Posted on November 1st, 2011
Hey, beloved readers. Welcome to NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month)! In honour of this, and in accordance with tradition, I will be challenging myself to post something every day. (We shall see if I manage.) If you are totally sick of me by the end of November, I will have done my job.
My first post for November is inspired by CBC Radio, whose 75th anniversary is TOMORROW! Or probably today, by the time you read this. (And just happens to coincide with my own Bloggiversary.) CBC has been compiling a list of Canada’s greatest songs from each decade… and I’ve been putting off looking at it so I could create my own list without cheating. Just so you know, CBC Radio 2 will be doing a through-the-decades countdown tomorrow… and I kinda wish I could skip school just to listen to it.
So we’re looking at great Canadian songs. Hang onto your hats, folks, it’s a double whammy. (Are you excited yet??)
First up, I thought about songs that have, in my humble estimation, become part of the very fabric of Canadian culture and will be sung for centuries to come. They’re not necessarily my absolute favourites (some are), but they are populace-approved and I am confident in their staying power. I tried to keep it to 20 but THERE WERE TOO MANY! I could go on and on!
So here’s my genre-sweeping list of 25 Canadian Songs I Believe Have Achieved the Status Of Legendary and Never-To-Be-Forgotten:
- Diana (1957), by Paul Anka. The Justin Bieber of his time, apparently in love with his babysitter. A word to the wise: if you’re writing a romantic song to your unrequited love, saying “You’re so old” in the first line is not going to help your cause. (The fact that this song’s title is my name has nothing to do with this choice.)
- Magic Carpet Ride (1968), by Steppenwolf. The essence of psychedelic, at least in my mind.
- These Eyes (1968), by the Guess Who. Already a song for the ages, it was endearingly re-immortalized for a new generation by Canuck Michael Cera in Superbad. Come on. Who can resist this kind of sincerity?
- The Weight (1968), by The Band. No idea what it’s really about, but it’s fun to listen to and even funner to sing along. (Yes, I know funner isn’t a word.)
- Both Sides Now (1969), by Joni Mitchell. So hard to narrow down the Joni Mitchell choices – “A Case of You” might be my favourite – but this one definitely qualifies as Legendary.
- If You Could Read My Mind (1970), by Gordon Lightfoot. The dance cover version was insanely popular back in the day, but the original is infinitely more lovely.
- You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet (1974), by Bachman-Turner Overdrive. How to turn a speech impediment into the catchiest thing since the Twist.
- Barrett’s Privateers (1976), by Stan Rogers. It’s an amazing feat to write a song that sounds like it’s been around forever. The world lost Stan far too young.
- Baby Beluga (1980), by Raffi. What can I say? Love love love this. One of those songs where I can’t imagine the bleak time before it existed.
- Hallelujah (1984), by Leonard Cohen. Not a success at the time it was written, apparently… but now it’s one of the most-covered songs ever. And they say it has eighty verses, because he didn’t know how to finish it. I should be cursed with such an excess of exquisite poetry.
- Lovers in a Dangerous Time (1984), by Bruce Cockburn. I actually prefer the Barenaked Ladies cover, but that’s only because I knew it first. So beautiful.
- Summer of ’69 (1984), by Bryan Adams. Nobody can argue this one. It’s the classickest of classics. Who doesn’t remember buying their first real six-string at the five-and-dime?
- Patio Lanterns (1986), by Kim Mitchell. Aww, so cute. I thought about picking Rock ‘N’ Roll Duty, but this one’s cuter.
- Home for a Rest (1990), by Spirit of the West. Even my husband will dance to this (high kicks!) at weddings. It’s the definition of a rollicking drinking song.
- Superman’s Song (1991), by Crash Test Dummies. We need to remember the tough times that superheroes go through.
- Harvest Moon (1992), by Neil Young. I’m not a fan of Neil Young – why does he sing so flat? – but even I kinda enjoy this song.
- If I Had a Million Dollars (1992), by Barenaked Ladies. So many, many awesome hits since then… but this one is where it all started. (I bet the guys shudder these days over those lines about exotic pets and limousines, now that environmentalism is their theme.)
- Wheat Kings (1992), by The Tragically Hip. About David Milgaard, a young man from the prairies who did twenty years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit. But somehow it’s still mellow.
- You Oughta Know (1995), by Alanis Morrissette. After she broke out with this racy, aggressive bitterness, we all had a hard time believing she’d been a cute pop star in the 80s.
- Deliver Me (1997), by Roch Voisine. I think probably “Helene” is a more ingrained song in francophone Canada, but this is the one I know best.
- Man! I Feel Like A Woman! (1997), by Shania Twain. Aw, Shania. So many songs with an exclamation mark in their titles – and this one has two. It made us sit up and pay attention. (Even if the message is a bit iffy.)
- Ordinary Day (1997), by Great Big Sea. While teaching English in France, I played this for every single one of my classes as an example of Canadian music. Even if they snickered at the accordion part (accordions are especially corny to French teens) they were all tapping their toes by the end, and wanted to hear it again.
