East-Asia, Edmonton, and Americanization (2007-2009)

The most significant event that occurred in the latter years of the first decade of the new millennium was that, for the first time in music history, a Canadian of east-Asian descent scored a radio hit. Canadians of Asian descent make up over 12% of the population but have seen little representation in the music industry. Maple Ridge B.C.’s Elise Estrada, born in the Philippines, recorded the R&B hit “Unlove You” which peaked at #11 on the singles chart.

This period also witnessed the 3rd best-selling Canadian single of all-time internationally, after Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” and Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You”. Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend” sold 7.3 million copies worldwide.

Edmonton, which had been left off the map in terms of churning out significant recording artists, contributed two during this time: Kreesha Turner and the Stereos.

Canadian music embraced further diversity. For the first time in a while, Canada gave the world a new male teen international superstar. A couple new electronic artists achieved success. Rock trio Metric released the single “Help, I’m Alive” which peaked at #21 on the singles chart in early 2009. LIGHTS, a female singer-songwriter, won the best new artist JUNO after her electronic pop song “Drive My Soul” became a Top 20 hit. Much of this diversity, however, involved taking on American styles of music, like R&B and rap. This coincided with Billboard magazine’s taking over the Canadian singles and albums charts in 2007.


In the late 2000s, a large portion of Canadian music began to emulate styles popular south of the border. A number of new Canadian artists began performing rap and R&B music. Relatively-speaking, such music did not sell well domestically. Most of these American-style artists arose from Toronto and were heavily promoted by Toronto-based MuchMusic. Although many of them were of Jamaican ancestry, they did not perform reggae music.

While it is true that Canadian artists like Avril Lavigne, Chantal Kreviazuk, and Raine Maida were busy writing and producing songs for American idol winners like Kelly Clarkson, and, in so doing, somewhat Canadianizing American pop, the American influence on Canadian music was much more apparent.

Artists who continued to perform Canadian styles of music began shedding their Canadian pronunciation, adopting American accents. And bad grammar became trendy. By the end of the decade these tendencies had become quite standard.

We can only speculate as to the motivations behind such a trend. Perhaps with the advent of digital music and the looming threat of rampant online piracy, record labels were pushing Canadian recording artists to tailor their music and accents to American styles in order to maximize chances of being successful in the world’s largest market for music. Ironically, many of the artists who did this did not end up making names for themselves in the republic. The most successful Canadian artists during the latter years of the decade were those who made music that was very Canadian: Michael Buble, Avril Lavigne, and Nickelback. The only new artists to sell many records during this period were Feist and Justin Bieber.


Although the year was heavily dominated by pop-punk superstar Avril Lavigne, the Juno gala held the following year gave all three major awards (song, album, and artist of the year) to a folk-pop singer from Amherst, N.S. called Feist. She had received some attention in 2005 for her cover of the Bee Gees’ song “Inside and Out”. Juno-winning The Reminder was certified double-platinum. Feist’s song “1234” was a Top 10 hit in Britain and the U.S. and made it to #3 at home. In the late 2000s, Feist was the most successful new artist at the Junos, winning eight of 11 nominations.

Five-piece, Vancouver-based, punky grunge band State of Shock scored a Top 10 hit called “Money Honey”. They managed three songs in the year-end Top 100 charts by the end of the decade. They were one of the few male-female combo bands.

Toronto’s Jully Black also made the Top 10 with her cover of the 1960s song “Seven Day Fool”. In Québec, female rocker Anik Jean enjoyed the hit “Oh mon chéri” and Jonathan Painchaud scored with “Pousse, Pousse”. But it was rocker Marie-Mai, Star Académie finalist who shone the brightest. She won four Félix awards, released gold and platinum albums, and recorded songs with David Usher (Moist) and Simple Plan. Although she did not see any hit singles, Peterborough, Ontario’s indie folk singer Serena Ryder scored a pair of gold albums and was honoured with the JUNO for best new artist.

With the handover of the official Canadian charts going to Billboard magazine, there was no year-end chart for the year, and we do not have access to the weekly singles charts for the first half of the year. Nevertheless, we have attempted to piece together data on some of the hits this year which you can find HERE. In brief, besides the new artists mentioned above, Avril Lavigne, Nickelback / Chad Kroeger, Nelly Furtado, Finger Eleven, Michael Bublé, Bedouin Soundclash, and Céline Dion enjoyed big hits.


Like R&B singer Jully Black, Toronto’s Kardinal Offishall (born Jason Harrow) is of Jamaican ancestry. His singles have done much better than his albums. This year, he scored the international hit “Dangerous” (11th biggest of 2008) with American Akon which won the Juno for song of the year. The two collaborated again in “Beautiful” and “Body Bounce” in subsequent years. In 2011, he recorded the song “Ghetto Love” with Montreal’s Karl Wolf, a rap-reggae version of Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love”. Kardinal Offishall has won 3 JUNO awards.

Edmonton-born Kreesha Turner, whose mother is Jamaican, started her career by performing 70s-style R&B and scored the Top 10 hit “Don’t Call Me Baby”. South of her, in Calgary, Andrew F became a one-hit wonder (so far) with his punky song “The End”. Marie-Pierre Arthur scored the Quebec hit “Pourquoi” as did Yann Perreau with “Beau comme on s’aime”. Gypsy jazz band The Lost Fingers, from Quebec City, scored a platinum album called Lost in the 80s.

Montreal’s pop pianist Béatrice Martin, under the stage name Coeur de Pirate, released her debut album this year. It was certified platinum and was nominated for Francophone album of the year at the JUNOs.

LIGHTS is not a band but a female singer-songwriter based in Toronto. She became one of the most successful electronic pop musicians in the late 2000s, winning the Juno award for Best New Artist. Her “Drive My Soul” was the 70th biggest song of 2008.

Vancouver’s Phillipine-born beauty contest winner Elise Estrada scored the hit “Unlove You” which finished in the Top 100 year-end chart of 2008. As far as we know, she is the first Canadian of east-Asian descent to score a hit on the radio in Canada, a remarkable achievement.

Mission, B.C.’s Faber Drive were signed onto Chad Kroeger’s label 604 Records and performed mainstream pop. “When I’m with You” made the year-end Top 100 and the following year their “Get Up and Dance” was the 48th biggest song of the year.


Many new artists emerged this last year of the decade.

Lebanese-born Montrealer Karl Wolf began performing R&B and his cover of Toto’s “Africa” was the biggest song of the year by a Canadian artist, finishing the year in 9th spot.

A Canadian rapper had a huge hit south of the border. “Best I Ever Had” was the 22nd biggest song in the U.S. (79th in Canada) thanks to Toronto’s Aubrey Drake Graham, known simply as Drake. He started out as an actor playing the character Jimmy Brooks on the television series “Degrassi: The Next Generation”. Drake’s father is an African American from Memphis, Tennessee, and his mother is Jewish Canadian. He started out by collaborating with American rap artists like Kanye West, Eminem, Jay-Z, and Lil Wayne, signing onto the latter’s record label. Drake’s album Thank Me Later managed to go platinum in Canada.

Outselling Drake was a youngster from Stratford, ON named Justin Bieber who managed one platinum and two double-platinum albums. “One Time” and “One Less Lonely Girl” were big hits this year. He became successful by uploading videos of his songs onto Youtube. This led to a recording contract. Although primarily a pop artist, some of his songs feature rap segments from American artists.

Besides Nelly Furtado and Shawn Desman, another Portuguese-Canadian popped out of obscurity; in fact, he is Desman’s younger brother, Danny Fernandes. His “Fantasy” was a big hit this year.

Born in Scotland, naturalized Canadian soul singer Johnny Reid, despite no hit singles, put out an album that went double-platinum this year: Dance with Me. Divine Brown was yet another Toronto R&B singer to arise, though she did not score any significant hits until she teamed up with Nelly Furtado and performed “Sunglasses” (#22).

Toronto’s Suzie McNeil had entered a CBS reality show called Rock Star: INXS to find a new lead singer for the band. She was the last female singer to be eliminated from the competition, having gained by then considerable respect. She relocated to Los Angeles to develop her career. Her “Supergirl” made the year-end Top 100 this year.

Also from Toronto was Melanie Fiona, whose parents immigrated to Canada from Guyana. Her “Give It to Me Right” also made the Top 100 of 2009.

Besides Kreesha Turner, Edmonton produced the band the Stereos who scored two big hits this year: “Summer Girl” (#2) and “Throw Your Hands Up” (#3). The Stereos made a kind of music that blended all the current popular styles: grunge, dance, and rap.

Originally from Trois-Rivières, Québec, The New Cities set up base in Montréal and released their debut LP this year. Gold single “Dead End Countdown” was a big new wave hit, 69th of the year.

Links to Related Posts

Lists of Canadian Songs in the Top 100 of 2008 and 2009 in Canada are HERE.

Mini profiles on semi-major artists Feist, Marie-Mai, State of Shock, Faber Drive, Drake, The Stereos, and LIGHTS are HERE.

Major profile on Elise Estrada is HERE.

Major profile on Justin Bieber is HERE.

A list of Juno and Félix song of the year nominees and winners for the decade 2000-2009 is HERE.

A list of best-selling Canadian albums 2000-2009 is HERE.

A list of best-selling Canadian singles 2000-2009 is HERE.

Polarizing Genres (2003-2006)

As mainstream pop and rock was being taken over by contestants of Canadian Idol and Star Academie, artists who signed with record labels directly began to produce music that was on the fringes—either ultra-soft or ultra-hard. This resulted in a polarization of music. On the soft side was David Foster-produced jazz-singing virtuoso Michael Bublé, the biggest new star to arise in the middle of the decade. Folky Ariane Moffatt, Mes Aïeux, and Gregory Charles were other stars on the mellow side of the spectrum. On the hard side were grungy Nickelback copycat bands like Simple Plan, Billy Talent, and Three Days Grace. Heavily-tattooed Canadian Idol contestant, Jacob Hoggard, who finished 3rd in the second season, became the lead singer of grunge outfit Hedley. The only prominent artist, outside of the talent shows, to stand in the comfortable middle was Ontario’s Fefe Dobson.


