Celebrating Lois Lilienstein of Sharon, Lois & Bram
She sang, she danced and she won the hearts of children and their parents around the world. Lois Lilienstein, of the musical trio Sharon, Lois & Bram, died on Wednesday of endometrial cancer. She was 78. Her bandmates and longtime friends, Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison, were with her the day she died.
Sharon, Lois & Bram first formed as a group in Toronto in 1978 and gained international fame with hits like "Skinnamarink" and "Peanut Butter." They also hosted a CBC children's television program called The Elephant Show, which began airing in 1984.
Lilienstein grew up in Chicago and performed as a child tap dancer with her mother. They called themselves "The Goldberg Sisters." She moved to Toronto half a century ago when her husband, Ernest, took a job teaching at York University. At the time, Lilienstein had no experience with folk music. Hampson and Morrison both drew musical inspiration from Pete Seeger. Lilienstein took her cues from Ethel Merman.
"Lois' background was in classical music and Broadway show music. And she was working with children, as was Sharon, as was I, all of us through the Mariposa in the Schools program," says Morrison of how the three first met.
"We decided to make a record, we did not decide to start a career. We just thought we'd make one record together," says Hampson.
Thirty-seven years later, Sharon and Bram are still entertaining. Lilienstein retired from touring with the group after the death of her husband in 2000, but she occasionally still performed.
Lilienstein found it difficult to perform after her husband died.
"They had a very close marriage," says Morrison. "His loss really pulled the rug out from under her feet and I don't think she ever recovered."
Hampson has fond memories of her friend.
"Lois and I did a lot of fun things together. Lois was a wonderful cook and baker. We shopped together, we fought, we loved each other, we hated other, we were like sisters."