- Wake Up (2004), by Arcade Fire. Anthems don’t get better than this. (The fact that I used to go to summer camp with this li’l band’s ridiculously tall accordionist has nothing to do with this choice.)
- 1234 (2008), by Feist. Although this song was rocketed to fame by a Mac commercial, I’ve linked to the Sesame Street version because it’s incredibly awesome.
- Wavin’ Flag (2009), by K’naan. I know folks are sick of this song, but there’s a reason it’s been played to death. This video is the Young Artists for Haiti one – it’s made exactly for mushballs like me who choke up every time we see it.
Okay. Are you still with me?
So then I thought about the Canadian songs I just love. Some are/were insanely popular, some not so much. Here it is, my list of 20 Canadian Songs I Personally Believe Are So Awesome As To Be Worthy Of Legendary, Never-To-Be-Forgotten Status:
- Spirit of Radio (1980), by Rush. This song blew me away at the SARS-Stock concert in Toronto in 2003. I wasn’t really familiar with Rush at the time, but the guy beside me, yelling over the virtuoso craziness, told me what it was called.
- Le coeur de ma vie (1989), by Michel Rivard. A love song to the Quebecois language, written in beautiful poetry. So meta.
- Rosy and Grey (1991), by The Lowest of the Low. Ron Hawkins is a brilliant songwriter – he treads the line between bawdy and beautiful ALL THE TIME.
- Fell In Love (1993), by Moxy Fruvous. How does a song that talks about niblets and PeeWee Herman be so breathtaking?
- Ice Cream (1993), by Sarah McLachlan. Sarah has had so many amazing singles since then… but this is still my favourite. Simple, lovely. Great piano.
- Good Mother (1994), by Jann Arden. Gives me goosebumps as I remember how lucky I am.
- Everything You’ve Done Wrong (1996), by Sloan. I think this song transcends genre… plus I just really enjoy the retro trumpet sounds.
- Falling Down Blue (1997), by Blue Rodeo. Another song that you can’t help but find beautiful – in both music and lyrics.
- Hurts to Love You (1997), by The Philosopher Kings. We listened to these guys a lot at our house in university – Gerald Eaton’s voice is friggin’ potent.
- Before You (1999), by Chantal Kreviazuk. There is so much joy in this song. As well there should be… Chantal and her husband Raine Maida (of Our Lady Peace, below) seem to have the happiest little family in Canadian music.
- Companion (1999), by Wide Mouth Mason. I don’t pretend to understand this one… I just let it crash over me.
- Heaven Coming Down (1999), by Tea Party. It’s just epic.
- Red-Winged Blackbird (1999), by David Francey. I smile every time I hear this.
- Life (2000), by Our Lady Peace. I can’t decide if it’s desolate or uplifting, but I love it.
- I’m Like A Bird (2001), by Nelly Furtado. I don’t like the way Nelly sings through her nose, but this song – the one that came out of the blue to make her famous – is pretty great.
- The Remedy (2002), by Jason Mraz. Snappy and intelligent – and also extremely catchy.
- One Thing (2003), by Finger Eleven. Another one I don’t really get… but I’m pretty sure it’s sad. I just like how it sounds.
- Red Flag (2006), by Billy Talent. For when you’re feeling hard-core and rebellious… and really youthful.
- Escarpment Blues (2007), by Sarah Harmer. I grew up on the Niagara Escarpment. I couldn’t agree more.
- Everything (2007), by Michael Bublé. So sweet and romantic. No, I’m not in love with him… but kinda wish he were in love with me. Then he could write me a really cool song.
- Fashionable People (2007), by Joel Plaskett. Sounds like a song that should have been famous for decades – SO fun. (And a certifiably bizarre video.)
- The Scar That Never Heals (2007), by Jeremy Fisher. Sounds just like Simon and Garfunkel, but perkier.
- All The Trees Are Hers (2008), by Hawksley Workman. Another phenomenal poet. This version doesn’t do justice to the mellow gorgeousness of the guitar.
- Set it Free (2011), by Sarah Slean. A brand-new release – and I like it more every time I hear it.
- Simple Pleasures (2011), by David Myles. Seriously, if this song doesn’t make you smile, you need to go find yourself a margarita. We should all listen to this one daily, like a vitamin.
You may have noticed I’ve neglected to include Avril Lavigne (because she was supposed to a role model for young girls but forgot and became annoying) Celine Dion (because I
actually can’t stand her voice couldn’t decide on a song), and Justin Bieber (because I honestly don’t know any).
I know I’m missing lots more great Canadian talent in here… countless amazing musicians who rock… but it’s practically tomorrow already!! and I can’t be late for my very first post of NaBloPoMo! Like I said, I could go on and on about Canadian music. Fantastic stuff.
(Crap, I’m up way past my bedtime. Oh well. I’m a slave to my art – or somebody’s art.)
And now I invite you to comment: what’s your favourite Canadian music??