Across the river from Quebec City, pianist-guitarist, singer-songwriter, Juno and Felix award winner Ariane Moffatt hit the airwaves. Her 2002 debut release, Aquanaute, was certified platinum due in large part to the hits “Pointe de Mire” and “Poussière d’ange”. Five of her singles were to be nominated for the Felix Song of the Year award, “Je veux tout” winning such a prize at the 2008 gala. The album on which the song appeared, Tous les Sans won the Juno for Francophone Album of the Year. Another female voice emerged this year, coming from Toronto’s former suburb of Scarborough. She was a beautiful model of mixed English, French, Aboriginal, and Jamaican ancestry. The singer-songwriter scored her first of three Top 10 hits, “Bye Bye Boyfriend”, her debut , self-titled, album attaining platinum sales. Her name was Fefe Dobson. Andrée Watters, from the northeastern Quebec City borough of Charlesbourg, released her first of three Felix song of the year nominees, “Si exceptionnel”. She won the Felix for best rock album of the year. Sadly, her brother Patrick was killed in a 2007 helicopter crash near Fort McMurray, AB, while combatting a forest fire.

The most significant male artist to debut this year was a multi-talented Vaughan, ON native with Portuguese roots named Shawn Desman. His “Shook” made it to #3 on the charts. His 2005 album Back for More won the Juno for best R&B release. Besides singing, he plays the piano, produces, dances, and does choreography.

From Mississauga, ON, high school band Pezz transformed itself into Billy Talent, signing with Warner Music. Sales of their first (self-titled) heavy metal release under the major label, reached triple platinum status and won the Juno for album of the year. Their song “Try Honesty” was nominated for a song of the year Juno.

Outside the country, the biggest Canadian hits this year were Avril Lavigne’s gorgeous power ballad “I’m with You”, Shania Twain’s soothing “Forever and For Always”, and Nickelback’s grungy “Someday”. Within the country, Celine Dion revamped Cyndi Lauper’s “I Drove All Night” (originally written for Roy Orbison) and topped the charts. Canadian Idol winner Ryan Malcolm’s “Something More” was also a #1 hit. Despite being a French song, “Meme Les Anges” made it to #2 on the charts due to Audrey De Montigny’s high-profile exposure on Canadian Idol. Celine Dion’s “Tout l’or des hommes” was as successful. Nicola Ciccone’s beautiful “J’t’aime tout court” was song of the year in French Canada and Nelly Furtado’s fusion piece “Powerless” in English Canada.

There were three albums released this year that sold half a million copies: Sarah McLachlan’s Afterglow, Nickelback’s The Long Road, and the compilation Star Academie (featuring songs sung by the various contestants of the show).


First and foremost this year was Vancouver’s Michael Bublé. He debuted last year with his self-titled album, and, thanks to the blockbuster film Spider-Man, he scored his first big hit in 2004. Buble was discovered by David Foster while singing at the wedding of Caroline Mulroney, daughter of the former Prime Minister. Initially Foster was reluctant to sign him because he was unsure how the market would react to Michael’s brand of music—traditional pop and big band jazz. With the support of Paul Anka, David eventually agreed. It turned out to be a wise decision because Buble’s albums have sold 35 million copies worldwide.

In Britain, a Canadian artist scored three Top 10 hits. But in his own country, he was not as noticed. The Canadian music industry, in the interests of commercialism, has tagged along with its southern neighbours and become a blacks-and-whites only club, largely closing its doors to recording artists of Asian descent, who represent a much greater population in the country than those with African roots. Because of this racialism, artists of any and every visible minority, in order to flourish, have, rather than creating a style of rock music they can call their own, reverted to adopting African American styles of R&B and rap. This was true of Indian-Albertan Raghav. (He did sneak in some Indian-style rhythms).

Rap-R&B singer Jérôme Philippe scored a Felix-nominated song, “Pour le ghetto”. Kevin Brereton, known as k-os, grew up in Toronto and delivered the beautifully-arranged Juno song of the year, “Crabbuckit”, somewhat of an alternative reggae piece. He has managed two platinum albums and a couple of Top 20 hits.

Several new bands hit the airwaves this year, most of them dabbling in various combinations of grunge, punk, and metal. The most successful of all of them was 8-time Juno nominee, Montreal quintet Simple Plan. Recording since 2002, they enjoyed their first big hit this year, “Perfect” (not to be confused with Hedley’s song of the same name). Oddly, the lead singer Pierre Bouvier has chosen to sing with an American rather than Canadian accent. The band’s second album, Still Not Getting Any, went 4x Platinum, making it the third most successful Canadian album released this year (after Shania Twain’s Greatest Hits and Avriil Lavigne’s Under My Skin).

Drummondville, Quebec’s Les Trois Accords paid homage to Saskatchewan in their Felix-nominated song. After releasing a platinum album, they scored a couple more hits through the decade. Finger Eleven, from Burlington, ON, gave the world the international acoustic guitar hit “One Thing”. Besides Avril Lavigne, the band was the only Canadian act to appear on the U.S. Billboard year-end chart. The Scott Anderson-led group scored an even bigger hit in 2007—the grungy “Paralyzer”.

Toronto’s independent punk label Underground Operations signed Closet Monster and Hostage Life who churned out the hits “We Re-Built This City” and “Sing for the Enemy” respectively. The Trews, originally from Antigonish, NS, enjoyed a Juno-nominated song, “Not Ready to Go”. Winnipeg’s The Waking Eyes had the Top 10 hit, “Watch Your Money”.

Uruguayan-Swiss Quebecer, Carole Facal, after dabbling with snowboarding in B.C., teamed up with Dorianne Fabreg to form the duo DobaCaracol, complete with dreadlocks. Later, as a soloist, Facal, under the stage name, Caracol, scored the hit “Le Mépris”. Montréal’s Marie-Chantal Toupin came out with the power-ballad “Naître” and enjoyed two platinum albums in the decade.

Three bands broke up in the new millennium and members formed a new outfit in St. Catharines called Alexisonfire. A platinum album released this year helped them garner the Juno for New Group of the Year in 2005. At the end of the decade, member Dallas Green announced his departure. He went solo under the name City and Colour. 

Big hits this year from previously profiled artists included two top fives from Avril Lavigne: the rock masterpiece “My Happy Ending” and her first Top 5 hit at home: “Don’t Tell Me”. “A prophet knows no honour in her own country?” Although her singles did better elsewhere, her albums sold better at home than abroad. Canadian Idol winner Kalan Porter had the #1 “Awake in a Dream” which became the best-selling single of all time in Canada (8x Platinum). Star Academie’s Marie Elanie Thibert had the second best-selling single of all-time, “Toi L’inoubliable”. Shania Twain’s “Party for Two” fittingly made it to #2. The Felix song of the year was “Les Étoiles filantes” by Les Cowboys Fringants.


One of the biggest international hits of the decade came out this year from a Vernon, BC lad named Daniel Powter. He was bullied as a child for studying the violin (since when is there something wrong with the violin?). He switched to piano but struggled with dyslexia. “Bad Day” was released first in the U.K. where it made it to #2. At home, it was a Top 10 hit. But in 2006 the song not only made it to #1, it was the biggest song of the year in the United States. “Voyager vers toi” was a hit in Quebec for Marc Dupré. Hamilton’s Tomi Swick scored a radio hit called “A Night Like This” which helped him win the Juno for New Artist of the Year in 2006.

Third-place finalist of Canadian Idol, Jacob Hoggard, formed the successful Abbotsford, BC rock band Hedley who enjoyed six Top 10 hits through the decade, two double-platinum albums, and, until now, 15 Juno nominations. From the same city as Les Trois Accords, folk band Kaïn scored subsequent hits “Embarque ma belle” and “Mexico”. Ska band Bedouin Soundclash won the Juno for best new group and “When the Night Feels My Song” was nominated for best song. In 2007, they scored the Top 10 hit “Walls Fall Down”.

Brandon, Manitoba’s country singer Amanda Stott crossed over onto the pop charts with the #1 hit song, “Paper Rain”.

There were not too many hit songs this year from Canadian artists. The only other big hit, besides those mentioned above, was chart-topping “Alive” from Canadian Idol winner Melissa O’Neil who incidentally (and refreshingly) is half Chinese. Star Academie contestant Annie Blanchard won the Felix song of the year award with “Évangéline” and Michael Buble’s “Home” won the equivalent Juno award.

Hit albums this year were Nickelback’s All the Right Reasons (7x Platinum), Michael Bublé’s album of the year Juno winner It’s Time, and Céline Dion’s On ne change pas.


Nickelback’s lead singer Chad Kroeger started his own record label called 604 Records. It signed the Vancouver band Marianas Trench whose song “Say Anything” was a #3 hit. The Adam Gontier-fronted outfit Three Days Grace from Norwood, ON recorded the double-platinum Juno-nominated album One-X but did not manage any big hit singles. Speaking of double-platinum albums, Mes Aïeux achieved one and also won the Felix song of the year for folk hit “Dégénérations”. They have been named Group of the Year three times at the Felix galas. Combining male-female lead vocals, pop group Alfa Rococo enjoyed a few big hits in Québec, including “Les Jours de pluie” this year. Stabilo, a rock band from Maple Ridge, BC, scored the raio hit “Flawed Design”. Montreal’s alternative rock band Mobile won a Juno for New Group of the Year in 2007 thanks to their debut album released this year, Tomorrow Starts Today.

Sherbrooke, Quebec’s Vincent Vallières had been around since 1999 but began scoring some hits, like “Je pars à pied”. Retired hockey player Étienne Drapeau turned to singing and enjoyed the hit “Je l’ai jamais dit à personne”. Montreal’s Gregory Charles, of Trinidadian origin, had a very popular debut album, the triple-platinum I Think of You. Dumas’ “Au gré des saisons” was popular this year.

Exotic Indian-Irish-Italian beauty Cindy Daniel had a very big hit, “Sous une pluie d’étoiles” and Egypt-born Chantal Chamandy had the platinum-selling hit single “Feels Like Love”.

Nelly Furtado scored three Top 10 international hits this year and two more next year with her 5x Platinum album Loose which won the album of the year Juno. Her song “Promiscuous” was named song of the year. Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila topped the charts performing in American R&B style for her song “Meant to Fly”. Nickelback scored three big hits this year.

Coming up are mini-profiles on semi-major artists Billy Talent, Gregory Charles, Fefe Dobson, Marie-Élaine Thibert, Finger Eleven, Shawn Desman, Mes Aïeux, and Marianas Trench. Following that will be features on major artists Michael Bublé, Hedley, Simple Plan, Raghav, and Ariane Moffatt.

     Copyright 2011 by the Canadian Music Blog

Bands, Bangs, and Boomtangs (2000-2002)

The first new major star to arise in the new millennium was a Canadian of Portuguese descent who had grown up in Victoria, BC. After her Juno Song of the Year winner “I’m Like a Bird”, Nelly Furtado went on to sell 20 million of her three studio albums worldwide. But the early years of first decade were known for a slew of new (mostly short-lived) bands.

