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Canadian singer, songwriter, and composer Gino Vannelli with his Honda Ridgeline 4WD outide his Troutdale, Oregon studio.Jonathan House/The Globe and Mail

Gino Vannelli

  • Profession: Singer and songwriter
  • Age: 61
  • Hometown: Montreal

Notable achievements

  • Released his first album in 1973; Brother to Brother was certified Platinum in the United States in 1979, Powerful People was certified Gold in Canada in 1976
  • His first foray into classical music, Parole Per Mio Padre, earned him a performance with Pope John Paul II in 2000
  • Received several Grammy nominations and won numerous Juno awards including Recording Engineer of the Year (1991, 1987, and 1986) as well as Male Vocalist of the Year (1976 and 1979)


  • North American tour dates include a concert at Flato Markham Theatre in Markham, Ont., on Oct. 23; Brampton, Ont., Oct. 26; Montreal, Nov. 2-3; Beverly Hills, Calif., Nov. 8, and Detroit, Nov. 15


Gino Vannelli has sold more than 10 million records in a career that has spanned more than four decades. The Juno award-winning singer and songwriter is best known for hits such as Black Cars, I Just Wanna Stop, Wheels of Life, Appaloosa and Wild Horses.

At 61, the Canadian rock icon is still going strong and is touring North America. When he's home in Oregon, he doesn't drive flashy, fast black sports cars any more – his ride is a 2012 Honda Ridgeline.

Why did you buy a 2012 Honda Ridgeline?

I'm leasing it temporarily. I only got it because we decided we would heat with wood so we needed it to pick up our own wood. We live out in the mountains so we're always hauling stuff like gravel. It's practical, safe and it's really great for hauling stuff.

I just gave up my 2009 S2000 sports car because I figured I was pushing the limit. It was a great car, a fast car, but I just thought I'd kill me or somebody else, so I figured its time to go away.

I'm right in the middle of shopping for a car right now.

Have fast cars landed you in trouble in the past?

Yeah. I nearly bought it with my Porsche 25 years ago.

I used to have a Porsche Targa and I nearly killed myself with that one. I spun it around and I nearly went off the highway. We used to live near, they used to call it Norwegian Grade [stretch of road in Conejo Valley, Calif.], and if you spin around and go off you'll go down about 200 feet so it was sure death and not a good one.

So, I sold it. The car is a bit squirrely anyway because of the engine – it's really rear loaded. After that, I said, this is crazy. I figured the S2000 isn't too bad. But the thing goes 160 very quickly. I was doing over 100 and had another close call. So, it was time to go away. It's not worth it.

What's your best and worst driving story ever?

The best and the worst are the same. The best was doing 140 in the Porsche. I felt like I was as fast as the wind. And then the back end came around and it was the worst experience.

What was your first car?

It was an old Mazda RX-7. It was $1,300 – it was beat up. But the greatest thing about it was it was mine.

When you made it big did you treat yourself to a new car?

When we had success I had a series of Porsches until I decided never to own one again.

What else have you owned?

I owned a Mustang and a Camaro Z28, but I keep trying to avoid the fast cars because I have a terrible foot.

I keep looking for cars that are mild-mannered and I keep gravitating towards the 5-litre, 6-litre cars. My friend has a Corvette he wants to sell me. It's a fantastic 1965 Stingray and it's in mint condition. The thing has got only 70,000 miles since 1965.

Buy it!

I know. It depends. He wants 100 grand for it.

You've travelled a lot of roads while touring, what's your favourite?

One of them has to be the autobahn in Germany. Our tour manager had a BMW 734 and we were just doing 150-200 km/h all the way to the next gig. It was smooth as ever. That's a great car and a great road.

What do you listen to on the road?

I love classical and jazz music. The classical station and the jazz station are always on. If that's not on, it's the alternative rock station just to see what's happening. Talk radio sometimes to see who is doing what to whom. I rarely listen to my own music. When I'm mixing something and I just want to see what it sounds like I'll listen in my car.

If I can bring you the keys to any vehicle, what would it be?

That's what I'm trying to figure out.

Lamborghinis and Ferraris are too exotic for my tastes. I've driven them before. They're great and fun, but they're noisy. You feel like you've driven 3,000 miles when you've done 20 miles. I'm not so into cars that I invest a small fortune into those things. I like all kinds of cars.

My wife drives a [Toyota] Avalon which seems to be a great car. I was thinking about the Hyundai Genesis – it's a pretty nice car with a 400-hp engine and its one of the quietest cars I've ever ridden in. It was used as the limo car at one of our gigs. When we went on vacation, Trisha [his wife] and I rented a Genesis and thought that's a possibility.

There's so much competition and a lot of good cars these days. Lincoln has a new compact car that's kind of nice. Some of the new Cadillacs are pretty nice, too. And I still think Mustangs are pretty nice.

Sometimes my mood will go really retro. Of course, when you go retro, you have to deal without all of the bells and whistles and airbags and so forth. New cars have a lot of stuff going for them including computer technology, mileage and comfort. But they're less fun than the retro cars. The Thunderbird that Ford doesn't make any more was a pretty nice idea. They only had it out for a couple of years, but I think they were on to something.

I've gotten to the point where I don't believe it's worth my while to spend so much money on a car. It's very little payback for me, especially when I've spent so much money in the past and nearly killed myself.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

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