Mendelson Joe

painter | singer | composer | author | activist | Canadian icon

That’s It Folks

At this juncture in my life at the age of 78.6 all I can say is, with sincerest of thoughts – I did the job. I’ve been doing the job in music since 1964 when I wrote my first song. I did my first painting in 1975 and I haven’t stopped, but I have slowed down to painting blue rabbits. You have to look and you have to listen. Please. Look and listen.

If someone wants to listen, they can try one of my thirty albums. I recommend a recent one called “Canuckian”. The book “Alien” (by Nadia Halim) tells my story well. I’ve also written a work of fiction, a novella called “The Family Embolism”. My children’s picture book “Joe vs Beaver” is not yet published. I’ve had several books of my portraiture published by ECW Press (“Working Women”, “Joe’s Politicians”, “Joe’s Toronto”, “Neighbours”) as well as a book of landscapes called “Joe’s Ontario”. One of the more interesting books I’ve written, still unpublished, is “Mendelson Joe; A Man and His Philosophy”. It’s a geography book so to speak – where I’ve been. My most recently published (ECW Press) work “Joetry” covers song lyrics going back to the 1960s.

In the process of writing songs and letters to the editor, I learned how to write. I was driven to write as I believe I exist as a vessel for free speech and that free speech was often published by newspapers. My long-time friend, artist and activist Anne Hansen of Victoria, lives by the quote “democracy is not a spectator sport”. Letter-writing was one of my forms of participating in our democracy.

My vast body of paintings include portraits of Canadians you may have known such as Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood, Dr. Robert Bondar to name a few. I thank everyone who sat for portraits throughout the years. But there have also been many portraits for which the people did not sit for me, my political and social commentary paintings. I’ve done Brian Mulroney, Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, Doug Ford, Rob Ford, Mike Harris, George W. Bush, Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Pierre Poilievre, Conrad Black and many more. Some will know of the numerous depictions of politicians as rectal orifices that I did. It began as a series called “Liars” for which I was the grateful recipient of a Canada Council Senior A Grant. I am indebted to Canada Council for the Arts. My landscape paintings are celebrations of what is possible. Beauty is my healer. You have to look.

I’ve learned my craft the only way I know how. I’m a self-taught writer, painter, musician. It’s the way I learn. I did the job.

Medically speaking, I’m shaking and rattling as it’s been over five years since Parkinson’s Disease surfaced. Parkinson’s is a dead end for me. The Parkinson’s interrupts my creative flow of writing, painting and making music to say the least. I have ended my job as multi-media artist with the provision of MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) on February 7, 2023. I see MAID as a sign of a civilized society. To be born Canadian is a great blessing. We have free speech. We have healthcare. We have MAID. Thank you Canada.

Mendelson Joe (Birrell Josef Mendelson) born July 30, 1944 in Toronto, died February 7, 2023 at his home in Emsdale, Ontario, through the provision of MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) with his wife, Karen Robinson by his side.

Mendelson-Joe-(BJ-Mendelson). Click to download high resolution image for publication.

Mendelson Joe

Painter | Singer | Composer | Author | Activist | Canadian Icon


about Mendelson Joe

© M. Joe

When I wrote my first song in the summer of ’64 I wrote about life (age nineteen) living in a rented attic on 11th Ave. in downtown Calgary. I had launched my career as a professional folkie performing at The Depression coffeehouse, a basement club nearby where many like Joni Anderson got their start. I wrote about a hundred songs by 1975, the year I began painting my life which led me to today at age seventy-five I’ve continued painting. Painting my story saved me from “losing my marbles”© because the music biz and the bi-product of fame was making me sick. I loved the music and still do but not the business.

As a chronic painter, I painted whatever I thought, what I saw, who I loved and whatever crossed my imagination from conventional landscapes, cityscapes (like life in East Hollywood, Los Angeles) to anus-headed politicians. To be “chronic” allows me an outlet for my lust, rage, opinion – literally anything without encumbrances(s). All the while I accelerated my output literally as penner of books, poetry (Joetry)and philosophy. I eventually became JOE PERSISTER. My thesis that women are the only hope©* sums up my world view as we humans rape our mother, Mother Earth. We’re knee-deep in the apocalypse. My art tells it all in all my media.

Truly, M. Joe Persister

© THINK I’M LOSING MY MARBLES 1968 megmasong (*mendelsongster)

MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY (click here for the extended biography of Mendelson Joe)

Born Birrell Josef Mendelson on July 30, 1944, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Joe taught himself to play his sister’s Gibson guitar at age eleven. His musical idols were Little Richard, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

In 1964, at age nineteen, Joe Mendelson became a professional singer-songwriter-musician. His debut was at The Depression coffee-house in Calgary, Albert Canada. For years later, he formed a bluesy rock band with Toronto guitarist Michael McKenna. The made five albums under the banner Mainline. In 1972, Joe recorded his first of many solo albums. Mr. Middle of the Road (on GRT label) was very much a solo effort, in that he played all the instruments, sang, and wrote the songs.

1975 marked the beginning of Joe’s career as a painter. He also recorded two more albums, Sophisto, and a reunion LP with Mike McKenna entitled No Substitute. He also became Mendelson Joe.

From 1979 to 1981, Mendelson recorded three more albums for the Stompin’ Tom-owned Canadian label Boot Records – Not Homogenized, Jack Frost, and the controversial Let’s Party. In 1984 Stony Plain Records released Some of the Best of Mendelson Joe – The Name of the Game Ain’t Schmaltz. Several of Joe’s songs have been covered by the likes of guitar-genius Amos Garrett, crooner Noel Harrison, and even the characters of Sesame Street.

By 1988, Mr. Joe was becoming very skilled at producing his own records, along with guitarist Colin Linden. When singer Geddy Lee of Rush heard Joe’s latest master tape, Lee encouraged his label, Anthem, to release Born To Cuddle, In 1991, Anthem released the hard edged bluesy Addicted LP, along with the support video Passion.

Throughout the years ’92 to ’98, Mendelson continued writing and recording his songs on the albums entitled Women Are The Only Hope, Humans Bug Me, and Spoiled Bratland. His work reflects his passions and convictions. Most recently, the boutique label Pacemaker released Mendelson Joe’s Everyone Needs A Pimp CD in June 2007.

Mendelson Joe is a Canadian icon. Like his recordings, his paintings are internationally recognized as exceptional examples of original uncompromising art.

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Please note that phone calls and emails will be returned, but not in a timely manner.

Karen Robinson Gallery is the exclusive contact for sales and licensing of Mendelson Joe’s visual artwork,
videos, books and music. Please contact with inquiries.

All artwork, images, music and written material by Mendelson Joe are copyright protected and may not be reproduced
in any form without the express written permission of the artist or his representative.