RPM magazine and their national charts folded in Y2K and determination of the Canadian charts was ultimately handed over to the Americans. Coincidentally, Canadian music seemed to become increasingly Americanized with a host of Canadian-made R&B and rap songs reaching high positions on the charts. Interesting though was the fact that new Canadian artists who embraced American styles of music, though scoring one or two big hits, did not last past an album or two. Fewer new Canuck acts took on genres more Canadian, but those who did saw greater and longer-lasting success.

Alberta gave the nation and the world the hard rock group Nickelback who scored the biggest hit of the year in 2002 on the U.S. Billboard charts. And a young singer from small town Ontario, who swung between pop and punk, scored a diamond debut album and, by the end of the decade, had sold over 30 million records worldwide. Her name was Avril Lavigne.


Montreal-born Daniel Boucher released his debut album in 1999. Its opener, “La désise” was declared song of the year at the Felix awards gala. He was the only significant new soloist in Y2K. All other new artists were bands.

Vancouver’s ambient pop band Delerium had been around since 1989. But it wasn’t until this year that they scored (thanks to the vocal help of Sarah McLachlan) their first big hit. “Silence” peaked on the charts at #5 in Canada, #3 in the U.K. and #1 in Ireland. Further singles released from the band saw greater success in the U.K. and Ireland than at home.

Another Vancouver act was R&B-rap soulDecision whose song “Faded” topped the charts, driving their album to platinum status. They scored a couple more hits later on but remain best known for “Faded” which appeared on the year-end Billboard Hot 100 chart in 66th place. Aimee MacKenzie, who had been part of the female group West End Girls in Vancouver, formed a new R&B band called D Cru. “I Will Be Waiting” was a Top 10 hit (#9).

Sault Ste. Marie produced an indie rock / pop-punk band called Treble Charger. Their 2000 album went platinum thanks in part to the Juno nominated song “American Psycho”. In Toronto, pop boy band B4-4’s debut album went platinum and their song “Get Down” made it to #4. R&B outfit Jacksoul, which had debuted in 1996, scored a #8 hit this year called “Can’t Stop”.

In Montreal, twin sisters Toni and Trisha Sherwood formed a dance-pop duo named after their shared birth date (November 30th). 11:30’s song “Olè Olè” peaked at #10 on the charts. Folk-rockers Okoumé which had debuted in 1997 came out with their second album this year which spawned the Felix-nominated “Irresponsable”. They were never heard from since.


Although there were no significant new female soloists in Y2K, this year one of the biggest acts of the decade emerged. 2001, for all intents and purposes, belonged to Victoria’s Nelly Furtado. Her debut album Whoa, Nelly! went quadruple-platinum and sold 7 million copies worldwide, thanks to the hit “I’m Like a Bird”, a British Top 5 hit and 43rd biggest song of the year in the United States. The album spawned three more Top 20 singles.

New Brunswick’s Natasha St-Pier, who had released a debut album in 1996, represented France in the Eurovision contest with a Jill Kapler-composed masterpiece called “Je n’ai que mon âme”, turning her into an international star. The song entered the French and Belgian charts at #11 and then jumped to #2. It remained on the charts for 26 weeks and, in Canada, was declared song of the year by the Felix Awards. St-Pier released an English version of the song (“All I Have Is My Soul”) which was ignored. Lulu Hughes scored a hit called “Rock with Me”.

In terms of new bands, the most successful was Sum 41, the only act, besides Furtado and St-Pier to score an international hit this year “Fat Lip”, a #8 hit in Britain, helped the Ajax, Ontario punk rockers’ debut album attain triple platinum status. The Matthew Good Band’s “Raygun” was a Top 10 hit this year. Later suburban Vancouverite Matthew Good was to go solo and score another Top 10 hit: “In a World Called Catastrophe” in 2003. Montreal’s funky dance collective Bran Van 3000 scored a Top 10 hit with “Astounded”.

Newmarket, Ontario’s Serial Joe scored a #1 grunge-punk hit in Canada called “Completely”. Niagara Falls’ Wave went to number 1 as well thanks to “California”. Created on the first season of the Popstars show, assembled group Sugar Jones became one-hit wonders with the #2 single “Days Like That”.

There only new male soloist this year was Toronto rapper Jelleestone whose “Money” made a brief appearance on the charts peaking at #6.


2002 was a huge year in Canadian music, one of the biggest of the decade. Two new superstars came out of nowhere, both selling over 30 million copies of their records through the decade.

A teenage singer from small town Ontario won a contest to sing with Shania Twain in Ottawa before a crowd of 20,000. She was offered a record deal and became a multi-millionaire when she was 16 years old. Avril Lavigne’s debut album, Let Go, was released this year and went diamond, with four singles entering the Top 20 all over the world. Ironically, her singles charted better in every other country than in Canada, including non-English-speaking countries. “Complicated” was the song that first thrust her into the limelight and was the 11th best-selling single of the year in the U.S.

Alberta had not contributed much in the way of Canadian music over the years besides the occasional artist like The Stampeders, k.d. lang, and Jann Arden. From the small town of Hanna, northeast of Calgary, a rock band had released a debut album in 1996 that went nowhere. Their 2000 release garnered some attention on the “alternative” charts but this year’s release, Silver Side Up, went 8x Platinum. Nickelback’s single “How You Remind Me” was the biggest song of the year south of the border and “Too Bad” was a Top 10 hit in Britain. Furthermore, Chad Kroeger, the band’s lead singer, teamed up with Josey Scott of the American band Saliva to record the song “Hero” for the feature film Spider-Man. It topped the charts in Canada.

Around since 1993, Windsor Ontario’s The Tea Party finally became big names thanks to “Soulbreaking”, which peaked at #3. Four of the band’s albums, with their unique sound of rock with middle eastern touches, reached multi-platinum status. After being around since 1997, folk-rock band Les Cowboys Fringants garnered their first Felix-nominated song this year, “Toune d’automne”. Dance trio The Boomtang Boys topped the charts with “Movin’ On”, following up with the Top 10 hit “Squeeze Toy”. Aside from writing original songs, they created dance versions of past hits, like Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”. Toronto’s overlooked all-female power punk band Tuuli scored a #4 hit called “It’s Over”. BC’s rap group Swollen Members made it to #3 with “Bring It Home”. Grungers Theory of a Deadman, from suburban Vancouver, made it to #2 on the charts with “Nothing Could Come Between Us”. Quebec City’s dance band One Ton made the Top 10 with “Supersexworld”.

A male-female duo emerged that sung a couple of popular duets. They were Jean-François Breau and Marie-Ève Janvier. “Changer” was popular this year and, later, “Donner pour donner”.

A few new male soloists appeared this year. Mascouche, Québec’s Marc Déry went solo after a stint with the band Zébulon and scored the hit “Depuis”. Montrealer Sam Roberts rocked his way to platinum, to Juno awards, and gave us the gold single “Where Have All the Good People Gone?” With roots in Rwanda, German-born R&B artist Corneille came out with the hit “Avec classe”, and, later on, “Parce qu’on vient de loin” and “Seul au monde”. Dany Bédar, who had started out as a dj, debuted this year with the hit song “Faire la paix avec l’amour”. Later he scored with “Écoute-moi donc”.

Calgarian nurse-turned-country-star Paul Brandt crossed over onto the pop charts with the #1 “Canadian Man”. His debut album in 1996 had gone triple-platinum and he had been the first male Canadian country artist since Hank Snow in the 70s to have a Top 10 single in the American Billboard charts (“My Heart Has a History”).

Coming up are mini-profiles on semi-major artists Daniel Boucher, Natasha St-Pier, Sum 41, The Tea Party, and Les Cowboys Fringants. Following that will be features on major artists Nelly Furtado, Avril Lavigne, and Nickelback.

Branching Out and Conquering Other Genres (1997-1999)

Canadian music showed no signs of slowing down through the remainder of the decade. What was unique about the late-90s was that, Canadian artists began to branch out and conquer other genres of music. Pop and rock had been championed by a plethora of Canadians as had folk; it was time to show that we could produce a superstar in other fields of music.

Although Canada had always done well in the country music scene, ever since Wilf Carter appeared in the 1930s, it was time for a Canadian superstar to churn out three double-diamond albums in a row, a feat completely unprecedented. Her catchy music appealed to children, teenagers, young adults, older adults, and even seniors. It was so irresistible that a few of her songs crossed over onto the pop charts. One was the third biggest song of 1998 in the United States. She teamed up with musical genius “Mutt” Lange, who had worked with Bryan Adams, and married him. Her name was Shania Twain.

So-called R&B had always been a genre that appealed more to the populace south of the border. But a Torontonian fell in love with it and decided to make a career out of performing these kinds of songs. She never became a big name in Canada, but, in 1998, her song “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” was a million-seller in the U.S., peaking at #2 on the pop charts and topping their R&B charts for 14 consecutive weeks, smashing all records. Her name was Deborah Cox. She scored a big hit in Canada later on in 2009; “Beautiful U R” was 39th of the year.

The late-90s also saw the rise of the biggest-selling female jazz artist in the world, a Canadian. Most jazz artists could never hope to sell as many records as pop or country artists but Diana Krall sold 15 million worldwide. Eight of her albums debuted at the top of the Billboard jazz albums charts, six of them being certified multi-platinum at home.

Another genre conquered was Celtic / New Age, thanks to harp-player Loreena McKennitt and her hauntingly beautiful voice. Her three albums released in the 90s all went 3-4x platinum and in 1997 she scored a Top 10 hit on the pop charts.

Canadians were not satisfied with their newfound success in France which began not with Celine Dion but with Roch Voisine. Two more superstars arose to score diamond albums in the land of the Eiffel Tower. The first was roots rocker Isabelle Boulay. The second was to become the second best-selling Canadian artist in France (after Celine Dion). He was born in Sherbrooke and is known for his throaty singing style. He currently holds the SNEP record for the most weeks at number one. His name is Garou.

Toronto’s Our Lady Peace, thanks to a diamond album, was the hottest new band to emerge. Frontman and primary songwriter Raine Maida formed a musical family by marrying Chantal Kreviazuk, a former childhood prodigy, who, herself, became one of the most cherished singer-songwriters in the country.


