‘His music will live on forever’: Iconic Cape Breton musician/artist Leon Dubinsky dead at 81



SYDNEY, N.S. – A Cape Breton artist and actor known for creating the unofficial anthem for Cape Breton Island died on Monday.

Leon Dubinsky, who wrote Rise Again, which has become synonymous with the resilience of the people of the island, was 81.  

The Sydney native also played with a popular local band called Buddy and the Boys and was a former artistic director of the Cape Breton Summertime Revue.

Longtime friend Stephen MacDonald described Dubinsky as being very passionate about his work.

“He was very interesting and full of life and full of music,” said MacDonald. “Leon was a brilliant songwriter and a good friend. He was very politically aware.”

Dubinsky grew up on the Esplanade in Sydney and spent his childhood and teen years with other artists. He attended Sydney Academy and co-wrote the All Hail Sydney Academy theme song.

“In the early days he was on the local folk music scene with his brother, Leslie, and they would perform when the coffee houses were big,” recalled MacDonald. “His family were all musical.

“He did a movie way back in the 70s called Life Classes – a Nova Scotia-based movie.”

Dubinsky, who played guitar and keyboard, wrote many popular songs including “One World” and “Oh Love.” He co-wrote All Hail Sydney Academy with Robert Angel and was awarded an honorary degree at Cape Breton University in May of 1997.

“Leon and I have been friends since we met in 1972,” recalled musician Max MacDonald. “We were co-founders of Buddy and the Boys Band, we worked together on Cape Breton Summertime Revue. We worked a lot together.

“It follows right on the heels of our mutual friend Ralph Dillon (who died last month) so it is a lot to process right now.”

Noted Cape Breton photographer Warren Gordon featured Dubinsky in a book.

Leon Dubinsky, seen about 30 years ago, inspired countless musicians over the decades. PHOTO/WARREN GORDON - Contributed
Leon Dubinsky, seen about 30 years ago, inspired countless musicians over the decades. PHOTO/WARREN GORDON – Contributed


“I was photographing notable musicians and, of course, I had to have Leon because he was and is an icon,” said Gordon. “That was about 30 years ago.”

“I think Leon was always looked upon as an icon. He was older than the rest of us by quite a bit but he just fit in. He was cool.”

Dubinsky’s work served as inspiration for many local artists and musicians.

“I was one of those kids coming through that was inspired by his music,” said Stephen Muise, who is now the musical director for the Men of the Deeps.

“I don’t think you can find a musician in Cape Breton or the East Coast of Canada who has not been influenced by his music. I think the musical community is going to miss him greatly.

“His music will live on forever.”

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

– Shannon Lee is a multimedia journalist with the Cape Breton Post.

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