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Arts Frank MacKay, beloved Nova Scotia musician and actor, dies

Frank MacKay brings the voice of Charlie Chamberlain back to life in the world premiere of Don Messer's Jubilee at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax on Jan. 5, 1985.

Neptune Theatre via CP

Frank MacKay, a beloved Nova Scotia musician and front man of the legendary 1960s dance band the Lincolns, has died.

The New Glasgow-born singer died on Wednesday after surgery, the Halifax Chronicle Herald reports.

Mr. MacKay joined the Lincolns during the golden age of rock 'n’ roll. The Truro-based band toured the region in the 1960s, drawing large crowds to dance halls across the Maritimes. The band played a popular repertoire of soul classics, including I Feel Good by James Brown, Percy Sledge’s When a Man Loves a Woman and Hold On, I’m Comin’ by Sam and Dave.

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After the band broke up in 1969, Mr. MacKay attracted national attention as a member of the hard-rock group Soma in the early 1970s.

Toronto Star music writer Peter Goddard said Mr. MacKay’s road-seasoned voice was “so powerful it could cut through a platinum slab.”

Mr. MacKay eventually became a solo artist, writing his own songs and maintaining the interpretive skills he’d honed with the Lincolns.

He also made the leap to acting, most notably with the musical stage show Rock and Roll. Written by John Gray, a former band member of the Lincolns, the musical was based on the band’s search for pop success on the back roads of Nova Scotia. The 1985 CBC-TV production of the play – retitled The King of Friday Night – earned Mr. MacKay an ACTRA Award nomination.

Mr. MacKay went on to appear on stages across the country, becoming a familiar presence at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax and festivals across the Maritimes. His roles included playing Sancho Panza in Man of La Mancha, Jean Valjean in Les Miserables and the lead role in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

Meanwhile, the Lincolns staged a number of reunion concerts in recent years. Nearly half a century after its heyday, hundreds of fans flocked to the band’s favourite stage in the auditorium of the Truro Royal Canadian Legion last September.

The show, titled The Lincolns at the Legion: One Last Time, was a tribute to the power of the soulful music that elevated Mr. MacKay to one of the most cherished musicians in the Maritimes.

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