David Rea has made his greatest marks as a session player and songwriter. Moving to Toronto, at the age of 17, Rea performed and recorded with such Canadian artists as Gordon Lightfoot, Jesse Winchester, and Ian & Sylvia, who covered his tunes, "Pilgrimage to Paradise" and "The Minstrel." In addition, Rea contributed his distinctive fingerstyle guitar playing to recordings by Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tom Rush, Judy Collins, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and Doug Kershaw. Encouraged by Joni Mitchell and Neil Young to write his own songs, Rea reached his peak when Leslie West and Felix Pappalardi's hard rock band, Mountain, recorded three songs -- "Mississippi Queen," "For Yasgur's Farm," and "Flowers of Evil" -- that he co-wrote with Pappalardi.
Rea's debut solo album, Maverick Child, released in 1969 and produced by Pappalardi, marked him as a promising folk-pop performer. Shortly after recording his second solo album, By the Grace of God, Rea was invited to replace Richard Thompson in British folk-rock band Fairport Convention. The experience, however, failed to be successful and Rea left the group after two months and returned to Canada.
Rea has subsequently worked on a variety of memorable projects. He helped Mike Seeger during the recording of the album, The Second Annual Farewell Reunion in 1975. The following year, Rea produced an opera, Emperor Norton, in conjunction with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Although he withdrew from public attention in the early '80s to help raise his children, Rea resurfaced in 1988 to produce a three-program series, David Rea's Robert Johnson, based on the life and music of the influential bluesman, and, a program, Music Don't Mind that examined the role of the European and black tradition on American music for the Canadian Broadcasting Company. As a result, Rea was presented with a Gabriel award for excellence in broadcasting.
In the past few years, Rea, who currently resides in the state of Washington, has performed often with Native American flutist Sky Walkinstik-Man-Alone. Rea's most recent album, Shorty's Ghost, was released on his own label, Gistu, in 1996. ~ Craig Harris, Rovi