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Music from Canada

Posted 2020-03-06 Tags: music roundup long

I'm from Canada, eh. The most popular music of my homeland is probably music you've heard hundreds of times - Neil Young, Rush, Joni Mitchell, Bryan Adams, The Band (the weight!), The Guess Who, Alanis, Avril, Jann Arden, the Barenaked Ladies... I could go on, but it seems like one of our main exports is talented people with mass appeal. It's probably indistinguishable from mainstream American music. There are a few bands or artists that feel like they are quintessentially Canadian though, and I'd like to bring up a few of them. There will be nothing particularly insightful or surprising on this list for any Canadian readers.

The Tragically Hip

Thanks for everything Gord Downey, and rest in peace. I was never a big Tragically Hip fan; I know a lot of their songs, but I never went out and bought the albums. I'd sing along on the radio. I caught a couple of their shows, and they were good but not great. But it's hard to say that there has ever been a more Canadian band than the Hip. There's something Gord and the boys that makes you understand that they've gone out for a two-four in their flannel in a pickup truck, and that they'd stop and help you if you had a flat, and that they drank bad double-doubles from one of our other national brands, and that they were good and honest and polite and nice. The Hip was just, in every way, Canadian to the core, and that never changed over time. Despite the fact that I wasn't a big Hip fan, I recognize that they are a national treasure, and I fully understand why they are iconically Canadian.

Here's two hip songs that I like.

Ahead by a Century


Spirit of the West

Canadians are, I think, generally acknowledged as nice and polite people, but we're rowdy and we go out and get drunk and we sing loudly and badly. You can get a group of Canadians rowdy, drinky, and singing badly with this phrase: "You'll have to excuse me, I'm not at my best." Almost every Canadian will respond with "I've been gone for a month, I've been drunk since I left." Spirit of the West was one of the best bands to see in person. John Mann, the lead singer, was electrifying, the music was great, and the crowd was full of energy. Here's a couple:

Home for a Rest

Venice is Sinking

Old but Gold Honourable Mentions

Stan Rogers - He's not as popular with the under-40 crowd, but you can usually get older Canadians singing by starting "O the year was 1778" and they'll come back with "How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now!" One of the most Canadian moments I've ever had in my entire life was standing on a Halifax pier with several friends, rowdily singing the entirety of Barrett's Privateers. Barrett's Privateers (I'm singing this now under my breath - how could you not love this line: "She'd a list to the port and her sails in rags And the cook in the scuppers with the staggers and jags")

Gordon Lightfoot - Another Canadiana staple is "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." It's an ode to a famous shipwreck on Lake Superior; it tugs at your heartstrings, the stately pacing, the almost keening quality of some of the instrumentals. It's worth a listen, though it's notably a #1 hit in the US as well (from 1976 though). The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Out fer a rip

Last - a guilty pleasure. Just out fer a rip are ya bud?

As this is the pinnacle of Canadian Circlejerkery it needs no real explanation of why I like this. I find it hard to conceive of not liking it.

Chris Hadfield!

An actual Canadian Hero who is as classy as he is talented; I think you'd be hard pressed to find a living Canadian icon as beloved as Chris Hadfield. He did science experiments, he sang, he taught us lots of things, and he's got a glorious moustache. Here he is with the Barenaked Ladies Chris Hadfield and Barenaked Ladies | I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing), notably not on planet earth while singing live together. The song itself is fairly "meh" but what an achievement.

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