Many new artists arose this year. The biggest song of the year, as mentioned previously, was Sarah McLachlan’s “Building a Mystery”. Second to that was Our Lady Peace’s “Clumsy” which appeared on the year-end chart at #14. Another new band to emerge was St. John’s folky Great Big Sea. Their song “When I’m Up” appeared in the year-end chart at #62. They managed a pair of platinum and of multi-platinum albums and scored a few more hits. The Philosopher Kings were another semi-major act, their first big song being “I Am the Man”. Band members met while in high school in the Toronto suburb of Thornhill. They scored a couple more Top 10 hits the following year. Saskatoon’s bluesy Wide Mouth Mason scored their biggest hit “Midnight Rain” (#56 YE). Another band from Saskatchewan had a hit this year. Age of Electric’s “Remote Control” finished as the 71st biggest hit of the year. Toronto’s Big Sugar added a dash of reggae to their music and had their first hit single “If I Had My Way”. Fellow locals I Mother Earth scored their biggest hit, “Raspberry” which pushed sales of their album to double-platinum status. Vancouver’s Econoline Crush attained one-hit wonder class with “All That You Are”.

Isabelle Boulay, from the town of Sainte-Félicité, on the north shore of the Gaspé peninsula, scored her first hit,” Je t’oublierai, je t’oublierai” off her debut album. Although she’d been around since 1993, Nanaimo, BC’s Diana Krall made it to the big leagues when her album Love Scenes, released this year, attained double-platinum status, a difficult feat in the realm of jazz. Chantal Kreviazuk scored her first hit “God Made Me”, the 77th biggest song of the year. Halifax’s fusion artist Holly Cole made a name for herself with “I’ve Just Seen a Face”. Another Holly (McNarland) emerged from The Pas, Manitoba and gave us the hit “Numb”. Later she collaborated with the likes of Matthew Good and The Tea Party.

The biggest name in male soloists was Sherbrooke’s Garou, a stage name that is a combination of his surname Garand and the French expression loup-garou, which means werewolf. He was discovered by Luc Plamondon while performing in a local bar and subsequently drafted to play in Notre-Dame de Paris. The song “Belle” from the musical, sung by himself, Canada’s Daniel Lavoie, and France’s Patrick Fiori, became the third best-selling single of all-time in France (after two novelty songs). In 2000, Garou released his debut album Seul, certified diamond in France, and one of the biggest-selling French-language albums in history worldwide. He eventually became the best-selling Canadian artist in France after Celine Dion.

Bruno Pelletier was another new name this year. He was born in Charlesbourg, a suburb of Quebec City. His debut had come in 1992 but, with the 1997 single “Aime”, saw his first Felix-nominated song of the year. The only other male artist to have a big hit this year was Men Without Hats’ Ivan whose song “Open Your Eyes” made the year-end Top 100 chart.


Big hits this year included Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the number one movie of all-time (at the time) Titanic. Bryan Adams had two chart-toppers: “On a Day Like Today” and “Back to You”. Alanis Morissette’s “Thank U” was a number one single as well. In the United States, the two biggest songs of the year were “Too Close” by Next and “The Boy is Mine” by Brandy & Monica respectively. In third place was a song called “You’re Still the One” by a Canadian country artist from Windsor, Ontario, named Shania Twain. She achieved the unimaginable: three consecutive studio albums were certified double-diamond in Canada (2 million copies sold).

Manitoban Celtic new ager, master of voice, piano, accordion, and harp, Loreena McKennitt, had been around since the mid-80s, scored a quadruple-platinum album in 1991, called The Visit, and had her first big hit, “The Mummers’ Dance”, on the pop singles chart this year.

Montreal’s Éric Lapointe scored his first Felix-nominated song of the year, “Rien à regretter”. According to some sources, he had as many as 30 songs that topped the charts on various radio stations and singles charts in Quebec.

Toronto’s dance band Love Inc. scored a couple of hits this year: “Broken Bones” #31 and “You’re a Supertar” #13. A few years later they were discovered by Britain and both songs became Top 10 hits there. There are some who credit their debut with being the only dance album created in Canada to attain platinum status.

On a side-note, a dance version of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” was performed by the international group Stars on 54 and was featured in the Mike Myers’ film Studio 54. It peaked at #3 on the charts.


The three biggest Canadian songs of the year came via new artists. While the Americans were taken by Toronto’s Deborah Cox who supplied the 9th biggest song of the year in the U.S., Montreal pop duo Sky scored the first of three number one singles called “Love Song”, the 6th biggest song of the year. In eighth place was Randy Bachman’s son Tal with the song “She’s So High”. And at 15th spot was the Toronto one-hit wonder group Len (“Steal My Sunshine”).

Besides Sky and Len, there were a number of new bands this year. Bluesy La Chicane debuted and scored the hit “Calvaire”. The Moffatts were four brothers who had grown up in various locales in B.C. They relocated to Nashville in the U.S. and released their first (country) album. Later they switched to pop and scored their first hit “Misery”. Montreal’s Les Respectables came out with “Amalgame”. Dance trio The Boomtang Boys scored the hit “Squeeze Toy”. Toronto’s dance group Temperance had the hit “If You Don’t Know” and 2 rude had “Thinkin’ about You”

Mario Pelchat, from Dolbeau-Mistassini, QC, won the Felix award for song of the year with “Je ne t’aime plus”. Francophone Italian-Canadian Nicola Ciccone appeared this year with the song “Le menteur”. Dance artist Joee scored the hit “Arriba”, the 51st biggest song of the year. Martin Deschamps saw his first hit—”Quand?” He took on the role of lead singer for the reunited Offenbach.

There were no new significant female soloists this year.

Coming up are lists of big songs and albums from the late-90s; a list of Juno and Felix song nominees and winners; mini-profiles on semi-major artists La Chicane, Nicola Ciccone, Holly Cole, Great Big Sea, The Moffatts, Mario Pelchat, Bruno Pelletier, The Philosopher Kings, and Sky; and feature profiles on major artists Isabelle Boulay, Garou, Diana Krall, Chantal Kreviazuk, Éric Lapointe, Loreena McKennitt, Our Lady Peace, and Shania Twain.

Fresh Supply of Diamond-Selling Divas (1994-1996)

For the past two decades, the middle years had always been the time when Canadian pop stars pulled out all the stops and rocked their way to the top of the charts all over the world. In the mid-70s, Terry Jacks’ biggest hit of the year “Seasons in the Sun” joined Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown”, Paul Anka’s return to form with “You’re Having My Baby”, and Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”. In the mid-80s Bryan Adams and Corey Hart churned out Canada’s first Diamond albums, and Glass Tiger’s “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)” topped the charts. What did Canada have up its sleeve for the mid-90s? Two words: Alanis Morissette.

Jagged Little Pill went Diamond in the United States, in Britain, and in Australia. Furthermore, to say it went Diamond in Canada would be a gross understatement; it went double-Diamond, meaning that one in every 15 babies, children, teenagers, adults, and seniors bought a copy. Alanis Morissette’s third studio album sold 33 million copies worldwide, becoming the 7th biggest studio album in world history. Besides the songs that made the year-end chart of 1995, three songs from the album made the Top 10 Year-End chart for 1996, including the biggest song of the year, “You Learn”. But she wasn’t the only big name in Canadian music in the years from 1994-96. Three more new women scored diamond albums.


Bryan Adams had seen tremendous success co-writing music with Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Michael Kamen for the movies. Encouraged by the success of “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”, the songwriting trio returned to work to write a song for the film The Three Musketeers, among the stars of which was Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland. The title of the song, “All for One” was inspired by the story’s theme “All for one, and one for all”. It was decided, in keeping with the premise of threes, that a trio of singers should perform the song. Rod Stewart and Sting of The Police were selected and joined Adams to record the song. It was the biggest song of the year in Canada. Adams’ own “Please Forgive Me” finished the year-end chart at #11. Celine Dion’s cover of the Jennifer Rush song “The Power of Love” was 10th (4th in the U.S.). Glass Tiger’s Alan Frew, The Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, the Crash Test Dummies, Gowan, Jann Arden, Roch Voisine, Sass Jordan, and The Tragically Hip had big hits this year.

The most significant of the newcomers was Halifax-born Sarah McLachlan. She performed at Dalhousie University with synth band Moev whose Mark Jowett offered her a recording contract with Vancouver’s Nettwerk Records. Her rise to superstardom was slow and steady. She founded Lilith Fair to showcase female singer-songerwirters. And she has now sold over 40 million records worldwide with a Diamond album to boot. 1993 saw her first bit hit—”Good Enough”.

Belgian-Italian-Canadian Lara Fabian took the French-speaking world by storm. Her second album Carpe Diem was certified double-Platinum in Canada, thanks in part to the hit “Leila”. Her breakthrough in France came with her third album two years later. Pure was a Diamond-seller there. France D’Amour scored with the hit “Mon frère”. Her “J’entends ta voix” was popular in 2004.

Toronto’s eclectic Cowboy Junkies, fronted by Margo Timmins, became a big name this year with their “Anniversary Song”. In contrast musically was David Usher’s hard rock Vancouver band Moist (“Silver”). Sylvain Cossette departed from the band Paradox to launch a successful solo career. This year saw his first big hit—”Tu reviendras”.


I’m broke but I’m happy
I’m poor but I’m kind
I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah
I’m high but I’m grounded
I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed
I’m lost but I’m hopeful, baby
What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be fine fine fine
’cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving a high five

From the nation’s capital, Alanis Morissette instigated a global earthquake. Her album Jagged Little Pill spawned a string of chart-toppers; five of the album’s tracks made the year-end charts for the next two years. The lyrics above are from a song called “Hand in My Pocket” which finished as the 11th biggest song of 1995 and 44th of 1996.

South of Alanis, in Toronto, another A.M. arose—Amanda Marshall. “Let It Rain” was her first big hit. Six songs from her debut album would make the year-end charts over the next three years. The album itself (self-titled) would eventually be certified Diamond. A third female enjoyed a breakthrough this year—St. John’s Kim Stockwood (“She’s Not In Love”). In the realm of country, Inuk singer Susan Aglukark‘s “O Siem” topped the country charts and scaled up to #3 on the pop charts. Her album This Child was certified 3x Platinum. Shania Twain was taking the country music world by storm. We’ll talk about her later when she scored hits on the pop charts at the end of the decade.

The veteran men had the two biggest songs of the year: Tom Cochrane’s “I Wish You Well” (#4) and Bryan Adams’ “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” (#5). There was a big newcomer this year named Kevin Parent. Born in the same locale as Julie Masse (Greenfield Park, QC), he decided to perform in French, although his mother-tongue is English. His debut Francophone album sold an incredible 360,000 copies. He won the Best Male Artist Felix three years in a row. A minor male singer this year was John Bottomley, whose “You Lose You Gain” (#37 year-end) seemed to foreshadow his committing suicide last April.

There were three new rock bands to appear on the charts this year. The first was Vancouver power-pop quartet The Odds (“Truth Untold”). Second was Montreal’s multicultural and humanitarian band Les Colocs (“Bon yeu”). They scored another Felix-nominated song two years later—”Tassez-vous de d’là”. Third was Regina’s folk-rock foursome The Waltons (“End of the World”).

