Frederick Ralph Cornelius Penner, CM OM (born November 6, 1946, Winnipeg, Manitoba)) is a Canadian children's music performer who gives appearances throughout North America. His television show, Fred Penner's Place, aired on CBC in Canada from 1985-97, and was seen in the United States on the cable channel Nickelodeon from 1989-92.
Penner has received a Juno Award for Children's Album of the Year three times: in 1989, 2003 and 2015.
Life and career
Penner was born on November 6, 1946 in Winnipeg to Lydia Agathe Penner (née Winters, 1913-2005) and Edward W. Penner (d. 1971). By the age of four, he had begun making up songs while travelling on the bus with his mother. He taught himself how to play the guitar when he was in grade school, and performed in school choirs and pageants. Through his experiences with his sister Susan, who has Down syndrome, he recognized the therapeutic value of music.
Penner received his high school diploma at Kelvin High School, where he took lead roles in the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. After graduating from the University of Winnipeg with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and psychology, he spent time working with mentally and physically challenged children, using music to comfort and entertain. In 1977, he met choreographer and future wife, Odette Heyn, with whom he started a children's dance theatre company. Penner accepted an offer to do a recording, which resulted in the album The Cat Came Back, which launched his career and established him as one of Canada's leading children's entertainers. Currently, Penner splits his time between Winnipeg and Toronto. He has four children by his first marriage, Odette Heyn. He remarried in 2016, to theatre director Rae Ellen Bodie.
In 1984, he appeared on the children's television show, The Elephant Show, singing "The Cat Came Back". In 1991, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada for "using music and song to entertain and educate his young audience". In 2011, he was made a Member of the Order of Manitoba.
The release date for Penner's new album, Hear the Music (available on CD and on iTunes) with some well-known "guest" singers, is April 21, 2017. He still performs occasionally. Recent dates included November 26, 2016 in Airdrie, Alberta; January 21, 2017 in Regina, Saskatchewan; and February 18, 2017 in Fernie, British Columbia.
These (and other concerts) confirm what Penner told the Calgary Journal in March 2012. "I am not planning on retiring any time soon. I still feel engaged and connected with the audience. ... As long as I can stay healthy and creative, what is the purpose of stopping? ... There are so many lovely aspects to what I do, that it continually fills me with joy and excitement and energy. I am constantly energized by my audience — wherever I might find them."
- The Cat Came Back (1979)
- The Polka Dot Pony (1981) (reissued as Poco)
- Special Delivery (1983) (reissued as Ebeneezer Sneezer)
- A House for Me (1985)
- Fred Penner's Place (1988)
- Collections (1989)
- The Season (1990)
- Happy Feet (1992)
- What A Day! (1994)
- Moonlight Express (2001)
- Sing With Fred (2003)
- Where In The World (2014)
- Hear the Music (2017)