Susan Jacks, a Canadian vocalist known for her 1969 hit with the Poppy Family, “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?,” one of the top-selling records Canada had produced to that point, died on April 25 in Surrey, British Columbia. She was 73.
Her brother Rick Pesklevits said in a Facebook post on behalf of the family that the cause was kidney disease. He said she died at a hospital and had been on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, which would have been her second.
As a teenager, Ms. Jacks was a regular on the Canadian show “Music Hop” when, in 1966, she needed an accompanist for a show at an Elks Club and turned to Terry Jacks, who had played guitar on the show. Soon they had married, formed the Poppy Family and cut “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?,” a song that Mr. Jacks, who wrote it, said was inspired by the spectacle of young men going off to fight in Vietnam.
“Which way you goin’, Billy?,” Ms. Jacks sang. “Can I go too? Which way you goin’, Billy? Can I go with you?”
The song hit No. 1 in Canada and, soon after, No. 2 in the United States.
The Poppy Family and the Jackses’ marriage dissolved after a few years, and later there were dueling stories about “Billy.” The song was originally envisioned as “Which Way You Goin’, Buddy?,” but Ms. Jacks said she suggested that Mr. Jacks instead use the first name of one of her brothers. Mr. Jacks, though, said in interviews that he took “Billy” from a song by a group he admired, the Beau-Marks, called “Billy, Billy Went a Walking.”
What is indisputable is that Ms. Jacks’s brother Billy played a unique role for her: He donated the organ for her first kidney transplant, in 2010, an operation that gave her a new lease on life.
“I had rosy cheeks for the first time in many years,” she told The Vancouver Sun a year after the surgery, when she was giving a fund-raising concert in Coquitlam, British Columbia, for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. Raising awareness about kidney disease and donations had become a cause for her.
“I knew nothing about kidney failure” until she was affected herself, she said. “I knew nothing about transplants. I was so uneducated about how important it is and how much it means to people.”
Susan Elizabeth Pesklevits was born on Aug. 19, 1948, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to Janette and Dick Pesklevits. She began singing as a child, performing with school bands. She said her mother saw an audition notice for “Music Hop,” and by 1964 she was a regular on it. She toured with a stage version of the show as well.
“Sue, as she is fondly called by members of the group, can swing with a hip tune as well as croon with sentimental ballads such as ‘Summertime,’” The Nanaimo Daily News of British Columbia wrote of a performance by the “Music Hop” road troupe in 1966.
The Poppy Family had a few other minor hits before breaking up. Ms. Jacks released a few solo albums, including “Ghosts” (1980). In 1983 she moved to Nashville with her second husband, Ted Dushinski, working as a songwriter and running a pirogi restaurant for a time. She moved back to Vancouver in 2004.
Mr. Dushinski died of cancer in 2005, about the same time that Ms. Jacks learned her kidneys were failing.
Ms. Jacks is survived by a son from her second marriage, Thad Dushinski, and six siblings, Rick, Gerry, Wayne, Bill, Cathy and Jim.