In 1995, for the first time in history, songs by Canadian artists made up one-quarter of the year-end singles chart.


There weren’t any major newcomers this year; there didn’t need to be. Half of the ten biggest songs of the year were from Canadian artists (see below) and 31 of the Top 100 year-end songs were Canadian. South of the border, the third biggest song of the year was Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me”.

Sloan, an alternative rock band originally from Halifax but based in Toronto, enjoyed two big hits: “The Good in Everyone” and “Everything You’ve Done Wrong”. Another outfit that appeared was married couple duo Wild Strawberries. She was a physiotherapist and he was a doctor. Sarah McLachlan lent a hand in their hit “I Don’t Want to Think About It”.

The most successful female who appeared was Luce Dufault whose career was launched from a couple of Luc Plamondon musicals. Nanette Workman had been around for a while but finally scored a Felix-nominated hit (“Le temps de m’y faire”). Perhaps no-one has had such an intriguing career. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, USA, raised in their state of Mississippi as a native English speaker but decided to perform in French, basing herself in Quebec. She has been as successful as an actress. “Une à une” was a second Felix-nominated song from her. Damhnait Doyle had the hit “A List of Things” before forming the band Shaye with Kim Stockwood.

The only noteworthy male performer who appeared was Jean Leloup, or, as he likes to call himself in English, “John, the Wolf”. The bilingual “I Lost My Baby” was popular this year.

In honour of the 25th anniversary of the Juno awards, an album was released with some of the biggest hits in Canadian music over the years. The title was Oh What a Feeling. The 4-disc box set went Diamond.

Top 10 Songs of 1996 in Canada

1. “You Learn” by Alanis Morissette (Canadian)
2. “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette (Canadian)
3. “Change the World” by Eric Clapton (British)
4. “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman (American)
5. “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion (Canadian)
6. “Ahead by a Century” by The Tragically Hip (Canadian)
7. “Follow You Down” by the Gin Blossoms (American)
8. “Key West Intermezzo” by John Mellencamp (American)
9. “Missing” by Everything But The Girl (British)
10. “Head Over Feet” by Alanis Morissette (Canadian)

Coming up is a list of big songs and albums in the mid-90s; a special feature on the Oh What a Feeling album; mini-profiles on semi-major artists Sylvain Cossette, Cowboy Junkies, Luce Dufault, Jean Leloup, Moist, The Odds, Sloan, and Kim Stockwood; and feature profiles on major artists Susan Aglukark, Lara Fabian, Amanda Marshall, Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morissette, and Kevin Parent.

     Copyright 2011 by the Canadian Music Blog

Canadian Music Conquers the World (1990-1993)

The 1990s were the most prolific decade in Canadian music. A score of superstars arose, most of them female with a few rock bands to boot. By the middle of the decade at least a quarter of the songs in the Year-End Singles Chart were from Canadian artists. In fact, due to the plethora of Canadian hits we’re only going to be looking at songs and artists who finished in the year-end charts to avoid lengthy entries. Male superstars Bryan Adams, Corey Hart, and Tom Cochrane continued to churn out hits through the 90s. But the decade really belonged to the women. After Alannah Myles, the next female superstar, who, from many standpoints, became Canada’s empress of pop, was bilingual diva Céline Dion. The 1990s was the decade that taught record companies that Canadian artists did not have to make it big in the U.S. in order to roll in the dough.


Canadians sat glued in front of their radios hearing the following words sung by the voice of an angel:

…But now that seems so far away
Don’t know how love could leave without a trace
Where do silent hearts go?
Where does my heart beat now?
Where is the sound
That only echoes through the night?

At about the same time Americans were drooling over their new vocal sensation Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, who was already a huge name in the French-speaking world, released her debut English crossover album, Unison, with the assistance of producer David Foster and scored an international Top 10 hit. Unlike Alannah Myles, Celine’s popularity was to increase with the release of each subsequent album.

Besides Celine, the biggest newcomer of the year was Laurence Jalbert (“Au nom de la raison”) who was to enjoy several hits through the 90s. The biggest Canadian hit of the year, finishing second on the year-end chart, was Alias’ “More Than Words Could Say”. Their “Waiting for Love” was a big hit the following year. Toronto’s Jane Child became a one-hit wonder with the funky “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love”. Courtney, B.C.’s Juno award winning gifted vocalist Sue Medley scored with “Dangerous Times”. Another Juno award winner saw her breakthrough this year—Julie Masse—with “Sans t’oublier”. Triumph’s Rik Emmett, enjoying a successful solo career, came out with the beautiful ballad “When a Heart Breaks”. Luc De Larochellière saw his first hit—”Sauvez mon âme”. Later hits from him included “Ma generation” and “Kunidé”. Colin James had his biggest hit, “Just Came Back”. This was the most successful year for The Northern Pikes who enjoyed two big hits: “She Ain’t Pretty” and “Girl with a Problem”. Marie Carmen, who started out as a backing vocalist (Claude Dubois and The Box), enjoyed an acting career, and scored her first hit, “Faut pas que j’panique”.

Outside the realm of pop, Nova Scotia’s The Rankin Family ate up the adult contemporary charts and scored a hat trick of multi-platinum albums. Their Fare Thee Well Love sold half a million copies.


As far as we can tell, this was the first year that three and a half of the 5 biggest songs of the year were Canadian. What is meant by the “half”? Rod Stewart’s “The Rhythm of My Heart” was written by Canadian songwriters Marc Jordan and John Capek. The only purely non-Canadian song was American band Extreme’s “More Than Words”.

The year belonged to Bryan Adams. Canadians could never have imagined that Adams would surpass the incredible success he attained with his internationally huge Reckless album back in the mid-80s. But, in 1991, thanks to the blockbuster film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Adams had the biggest song of the year, not only in Canada, but just about everywhere in the world. “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” became one of the biggest-selling singles in world history. The studio album on which it appeared, Waking up the Neighbours, became the second Canadian album ever to top the album charts in Britain (the first was Neil Young’s Harvest 19 years earlier) and became his second album to reach Diamond status in Canada. The album’s “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started” was the third biggest song of the year in Canada.

Celine Dion also sang the theme song for a hit movie. Her “Beauty and the Beast” with Peabo Bryson peaked at #2 on the weekly charts. The (self-titled) album on which it appeared was eventually certified Diamond. Tom Cochrane had the 5th biggest song of the year. “Life Is a Highway” was also a hit in the U.S., peaking at #6 and finishing in their 1992 year-end charts in 18th place. His album Mad Mad World was certified Diamond in Canada.

Two huge rock bands saw their breakthrough this year. Winnipeg’s Crash Test Dummies, led by Brad Roberts’ bass-baritone voice, had their “Superman’s Song”. In 1993, they released an international hit called “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”. The other band, who became one of Canada’s all-time best-selling, was Kingston, Ontario’s The Tragically Hip. “Little Bones” was their first big hit. Although their first album, Up to Here (1989), hadn’t scored any significant hit singles, it was certified Diamond by the end of the 90s. Their second album, Road Apples, which spawned the “Little Bones” hit went 8x Platinum. Les B.B. had a couple of hits in French Canada.

The U.S. and Britain had been able to form all-girl groups like The Bangles, Bananarama, and The Go-Gos. It was now Canada’s turn. Although they managed only a few hits, including this year’s “Not Like Kissing You”, Vancouver’s West End Girls received a Juno nomination and were chosen to open for Roxette on their Canadian tour. The trio’s Camille Henderson is the daughter of Chilliwack frontman Bill Henderson. She starred in the Canadian movie My American Cousin and later sang back up for Sarah McLachlan and was a guest vocalist for electronic outfit Delerium.

Top 5 Songs of 1991 in Canada

1. “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You”, Bryan Adams
2. “More Than Words”, Extreme
3. “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started”, Bryan Adams
4. “The Rhythm of My Heart”, Rod Stewart (song composed by Canadians)
5. “Life is a Highway”, Tom Cochrane


Besides a trio of one-hit wonders—Bruce Huard (“Mona Lisa”), Francis Martin (“Tous les jours je pense à toi”), and Dan Bigras (“Tue-moi”)—there were no significant newcomers this year, save for one. The year-end chart is missing from RPM’s database, but we took a look at all the songs that made the Top 10 in the weekly charts. Celine Dion had her first #1 hit, “If You Asked Me To”, and sang Luc Plamondon’s “Quelqu’un que j’aime, quelqu’un qui m’aime” which was a big song in Quebec. Alannah Myles and Bryan Adams also had #1s this year (“I Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven” and “Song Instead of a Kiss” respectively).

The big newcomer was a Toronto (Scarborough) band called The Barenaked Ladies. “Enid” peaked at #2 on the charts and their album Gordon eventually reached Diamond sales in Canada. The Ladies had a big international hit called “One Week” in 1998. They got into trouble with women’s groups due to their name but responded by explaining, to most Canadians’ satisfaction, that it was an innocent term they used when they were children growing up.


There were a number of newcomers this year both in English and French Canada. The tenth biggest song of the year in the United States was from a Canadian Caucasian reggae artist from Toronto who called himself Snow. “Informer” didn’t do as well at home but still made the year-end chart. His “Everybody Wants to Be Like You” was a bigger song in Canada in Y2K. Canadian comedic actor Jim Carrey pulled a “Weird Al” Yankovic, parodying “Informer” as “Imposter” complete with a music video which was aired on the comedy show “In Living Colour”. 

The biggest Canadian song of the year (20th) at home was Celine Dion’s “Love Can Move Mountains”. Dion was to get a female counterpart this year. Springbank, Alberta’s (near Calgary) Jann Arden saw her first big hit “Will You Remember Me” appear, a song to which Sarah McLachlan seemed to answer in her “I Will Remember You”. McLachlan’s “Building a Mystery” has a similar guitar riff to Arden’s song. (We’ll get to Sarah later on.) Arden achieved international fame in 1994 with “Insensitive”. Mae Moore arose from Brandon, Manitoba (“Because of Love”, “Coat of Shame”). She didn’t see as much success as Arden but, nevertheless, had four big hits in the 90s.

Hamilton’s glam rocker Sven Gali had a hit with the grammatically incorrect “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”. Canadian-American hybrid band Hemingway Corner scored with “Man on a Mission”.

