Canada's homeless piano player dies at 46

Published: March 08, 2018 11:57:14 | Updated: March 10, 2018 13:30:04


The death of a homeless man who played piano on the street has struck a chord with many in the Canadian city of Edmonton, Alberta.

Ryan Arcand was used to the sounds of the city - cars honking, people shouting, the steady hum of traffic - while living on the street.

He died last week at the age of 46 after years of struggling with alcoholism, mental health, and homelessness, according to a BBC report Thursday.

But the legacy of his music will live on.

A video of him playing a song he wrote on a piano in downtown Edmonton went viral on YouTube in 2014 with more than 11 million views.

Arcand was a member of the Alexander First Nation in Alberta and was placed in the foster-care system along with his brother at the age of three or four, family members told CBC. It was in foster care where the musician first found a piano in a basement.

"It was as though we were meant for each other," Arcand explained to the CBC shortly after the YouTube video went viral. "You're looking at the piano and you're falling in love with it."

He learned to play themes from television and movies by ear, and later began to write his own music.

At 13, he says he ran away to the city of Edmonton where he lived on the streets. Alcohol soon became the driving force in his life, but beneath the haze, his love of music persisted, he said.

He played on pianos in churches, hospitals, and in Sir Winston Churchill square.

That was where Roslyn Polard discovered him one day, and took the video that would make him famous.

The song he played for her was appropriately called "The Beginning".

His newfound notoriety earned him the nickname "piano man" and helped get him into supportive housing. Polard used the money she made from the video to buy a piano for the housing complex's lobby so that he could play every day.

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