A few years ago, the late, great Peter Gzowski of the CBC asked
his listeners to nominate the best Canadian songs of all time. He played many
of the nominations on his show, and had a small panel that whittled down the
nominations to a top ten list. I don’t recall all ten, but believe #1 was a
Nova Scotian song called "Rise Again"…To qualify for nomination,
songs must be written and performed by Canadians, and refer at least peripherally
to Canada (see examples below).
An admirable pursuit. He makes several suggestions, and I figured I’d add to
the list. Some of these choices are personal more than populist. Others, I think,
have legitimate shots at making the final twelve, if not winning:
- "Powderfinger" — written by Neil Young, performed by the Cowboy
Junkies. I like this convergence of multiple Canadian bands, and this is a
gorgeous song with very Canadian themes: "Daddy’s gone, my brother’s
out hunting in the mountains/ Big John’s been drinking since the river took
- "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" — Gordon Lightfoot. This one
has to make the shortlist.
- "A Case of You" — Joni Mitchell. Diana Krall does a nice version
of this: "On the back of a cartoon coaster / In the blue TV screen light
/ I drew a map of Canada / Oh Canada".
- "50 Mission Cap" — The Tragically Hip. A tale that merges a long-dead
hockey hero and World War II flying aces–what’s more Canadian than that?
- "Good Fortune" — Weeping Tile. I’ve
written about this song before, and it’d probably go on my desert island
disc: "Explored a cave into the bay /
Along Canadian shield coast".
- "Lukey’s Boat" — Great Big Sea + the Chieftains. There needs
to be at least one Celtic tune from the Maritimes on the shortlist.
- "Song for the Mira" — A lovely folk song about the Mira river
in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, originally by Allister MacGillivray but popularized, I think,
by (gulp) Anne Murray.
- "Four Strong Winds" — Ian Tyson. It’s been covered by everybody,
but it’s a great song: "Guess Ill go out to Alberta / Weathers
good there in the fall
Got some friends that I can go to workin for".
In fairness, there ought to be something by The Guess Who on the list, but
I really don’t care for them. What about the Band? Were they all Canadian?