Perhaps Celine Dion’s success had given Quebec a confidence boost (not that they lacked it previously). Many new artists began appearing, one of which became one of the most successful in Francophone rock. His name was Daniel Bélanger (“La folie en quatre”). Laurence Jalbert had the Song of the Year in the province (“Encore et encore”). Francine Raymond had the first of a few hits, “Pense à moi”. Other Felix song-nominated newcomers were Pierre Flynn, Marie Denise Pelletier, and Marie Philippe.

Coming up are a list of big songs during the period followed by mini profiles on semi-major artists Marie Carmen, Laurence Jalbert, Colin James, Julie Masse, Mae Moore, and The Northern Pikes. We will devote separate profiles to major artists Jann Arden, Barenaked Ladies, Daniel Bélanger, Crash Test Dummies, Celine Dion, and The Tragically Hip.

     Copyright 2011 Canadian Music Blog

Rise of Asian, French, and Female Canucks (1987-89)

People often lump all ten years of the 80s together when talking about music. But the late 80s was very different from the early 80s. While the United States was celebrating Madonna’s fusing of new wave and disco in the birth of modern dance music, Canadians, despite an occasional dabble, were moving away from new wave into bare bones rock, perhaps encouraged by Bryan Adams’ success. Things took a sudden sharp turn backwards in 1989 with a veering away from progressive music to more traditional blues, rock, folk, and country. Suddenly, to be “unplugged” with sqeaky acoustic guitars was fashionable, an unexpected move celebrated by some and lamented by others.

The late 80s saw the first (as far as we can remember) French song played on English radio stations, the rise of the first female Canadian rock star, which changed the musical landscape up to the present day, the first French-language Canadian album to be certified Diamond in France (and, no, it wasn’t one of Celine Dion’s!), and one of the most successful Canadian singers of all-time internationally, who remains unknown to most Canadians.


Although the biggest Canadian song of the year was a cover tune (Corey Hart’s rendition of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love”), the year was the second most important of the decade (after 1985) for Canadian music, as twelve domestic ditties made the year-end Top 100 chart. Besides artists we’ve already profiled, there was Winnipegger Joey Gregorash, who had scored some hits back in the early 70s, his biggest being “Jodie”, a #3 hit in 1971. After years of inactivity, he suddenly surfaced again with “Together (The New Wedding Song)”, the second biggest Canadian song of the year. The most important newcomer in 1987 was a country-pop band from Toronto called Blue Rodeo. Their “Try” was the third most popular Canadian song of the year and won the Juno for Song of the Year. Blue Rodeo won the Juno for Best Group of the Year three years in a row.

Newcomers with significant hits that did not quite make the year-end chart included Ottawa’s one-hit wonder band Eight Seconds (“Kiss You When It’s Dangerous”). Sheriff (“When I’m with You”) members had split in half and formed two spin-off groups. The first, Frozen Ghost, came out with hits “Should I See” and “Round and Round”. The second was Alias which scored a megahit in 1990. (Glen) Johansen had played keyboards for Ronnie Hawkins after which he worked as a producer (M+M, FM) especially for reggae acts like Guyana’s Eddy Grant. He enjoyed his own hit single this year: “Walkin’ a Fine Line”. Saskatoon’s The Northern Pikes had their first Top 30 hit this year (“Teenland”). We’ll talk a bit more about them in the early 90s when they saw their biggest success. One of the most popular club bands in Toronto, The Jitters, managed a hit (“Last of the Red Hot Fools”). Another Toronto outfit, the twin DiBlasi sisters, as Tu, made the Top 20 with “Stay with Me”.

She never scored a Top 40 hit … on the pop charts, but Cape Bretoner Rita MacNeil‘s hits on the country and adult contemporary charts enabled five of her albums in row to achieve multi-platinum sales. 1987’s Flying On Your Own was the first to do so. In Quebec, Celine Dion had become a force to be reckoned with; her “Incognito” won the Felix for Song of the Year. Brother and sister René and Nathalie Simard‘s beautiful “Tourne la page” was popular as well.

A treat, especially for those who grew up in the 60s, appeared “somewhere down the crazy river”. The Band’s Robbie Robertson came out with a solo album with contributions from Canadian producer Daniel Lanois, U2, and Peter Gabriel. Robertson won the Juno for Male Artist of the Year. The album, certified 2x Platinum, won the Juno for Album of the Year. Robertson was the principal songwriter for The Band and is ranked as one of the 100 best guitarists of all-time by Rolling Stone magazine.


The next two years are difficult to summarize because RPM weekly charts from October 1988 to May 1989 are missing, and there is no year-end chart for 1988. No songs from Canadian artists appear to have made Billboard’s year-end Top 100 singles chart. We do know that at the end of the year, Tom Cochrane and Red Rider released the album Victory Day finally seeing their big breakthrough: two Top 5 hit singles. It was a long time coming but they finally hit their stride with a driving rock sound. “Big Leauge” was about the death of a promising Canadian ice hockey player and gives the message that exporting Canadian talent to foreign lands is ultimately unsatisfying. New Order-sounding Kon Kan had a big international hit at this time as well: “I Beg Your Pardon”. Punky National Velvet dazzled with “Flesh Under Skin”.

Prior to mid-October…

Regina’s Colin James made a name for himself with “Voodoo Thing” becoming more successful in the 90s with a few Juno Awards. Andrew Cash, before a politician, had a hit single called “Smile Me Down”. A couple of Calgarians teamed up with a Seattle vocalist and recorded two albums in Vancouver with the assistance of Bob Rock and Mike Fraser. The result was four Top 40 hits, their first being “Never Give Up”. The band’s name was BLVD and they opened for Glass Tiger touring Canada. Barney Bentall scored his first hit: “Something to Live For”. Joe Bocan had a hit: “Repartir à zéro”. Richard Seguin was becoming popular (“Tu reviens de loin”). He had performed in previous years with his twin sister Marie-Claire as Les Séguins.

In the world of country music, small-town Alberta native k.d. (Kathryn Dawn) Lang, created a stir with “I’m Down to My Last Cigarette” off her (Platinum) Shadowland album. She was named Female Artist of the Year at the Junos. The following year, she topped the country charts with “Full Moon Full of Love”. In the 90s, she crossed over to pop and won a Grammy Award (U.S. equivalent of the Junos). Lang helped set the stage for the rising popularity of country music in the 90s which saw one of the genre’s top stars arise from Canada, scoring three 2x Diamond albums!

Canada tried its hand at dance music and managed to turn out a couple of hits. “Savin’ Myself” was a dance hit from Hamilton’s Eria Fachin. Sadly, she was diagnosed with cancer while working on her second album. She passed away in 1996, at 36 years old. Candi and the Backbeat had “Dancing Under a Latin Moon”. Her “Love Makes No Promises” made the Top 10 in ’89. Sway covered the European hit “Hands Up (Give Me Your Heart)” from French band Ottawan (not citizens of Ottawa). The cover made the Top 10 in Canada.

On the other side of the world, a Vancouverite had become a sensation. She had recorded albums in English that Canadian radio had ignored. Knowing that the racist Canadian music industry had closed its doors to Canadians of Asian descent (despite its first pop superstar’s belonging to that category), she entered the recording studio and sang from placards of romanized words from the language of her parents—Chinese. The next thing she knew, Sally Yeh was a pop superstar in the most populated country on earth. “Good Luck” was one of the ten biggest songs of the year in China. And from there everything snowballed for her, including playing alongside Chow Yun-Fat in John Woo’s classic masterpiece The Killer. No discussion of Canadian singers who have achieved international superstardom can omit Sally Yeh.


This year saw the first French song played on English radio stations. In an as yet unrecognized national disgrace, the Canadian music industry has contradicted Canada’s policy of bilingualism, that encourages Anglophone youth to learn French, by segregating music based on language. In fact, Canadian English radio stations played two German language songs in the 80s while ignoring songs performed in Canada’s second official language. Although somewhat of a novelty song, the airplay across the country of Mitsou‘s “Bye Bye Mon Cowboy” was the one brief moment that Canada’s music industry showed some nobility.

Just as Anglophone Canadians had always struggled to achieve success in the United Kingdom, Francophones were having equal trouble trying to make it in France. In 1989 fortune came their way as the first French language album from a Canadian became certified Diamond in France. It wasn’t Celine Dion. In fact, it wasn’t a Quebecer. It was an Acadian from New Brunswick named Roch Voisine and his album Helene. (The album was certified 3x Platinum at home). Roch is one of the few Canadians who released successful albums in both official languages. His 1993 English-language album I’ll Always Be There (4x Platinum) spawned four Top 30 singles.

In Quebec, Johanne Blouin was shaking things up with “Dors Caroline”. Outside of French Canada and Chinese-Canadian Sally Yeh’s success abroad, English Canadian music had been dominated by the men whether in terms of soloists or rock bands. The women had been more successful in the folk and country arenas. In the 80s, all eyes were on Luba as one of the first successful women in pop/rock. In 1987/88, she scored a Top 10 hit with a cover of “When a Man Loves a Woman”. This year she did it with an original song: “Giving Away a Miracle”. Arguably, it was Luba who had opened the door for women. And the first one to walk through the door was Toronto’s Alannah Myles, Canada’s first female rock superstar. Her debut album was the third (after Adams’ Reckless and Hart’s Boy in the Box) to be certified Diamond, with domestic sales exceeding a million copies. “Love Is” was the first hit single. The bluesy “Black Velvet” did even better, breaking into the Top 10. Interestingly, the song was received much more enthusiastically in the United States where it went all the way to #1 and finished 18th in the 1990 year-end Billboard chart. Nevertheless it won the Juno for Song of the Year, as did her (self-titled) album for Album of the Year. “Lover of Mine” was her biggest hit from the album in Canada (#2).

Another female who did quite well with a dozen Top 40 hits to her name over the years was Montreal’s Sass Jordan. “Tell Somebody” and “Double Trouble” from her debut album made it to #11 and #12 on the charts respectively. Belleville Ontario rocker Lee Aaron sang “Watcha Do to My Body”.

The biggest Canuck song of the year was Tom Cochrane & Red Rider’s “Good Times”. It peaked at #2 on the charts. Offenbach’s former front man, Gerry Boulet, had the biggest song of the year in Quebec, “Un beau grand bateau”. He died of cancer the following year. Blind blues-rocker Jeff Healey had a hit with “Angel Eyes”. He died of cancer in 2008. Gordon Peterson, under the pseudonym Indio and with the assistance of Joni Mitchell, released one album (Big Harvest) in his career that spawned the Top 10 hit “Hard Sun”, later covered without his permission by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder for the movie Into the Wild. This resulted in a lawsuit.

