughter, Pam. In any case, I arranged for Shane to meet Mel, his hero. Shane introduced himself to Mel. And when Mel picked up on Shane’s usual stutter saying his name, Mel’s face lit up as he knew he was in the presence of a kindred spirit. The two bonded over a ten-minute conversation. When it was done, I could tell Shane was on Cloud 9. I asked him, “how was that?” Shane replied with a chuckle, “that was the longest conversation with the fewest words ever said.” For me, that summed up Shane: appreciative, humble, witty, and kind. My deepest condolences to his family and friends. Rest in peace, Shane.”

Onrampentertainment on Instagram

Shane’s longtime friend and fellow Native musical artist Crystal Shawanda shared on Facebook, that she’s “been in shock since I heard the heartbreaking news of the passing of country music artist Shane Yellowbird.”

“From the moment we met he called me Lil Sis and I called him Bro, we were just 2 Rez kids that decided to go for it and we’d behave as such whenever we saw each other, veterans of the sort.”

Crystal Shawanda on Facebook

A personal note from Native Viewpoint editor Vincent Schilling

I was definitely saddened to hear the news of Shane’s passing this past Monday in April of 2022.

I have known Shane Yellowbird since 2006, when he first agreed to appear as one of the Native musical artists in my very first book in the Native Trailblazer series of books, Native Musicians in the Groove.

Shane was always gracious and friendly. He was also very transparent in sharing he had problems with stuttering. But he worked hard to overcome it, finding natural pauses in speech to hide any stutters. He explained how music helped him, he often spoke in rhythm, explaining that sometimes when he spoke, he would tap a beat on his legs with his fingers to keep his speech flowing. I was incredibly impressed by such a methodology. 

The fact he became a music singer that traveled the world spoke to his efforts to overcome adversity. I was supremely proud of him. 

Below is an extract of that interview I had with Shane in 2010 on Native Trailblazers.

I wrote of Shane in my book: Although Shane was involved with sports and other activities, he had a difficult time socially. His severe stutter caused him great anguish and insecurity beyond just a certain amount of typical adolescent shyness. Normal activities involving oral communication posed a tough challenge, and he was actually afraid to talk.

But then Shane got involved with music. He had true talent.

He told me the story of how he had always performed in Karaoke, and after he continued to win time after time, he eventually met with Louis O’Reilly and signed with O’Reilly International and 306 Records. He had Top 10 hits in Canada and traveled all over the world. He shared friendships with such great Native folks as Crystal Shawanda and Jordin Tootoo.

A funny story is that in 2010, Shane agreed to appear on an episode of Native Trailblazers radio, a show I hosted until 2020. Except for this particular show, Shane had traveled over twelve hours, laid his head on his pillow for just a minute — and kept sleeping, missing the beginning of the show. 

I was frantically trying to reach his PR folks all through the show — and we laughed like heck after it all. We laughed during the show as well, though he says sweat pants during the show, he told me he was laying in his underwear when his PR person called him to call me and that was how he did the interview. 

Here is the segment here. I will also share some of his music below.

Interview video link:

The one thing that sticks out is when I asked him, “Is Shane Yellowbird ever going to stop?” To which he replied, ending with a gracious laugh “I don’t plan on it, I don’t plan on stopping … if I ever stopped I wouldn’t know what to do.”

Blessings on your journey home Shane. You will always be a true Native Trailblazer.

Shane’s wonderful music

Pickup Truck

Barefeet on the Blacktop

I Remember the Music