Mendelson Joe has died. He was 78. Back in the 80s when I lived in a storefront on Ossington Ave – back before the street was populated with fancy-shmancy eateries – he lived up the street from me (Joe was also a storefront dweller back then). He would often sit on his stoop, dressed in screaming yellow overalls, spattered with paint, cut off into shorts, and he would play his guitar and sing. Often he could be seen in the same unmistakable outfit, zooming up the street on his motorcycle. And at that time he was making a lot of paintings, which, if pressed, I would describe as folk or outsider art, and in a way he was an outsider, a man with many opinions, carving a colourful and unusual niche for himself.
Back in the 60s, Joe was in a Toronto blues band called McKenna-Mendelson Mainline. They produced an album which became very well known, maybe even historic, called Stink. Later, he made plenty of music as a solo performer. I really enjoyed his album Not Homogenized.
I only knew Joe to say hi to, as neighbours do. One day I was setting up a studio exhibition and he stopped by to have a look at my paintings. His advice: “Show the ones you love best”.
I have long respected Joe because he did things his own way, and he did it with a load of passion. Although he later moved up north somewhere, I still think of him as a Toronto character, and our city was the better for it.
Dance with Joe; don’t be a shmoe.
RIP Mr. Joe.