New bands appearing at the end of the decade included Margo Timmins-fronted The Cowboy Junkies. Their debut album in 1986, consisting mostly of blues covers, did not create much of a stir. But the song “Misguided Angel” off their second album was a minor hit. We’ll talk about them more in the early 90s when they had bigger success. Sylvain Cossette’s Paradox scored with “Waterline”, Niagara Falls’ glam band Brighton Rock with “One More Try”, indie outfit Pursuit of Happiness with “She’s So Young”, and Kelowna BC’s Grapes of Wrath with the hauntingly beautiful “All the Things I Wasn’t”.

Coming up will be a list of big songs in the late 80s, a special on the brother-sister stars Simards and Seguins, mini-profiles on Barney Bentall, The Grapes of Wrath, The Jeff Healey Band, Sass Jordan, kd lang, Rita MacNeil, and Mitsou, and major profiles on Blue Rodeo, Tom Cochrane (and Red Rider), Alannah Myles, Roch Voisine, and Sally Yeh.

Canadian Pride (1985-86)

In the two years following 1984’s dry spell, a total of 50 songs from Canadian artists made the weekly Top 30 National RPM Singles Chart. 1985 was the year that changed everything. Fifteen Canadian artists had Top 30 hits through the year. There were 14 Canadian songs in the year-end Top 100, and the biggest song of the year was Canadian. The year saw three Canadian songs top the charts. And it was the year that witnessed the very first Canadian album certified Diamond. Perhaps the highlight was the coming together of all major Canadian artists to record a charity single for African famine relief. Although the whirlwind that created a swelling of Canadian pride eased up a bit in 1986, it was still a strong year for Canadian music. The RPM Top 100 Year-End Album Charts saw 11 from Canadian artists in 1985 and a dozen in 1986.


At the end of October, 1984, Bryan Adams released his album Reckless and its first single “Run to You”. For some reason, it took some time for the song to climb up the charts, finally cracking the Top 10 on January 12th, 1985. From there, everything snowballed. The album which spawned several additional hits became certified Diamond (1 million copies sold in a country of nearly 26 million at the time) on December 17th. But that wasn’t the only big album that year. Corey Hart released Boy in the Box in mid-June. “Never Surrender” topped the charts and became the biggest song of the year. “Everything in My Heart” was a #1 hit as well (in 1986). And the album became the second in history to attain Diamond sales. Canadian pride soared and the Junos the following year drew a huge audience to see “Never Surrender” win Song of the Year and Reckless win Best Album. Adams and Hart had become national treasures and were the musical heroes that captivated the hearts of the nation.

Canadian artists responded to Bob Geldof’s work with uniting British artists to record “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” to help relieve drought-ridden famine in Ethiopia. They came together as Northern Lights and recorded “Tears Are Not Enough”, another number one single in Canada. We’ll do a special feature on the song in a bit.

Bryan Adams and Corey Hart were not the only names in male singers that year. Scottish-born Torontonian (Lawrence) Gowan scored a #5 hit with “Criminal Mind” from his Strange Animal album (which matched the peak chart position on the album charts). Claude Dubois had a big hit with “Un Chanteur Chant“. Gino Vannelli’s “Black Cars” landed in the Top 5 and his “Huts to Be in Love” the Top 20. Composer and producer David Foster worked heavily on the St. Elmo’s Fire film and his instrumental Love Theme was a Top 10 hit. Paul Janz had his first hit, “Go to Pieces” (#29).

Outside of La Belle Province, the women were nowhere to be heard in ’85, aside from more alternative artists like the creative Jane Siberry (“One More Colour”). Luba made some headways but became a bigger name the following year. The most successful female was Martine St. Clair with her mega-hit “Ce soir l’amour est dans tes yeux”, song of the year winner at the Felix Awards and so irresistible that it was even nominated for a Juno, despite their reputation for snubbing French language music. Nicole Martin’s “Il est en nous l’amour” was nominated for a Felix.

1985 saw the emergence of some huge rock bands, the most notable of which was Platinum Blonde. “Crying over You” was a #1 hit as was their album Alien Shores. Their “Situation Critical” made the Top 10. Vancouver new wave outfit “Strange Advance” scored a minor hit as did Paul Hyde and the Payola$ and newcomers Honeymoon Suite. The latter did better with album sales than hit singles, but nevertheless, scored a Top 10 hit in 1988 with “Love Changes Everything”. Loverboy had a Top 20 hit with “Lovin’ Every Minute of It” and one-hit wonders Idle Eyes with “Tokyo Rose”, but the Parachute Club’s “At the Feet of the Moon” was the most successful, coming just shy of the Top 10. Offenbach and Madame had hits in Québec.


Corey Hart was quick to follow up his Diamond album with Fields of Fire in 1986. The first single “I Am by Your Side” peaked at #12 on the RPM charts, while his cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” topped the charts in early ’87. The year, however, belonged to Glass Tiger. Their “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)” was a number one hit, the 4th biggest of the year and nabbed the Juno Award for Song of the Year. Their 4x Platinum album The Thin Red Line churned out three more hits, all of which broke into the Top 20. A third release came off of Platinum Blonde’s Alien Shores album which was a good thing because it became their only hit south of the border. The song was “Somebody Somewhere”. Honeymoon Suite released a new album—The Big Prize—which spawned two hits that did equally well. The Parachute Club and M+M scored minor hits with “Love Is Fire” and “Song in my Head” respectively. Loverboy’s song “Heaven in your Eyes”, from the Top Gun soundtrack, did moderately well.

There were some newcomers in 1986. Ottawa duo One to One scored a pair of hits from their Forward Your Emotions album. Springing from Talent Quest, Cats Can Fly’s synth-pop “Flippin’ to the ‘A’ Side” peaked at #16. Another synth ensemble—Chalk Circle—came out with “April Fool” that just squeaked into the Top 100 songs of the year. PEI’s Haywire scored with “Bad Bad Boy” and The Partland Brothers (Chris and G.P.) with “Soul City”. Nuance’s “Vivre dans la nuit” sold 70,000 copies and was nominated for Song of the Year at the Junos. Perhaps the most significant addition to 80s bands was Men Without Hats’ new wave spinoff band The Box (“L’affaire Dumoutier”).

Anne Murray crossed over into pop/rock with a comeback hit – “Now and Forever (You and Me)” and Luba became a household name with “How Many (Rivers to Cross)”. Jano Bergeron’s “Recherche” was nominated for a Felix Award. Having departed the band Corbeau, lead singer Marjo embarked on a very successful solo career and won the Félix Song of the Year with “Chats sauvages”. David Foster teamed up with English-Australian diva Olivia Newton-John in “The Best of Me”.

Je voudrais voir New York” was a hit for Daniel Lavoie. Patrick Norman had a stellar year thanks to “Quand on est en amour”. Max Webster’s lead singer Kim Mitchell scored a hit as a soloist called “Patio Lanterns”. And Red Rider’s front man began veering away from the group to lead an even more successful solo career; Tom Cochrane scored a minor hit with “Boy Inside the Man”.

Forthcoming will be a list of Canadian hit singles and albums on the RPM charts in 1985-86; an entry with mini-profiles on semi-major acts The Box, Paul Janz, Haywire, Honeymoon Suite, Luba, Kim Mitchell, Patrick Norman, and Platinum Blonde; a special feature on the making of the “Tears Are Not Enough” charity single; and separate feature profiles on major artists David Foster, Glass Tiger, Gowan, and Marjo.

New Wave and Electronic Rock (1980-84)

In the early 80s, dance music became less popular in the English-speaking world. It was to be reborn several years later. Punk rock whose appeal was confined for the most part to the United Kingdom morphed into new wave. The synthesizer, Bob Moog’s 1963 invention, had made appearances in rock throughout the 70s, but a number of British artists began experimenting with using the synthesizer as the lead and sometimes only instrument. This new electronic rock helped spawn a second British Invasion. Arguably, with acts like Images in Vogue, Strange Advance, Rational Youth, Blue Peter, Moev, The Spoons, and Rough Trade, Canada was more keen on developing synthesizer-driven pop than the United States. The most popular new wave act was perhaps Vancouver-based The Payola$.

With the new styles in music, radio was friendlier to some artists than to others. The so-called underground music scene became exceptionally popular as did college radio which picked up the slack. In order to help promote and recognize more experimental music, the CASBY awards were established in 1981 to honour excellence in independent or “alternative” music and artists.

Guitar-oriented new wave group Corbeau was somewhat successful in Québec. When it disbanded in 1984, female singer Marjo embarked on a solo career. Québec never grew tired of dance music. With the new interest in synthesizers, electronics were added to the genre care of acts like Trans X and the hugely successful Men Without Hats. English Canada experimented with dancier new wave and came up with male/female combo outfits like The Parachute Club and Martha and the Muffins, which later became known as M+M.

After new wave, the second most popular genre in the early 80s, which did not receive as much radio airplay, was heavy metal. A few artists in Canada dabbled in this, like Helix, Toronto, and Chilliwack spin-off The Headpins, and some combined electronics with hard rock, like Aldo Nova and supergroup Loverboy.

Curiously, a backlash against this new-fangled music emerged in parallel. A number of groups performing more traditional blues rose to prominence, the most notable of which were The Powder Blues Band, Doug and the Slugs, and a cappella group The Nylons. Medicine Hat (Alberta) risqué country band Showdown debuted in 1980 and Montréal fusion-jazz outfit UZEB in 1981. Scottish import Eric Robertson, a composer, pianist and organist scored a multi-platinum album entitled Magic Melodies.

A number of acts did not deviate from straight-forward pop: The Kings, Teenage Head, Straight Lines, Sheriff, and Red Rider (whom we’ll feature later in conjunction with front man Tom Cochrane’s solo career). But it was primarily the solo artists who performed mainstream pop and a few of them were to become the biggest names in Canadian music history.

Diane Tell (who also performed with aforementioned UZEB), Véronique Béliveau, and Martine Saint-Clair made headways in French Canada. René‘s little sister Nathalie Simard became a child star in the early 80s. In 1983, Céline Dion emerged and blew everyone in the province away. We’ll talk about her later when she achieved international superstardom.

In English Canada, debuts from women were notably absent during this period. For the men, however, it was a very different story. From Montréal, an English singer who liked to wear sunglasses at night released a sleeper hit album in 1983. No one knew just how popular he was to become by the middle of the decade. His name was Corey Hart. An ex-Sweeney Todd Vancouverite singer got some attention with his “Let Me Take You Dancing” in 1979. But, frustrated with his lack of big success, he teamed up with songwriter Jim Vallance, changed his singing style from smooth to gravelly, and released Cuts Like a Knife in early 1983. For Bryan Adams all hell broke loose, and he captivated the nation eventually becoming the most successful Canadian artist of all-time. The biggest male name in French songs was perhaps Manitoba-born Daniel Lavoie. Although he started out in the 70s, his popularity skyrocketed in the early 80s, and he garnered a few Félix Awards. In 1998, he teamed up with two other singers and released the third best-selling single of all time in France.

