Barney Bentall (and the Legendary Hearts)
Bentall, born in Toronto, formed a Vancouver-based band naming themselves after a Lou Reed album. From 1979-80, they released three EPs that made little impact. They switched from A&M to Epic/CBS and with the assistance of Bob Rock recorded their first full-length (self-titled) album in 1987. A music video for “Something to Live For” was aired on MuchMusic helping the song become their first hit (#17); the album reached Platinum status. They did even better in the 90s. Two songs made the year-end Top 100 charts: “Crime Against Love” (1990) and “I’m Shattered” (1995). They released their last album in 1997.
The Grapes of Wrath
This Kelowna, BC band formed in 1983 releasing an EP on Vancouver’s Nettwerk label the following year. Despite obvious talent, Canadian radio did little to promote the band. Tom Cochrane produced their 1987 album Treehouse whose “Peace of Mind” was a minor hit. Adding a keyboardist, their follow up album secured their breakthrough. “All the Things I Wasn’t” broke into the Top 20 and was nominated for a Song of the Year Juno. Like Bentall, two of their songs were huge hits the early 90s: “I Am Here”, the 49th biggest song of 1991 and “You May Be Right“, a Top 10 hit in 1992. The moment they began earning lots of money, their name suddenly became tied up in litigation, so they changed it to Ginger with a couple of hits that scratched the Top 30 in 1996/97.
The Jeff Healey Band
Jeff was an adopted, Toronto-born, blind blues-rock singer and guitarist. He lost his sight due to a rare cancer of the eyes called retinoblastoma. He began playing the guitar at three with the unique style of holding it flat on his lap. He formed the band Blue Direction when he was 17 and hosted a radio jazz and blues show. The Jeff Healey Band was formed after he was introduced to a bassist and a drummer. They began playing nightly in local clubs around Toronto. He was discovered by Stevie Ray Vaughan during a performance at Albert’s Hall and signed to Arista Records in 1988. “Angel Eyes” off the album See the Light made the Year-End Top 100 and peaked at #5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. While being nominated for an American Grammy award for the album, the band was working on the soundtrack to the Patrick Swayze film Road House. Three Jeff Healey songs made the Year-End Top 100 in the early 90s: “I Think I Love You Too Much” (1990), “How Long Can Man Be Strong” (1991), and “Lost In Your Eyes” (1993). Healey died of lung cancer in 2008.
Sarah was born in Birmingham, England but grew up in Montreal. She joined a couple of bands including The Pinups as lead singer and bassist. She wanted to name herself Flash Jordan but the name was already taken and under copyright. She wrote material for various Quebec artists, sang backing vocals for The Box, and served as a local video jockey. Her first album, Tell Somebody, came out in 1988, spawning the hits “Tell Somebody” (#11) and “Double Trouble” (#12). The album attained Platinum sales. Her second album, 1992′s Racine, included four hit singles, all easily making the Top 20. Her biggest success came with her third album, Rats. Two songs made the Top 10 and finished in the Top 100 Year-End charts of 1994: “High Road Easy” and “Sun’s Gonna Rise”. In the new millennium, Sass was one of the judges on the hit TV series “Canadian Idol”.
Kathryn Dawn Lang was born in the tiny town (less than 1,000 people) of Consort, Alberta in 1961. She smoked up the country charts with “I’m Down to My Last Cigarette” before topping them with “Full Moon Full of Love”. She rounded out the 80s with three more country hits and then crossed over to pop in 1992 with the Top 10 hit “Constant Craving“. Although it peaked at only #38 on the Billbaord Hot 100, it won for her the American Grammy award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. From there she proceeded to the adult contemporary arena with the hits “If I Were You” in 1995 and “Summerfling” in 2000. k.d. received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2008. She performed her rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and the song brought her back onto the pop charts, peaking at #2.
We focus mainly on artists in the pop / rock category on the site, unless they’re big-sellers. And adult contemporary / country / folk singer Rita MacNeil was a very big seller with five multi-platinum and three platinum albums. She was born in Big Pond, Nova Scotia in 1944. She first appeared on stage in 1971, recording her first album four years later. Prior to her breakthrough she performed at many folk festivals. In 1987, MacNeil released the album Flying on Your Own which became double-platinum with a couple of hits on the Adult Contemporary charts. Her subsequent four albums matched or surpassed sales, the biggest being Now the Bells Ring, 3x Platinum. Her 1990 song “Working Man” was a hit in Britain (#11). She hosted the Gemini award winning TV variety show “Rita and Friends” from 1994-97 and runs a tea room in Big Pond which attracts many tourists. Canadian playwright Charlie Rhindress wrote a play on her life called “Flying on Her Own”, which was performed around the Maritimes and features many of her songs.
Born as Mitsou Annie Marie Gélinas in 1970, Loretteville, QC, her name means honey in Japanese. As a child she began acting and modelling, taking an interest in singing during her teens. In 1988, she secured a recording contract, releasing El Mundo. “La Corrida“, “Les Chinois”, and “Bye Bye Mon Cowboy” were huge hits in Quebec. The latter became a radio hit across Canada, a rare phenomenon for a Francophone song. Her sophomore album, Terre des Hommes, saw her collaborating with Men Without Hats’ Ivan Doroschuk. Her music video for the song “Dis-Moi, Dis-Moi” contained a nude scene and was banned on MuchMusic. Mitsou lashed back asking the question why violence was okay but nudity not? The fact that Madonna’s video for “Justify My Love” was banned at the same time sparked a national debate. MuchMusic responded by creating a new late-night series “Too Much 4 Much” which showcased such videos. The controversy worked in Mitsou’s favour as the song was played on radio stations across Canada. Mitsou released an English-language album and singles that were generally ignored by English radio stations in Canada (“Deep Kiss” was perhaps the most successful).