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Soulful singer finds purpose in music

Recently making his home in Guelph, singer with a powerful voice and love of soul heals himself through music.

Dan McLean Jr. found his singing voice in a farmhouse near Putnam, ON., back when he was a teenager.

Anyone within earshot at that time could feel Dan’s soul from bootstrap to cowlick. Audiences feel about the same now when the soul-pop singer/songwriter belts it out.

McLean Jr. arrived in Guelph from Toronto a couple of years ago. His father was ailing with Alzheimer’s disease, and his mother needed a hand. When his father passed away, Dan took it hard. Sadness over the loss gave way to depression. The only way out, he said in an interview, was to sing his way out.

New songs have emerged, one of them, “I’ve Seen Love,” was recently released on about 30 music streaming and downloading services, and on YouTube. Others songs will follow.

Back in the late-70s, McLean Jr. now 55, was in a small town band that had big arena rock dreams, covering Van Halen, The Ramones, and Montrose. But there were deficiencies.

“I found my voice when I was maybe 17,” he said. “I was a guitar player, and just an awful guitar player, just terrible.”

The band was auditioning singers in the farmhouse. One guy’s voice was so bad it made everyone laugh. McLean Jr. kindly suggested the singer simply needed a better idea of what the band was looking for. So he volunteered to demonstrate.

“Everybody stopped and said, ‘OK, Dan, you’re the singer!’ I had no idea I could sing,” he said. He’s been primarily a singer, and secondarily a guitar player ever since.

“I’ve Seen Love,” is the first single of McLean Jr.’s forthcoming independent album. A video of the tune, which blends scenes from classic black-and-white films, was released on YouTube on Feb. 12. He’s got over 500 views, and has already been reviewed by a number of music bloggers across North America.

The song was composed by McLean Jr. and Dave Dunlop, produced by Dunlop, and executive produced by the legendary Greg Wells. McLean hired heavyweight studio musicians for the recording.

McLean Jr. said he had a long hiatus from music that lasted about 15 years. He got back into singing about 10 years ago.

“I had a band, and the band had a nasty break-up,” he said.  

That disheartening break-up kept him out of music until he couldn’t stay out anymore.

“I just wanted to sing again,” he said. “I missed singing, that was all.”

He ended up recording an album of cover tunes. Some of the members of that old busted up band play with him now when he gigs and records.

The musician began recording his new material two years ago. And then a family crisis hit.

“I was in Toronto, and I moved to Guelph because my dad was really sick and my mom needed help taking care of him,” he said. “I put most everything on hold. I stopped working, almost stopped playing, and stopped recording, just playing open stages around Guelph.”

His father died last July. Dan’s way of honouring his father and riding out his grief was to get back to work.

“The music is motivation,” he said. “It is the healing power of working, the healing power of being busy. The music is the stuff I love to do. I have depression. And after my dad passed was the darkest time I’d ever had in my life.”

After a few weeks in that dark place, he realized it wasn’t just the death of his father that brought him down, but the absence of purpose in his life.

“I’d spent two years taking care of my dad,” he said. “He had dementia, so it was really like babysitting him sometimes, keeping him from doing things, going to doctors appointments and advocating for him. When he was gone, I wondered what use there was for me now.”

He renewed his purpose through his music.

Check out what McLean does and will be doing at, or on Facebook at DanMcLeanJrMusic. Watch the “I’ve Seen Love” video at


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Rob O'Flanagan

About the Author: Rob O'Flanagan

Rob O’Flanagan has been a newspaper reporter, photojournalist and columnist for over twenty years. He has won numerous Ontario Newspaper Awards and a National Newspaper Award.
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