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Jerry Doucette, known for hits “Mama Let Him Play” and “Nobody,” dies at 70

Montreal-born performer spent most of his professional career in B.C., final years in Delta
Guitarist Jerry Doucette performs at the ACT during a concert to raise money for Easter Seals in 2013. (Maple Ridge News file)

Canadian musician Jerry Doucette, whose rock hit “Mama Let Him Play” crossed over to the United States and smooth “Nobody” planted his band Doucette in the yacht rock movement of the late 1970s, has died at 70.

His wife, Maggie, confirmed that the Juno-winning artist died Monday of cancer at a hospice in Delta, B.C., surrounded by family.

“He was a damn good dad to a family of five and he was a great grandfather of 10,” she said in a phone interview.

“He loved playing guitar and he would play it in the house and make it loud, if he wanted to.”

Doucette was born in Montreal and raised in Hamilton, picking up a guitar at age six and later starting his own band. He then moved to Vancouver and joined the Seeds of Time before playing in the Rocket Norton Band.

His own act, formed under his name, launched several years later and rose to popularity with their 1977 album “Mama Let Him Play,” which saw its titular single climb onto the Billboard Hot 100.

In a statement, his family said the idea for the song’s title was inspired by a comment from Doucette’s father, who worked shifts and often returned home from work to hear his son practising guitar. Despite his wife urging their son to be quiet so her husband could rest, he said: “Mama, let him play.”

The album was certified platinum in Canada the following year, meaning it sold more than 100,000 copies.

In 1979, the band Doucette won the Juno for most promising group of the year, the same year they released “The Douce is Loose,” featuring the Canadian hit “Nobody.”

Over the years, Doucette opened for Meat Loaf and gained a reputation for helping other young musicians.

“Colin James crashed on his couch for a couple of weeks when he was just coming up,” remembered Leanne Campbell, a former publicist and friend of the family.

“He was just generous, funny and loving — just a really lovely guy.”

Doucette released five albums and continued performing until 2018, when he announced on social media he was leaving the music industry.

“Health issues and the desire to spend more time with my sweet Maggie and our family, including 10 grandchildren, has convinced me to retire,” he wrote.

“Keep listening to Canadian artists and keep supporting live music venues — they’re the lifeblood of our industry … Mama, let them play.”

Doucette is survived by his wife of 43 years, five children and 10 grandchildren.

—David Friend, The Canadian Press

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