From The Archive: The Music of the Great White North

Articles | May 4th, 2008

Great White North

Originally Published in Read Magazine Issue #25 (2005)

While much of Canada’s folk music is hidden, even to its citizens, its importance cannot be underestimated. In a country so vast and cold, it is necessary for a unifying sound, one that incorporates the beaver calls, beer bottles and hockey hair into a music that is truly representational of the greatest country to ever reside directly north of the United States.
Thus, I have created a chronological review of some of the most important Canadian music of the nation’s long and boring history.

1867-1951: Nothing happened. Seriously. A trade embargo limited the importing of instruments to Canada. And Inuit throat singing is just obnoxious.

1952: Canada’s national anthem, the theme to the long-running CBC television show Hockey Night in Canada, is written. Schoolchildren hum the song every morning, with hands on their hearts.

1959: Paul Anka, a teenager from Ottawa becomes an overnight sensation. Announces his plan to play casinos and retirement homes for the rest of his life.

1966: Bob Dylan hires a Toronto-based band called The Band to be his band. Contrary to popular belief, The Band did not get their name from a rubber band, but just from being a band. Who would’ve thought?

1967: Gordon Lightfoot is born. Three years later, he will release his most popular single, If You Could Read My Mind. Releases forty-odd subsequent albums, all with different variations of that song.

1967: Neil Young leaves Canada to live out the American dream. Joins CSNY instead.

1969: Guess Who? No, seriously, the Guess Who is a Canadian band. And they are not a Who cover band. Upset, many fans riot, yelling obscenities from the thirties, and politely nudging one another.

1973: In Canada’s darkest hour, a trio of comic book nerds pick up instruments and play prog rock. They call themselves Rush, based on the speed audiences leave the concert halls. Singer Geddy Lee’s voice is sampled and used as the emergency siren on ambulances.

1975: Anne Murray.

1982: Canadian music is saved by two multi-talented singers named Bob and Doug McKenzie.

1984: Bryan Adams sings about the Summer of 69. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney publicly apologizes.

1990s: Proof that the feminist movement of the 1970s should not have happened, over the next decade, Canada sees some of its most obnoxious singers sell more albums than Jesus. Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette, and Shania Twain produce seizure-inducing music that forever maintains their place in the used bin.

1993: Crash Test Dummies, despite awesome name, really really suck.

1997: Barenaked Ladies become international sensations. Much to the dismay of men everywhere, the band is in fact fully-clothed, and not female.

2002: Avril Lavigne saves the punk rock and the riot grrrl movements simultaneously.

2005: Canadian government bans all albums by Sarah McLachlan and Sum 41. Citizens rejoice.

And there you have it. The musical history of Canada in less than two pages. And you thought all we did was drink beer and play hockey. With a dismal musical history, now you know why.