The best-selling albums during the period were those from Anne Murray, Loverboy, Ginette Reno, and the aforementioned Eric Robertson. Another big-seller was the novelty comedy record Bob & Doug McKenzie‘s Great White North responsible for a couple of hit songs, including the Geddy Lee (Rush) led “Take Off”.

It is also worth noting that, outside of Québec, which had a very productive year, significant Canadian music was practically non-existent in 1984. Sherry Kean scored a Top 20 hit with “I Want You Back” and Italy-born Zappacosta became known in some circles with his debut release. But no Canadian song made the weekly Top 10 in the RPM charts throughout the entire year. Furthermore, no Canadian song made the year-end CHUM chart, and the Juno Awards were delayed. What happened in 1985, however, was to more than make up for it.

With the ever-increasing popularity of music videos, Canada launched a national channel called MuchMusic at the end of August in 1984. Although criticized for focussing too much on music from and that appealed to Torontonians (where the station was based), and showcasing too much American-style black and Spanish music, it enabled a number of Canadian artists to gain exposure and make breakthroughs. Two years later, a French language version was aired called MusiquePlus.

MuchMusic was also criticized for airing too many movies, game and reality shows when most people tuned in to see the MVs. The channel responded to all the criticism by launching MuchMoreMusic in 1998 which played more MVs and music that appealed more to adult Canadians.

Eventually, MuchMusic replaced CBC’s Good Rockin’ Tonite which was broadcast from Vancouver.

Coming up, we’ll provide a list of significant Canadian songs in the early 80s, followed by a special feature on Bob & Doug McKenzie’s The Great White North album, and then mini-profiles on semi-major acts Martha and the Muffins, The Parachute Club, Martine St-Clair, and Toronto, and finally individual profiles on major artists Men Without Hats, The Payola$, Loverboy, Diane Tell, Véronique Béliveau, Corey Hart, Daniel Lavoie, and Bryan Adams.

Crossroads and Consolidation (1976-79)

While the early to mid 70s were bustling with popular Canadian acts, things had slowed down by the late-70s. There were perhaps three reasons for this. The first was that, while the rest of the world became swept up in disco fever, Canadian artists remained aloof from this genre of music with the odd exception like Patsy Gallant or the T.H.P. Orchestra. Coinciding with this was the decline in popularity of folk music, the style that had been Canada’s specialty. Furthermore, the big names in music were sliding into retirement. Things were to pick up and surpass previous prominence of Canuck music, however, in the 1980s, which saw the first Canadian album to be certified diamond.

The late-70s were in fact a crossroads of artists retiring and new ones emerging who didn’t skyrocket to prominence until the following decade. One of these was the rock band Rush. Though their debut came in 1974, they didn’t score a major hit until 1978′s “Closer to the Heart” and steadily rose to notoriety in the early 80s. Rush is one of the longest-lived and most popular Canadian rock bands. Though never scoring a lot of radio-played hit singles, they have remained a highly successful album-oriented act, as 13 of their studio albums have gone platinum. They are considered the fifth best-selling rock band in history internationally after The Beatles, Rolling Stones, KISS, and Aeorsmith respectively.

A band that often worked and co-wrote songs with Rush was Max Webster. They managed a Platinum album in 1979. In the 80s, member Kim Mitchell embarked on a solo career and did much better.

In terms of bands that scored hits, Vancouver’s Trooper was king in this period with ten Top 40 hits (3 more after 1979). Their album Hot Shots was the first Canadian album to go 4x Platinum in Canada. Toronto’s Triumph didn’t do as well, as their popularity remained mostly in eastern Canada where they scored the 1979 hit “Hold On” and “Magic Power” in 1981. But, unlike Trooper, they have managed to become inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. Prism arguably faired better than Triumph with six platinum albums, two major hits (“Night to Remember” and “Young & Restless”), and Juno Award for Group of the Year in 1981. Regina’s Streetheart rose to fame with their cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb”. Randy Bachman, after his departure from B.T.O., formed a new band, Ironhorse. They released only two albums and scored one Top 30 hit: “Sweet Lui Louise”.

Other bands in this period were Harlequin and the new wave outfit Saga who managed several minor radio hits. Canada was heading into more progressive electronic rock thanks to Nash the Slash and FM.

Because they started out in Canada, it is worth mentioning the American band Heart. Sweeney Todd released the huge hit “Roxy Roller” but disbanded quickly, two of their members going solo. The first, Nick Gilder, scored a couple of huge hits, one being the biggest of the late-70s, but faded into obscurity after. The second, Bryan Adams, did not see success come as easily, but once he found his signature formula, he became the biggest Canadian solo artist of all-time. We will profile him in the 80s.

The biggest solo artist of the late-70s was former Guess Who front man Burton Cummings. His first hit was “Stand Tall” in 1976. Success came for Angèle Arsenault in 1977 with the multi-platinum album, Libre.

Though he debuted in 1970, folk-pop singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn‘s big breakthrough came in 1979 thanks to “Wondering Where the Lions Are”. Paul Piché‘s solo album went platinum the same year. Martin Stevens’ single “Love is in the Air” went gold while Claudja Barry‘s “Boogie Woogie Dancing Shoes” went Platinum. Respected guitarist Pat Travers churned out some his best material during the late 70s. (Jerry) Doucette‘s debut release, Mama Let Him Play, earned platinum status. Bells’ former pianist Frank Mills released his “Music Box Dancer” instrumental, the sheet music of which has sold in excess of 3 million copies. Diane Tell and Véronique Béliveau both released debut albums in 1977. They became highly successful in the 80s, and we will take a look at them later.

Number One singles in the late 70s were Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, Burton Cummings’ “Stand Tall”, Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch”, Anne Murray’s “You Needed Me” and “I Just Fall in Love Again”, and Gino Vannelli’s “I Just Wanna Stop”. Nick Gilder departed from Sweeny Todd after their Number One smash “Roxy Roller”, and came out with the biggest Canadian song of the late-70s: “Hot Child in the City”, 7th biggest song of the year 1978 according to CHUM FM. “The Theme from S.W.A.T.” by the T.H.P. Orchestra, which earned them the Most Promising Group of the Year Juno in 1977, was also a number one single. Patsy Gallant’s “Sugar Daddy” won the Song of the Year Juno in 1978. Pianist André Gagnon took home the Album of the Year Juno in 1978 for his Neiges, breaking B.T.O.’s three-year streak in the category.

Outside the realm of pop, some big names at this time: celebrated jazz trombonist Rob McConnell, classical pianist and composer André Gagnon, Nova Scotian female country singer Carroll Baker, earthy folk singer Stan Rogers, and hugely successful children’s music trio Sharon, Lois & Bram.

In 1979, due to the Juno Awards’ lack of attention to fracophone artists, Quebec launched the Felix Awards. For more on this, click HERE.

Below are mini-profiles on Heart, Streetheart, Sweeney Todd, and Nick Gilder.


Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson who have hitherto sold over 30 million albums worldwide, started out in Vancouver, Canada, so we will take a brief look at them here.

In 1967, Roger Fisher formed a Seattle-based band called The Army that went through a number of personnel and name changes. In late-1970, Ann Wilson joined. Roger’s brother, Mike, was set to be recruited, against his will, into the army to fight in Vietnam. When he failed to show up for duty, American authorities raided his home. He jumped out of a rear window and escaped to freedom in Canada. The Americans labeled him a “Vietnam War Draft Dodger”.

One day in 1971, Mike snuck across the border back to the U.S. to visit family. There he met Ann Wilson and the two fell in love. This prompted Ann to follow Mike back into Canada. This led other band members to follow suit. They reformed in Vancouver, and changed their name to Heart. Ann’s sister Nancy joined in 1974 and began a love affair with Roger.

The band, augmented by some Canadian studio musicians (one of whom permanently joined the band as their drummer) released Dreamboat Annie on Vancouver’s Mushroom Records label. Singles “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man” helped the album to eventually sell over a million copies.

In 1977, The American government returned to policies more in keeping with democracy and granted amnesty to Vietnam draft evaders. This led the band to break its contract with Mushroom and move back to Seattle.


This band from Regina, formed in 1977, is best known for their cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb” as well as “Action”, “What Kind of Love is This”, and “One More Time”. Four of their albums attained platinum status, one going multi-platinum. In 1980, they received the Juno Award for Most Promising Group of the Year. They disbanded in 1983.

Sweeney Todd / Nick Gilder

This glam rock band that formed in Vancouver in 1975, with Nick Gilder on vocals, scored the #1 hit “Roxy Roller” winning them a Juno Award for Best Single in 1977. Gilder quickly left the band after its success to pursue a solo career. He was replaced by Clark Perry, an arrangement that was short-lived, and Bryan Adams, then only 15 years old, took over on vocals. The band’s second album was finally released but was unsuccessful, resulting in Adams’ departure. Chris Booth took over on vocals but Sweeney Todd had, by then, run out of steam and disbanded before recording any further albums.

In the meantime, Nick Gilder, born in London, England in 1951, was enjoying a hugely successful solo career. His “Hot Child in the City” topped the charts for weeks and won the 1979 Juno for Single of the Year. It was the 7th biggest song of 1978 according to Toronto’s CHUM Radio. It performed equally well in the American Charts. Gilder’s “Here Comes the Night” made the Top 30 and “You Really Rock Me” the Top 40. In 1980, “Wild Ones (Feeling Electric)” and “Catch 22″ made the Top 30, but further success proved unattainable. He began composing for other artists, most notably Patty Smyth, Bette Midler, Joe Cocker, and Pat Benatar. In 1984, he co-wrote the song “The Warrior” for the band Scandal, which made the Top 10 in the U.S.

Recording Certifications (1973-75)

The biggest development in the Canadian music industry in the mid-70s was that the CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association) began to present various certification awards (gold, platinum, diamond, etc.) to albums and singles that attained sales of a defined number of units. Albums that sold 50,000 copies were certified “Gold”; 100,000 “Platinum”; 200,000 “2x Platinum”; 1 million, “Diamond”. On 1 August 1975, the first three Canadian albums were certified Platinum: Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s Four Wheel Drive, Beau Dommage’s self-titled album, and Paul Anka’s Anka.
In the mid-70s, the world was being swept up in ABBA fever. Canadians were taken up in this whirlwind as well but another foreign band became Canada’s favourite and was by far more successful in Canada than in another other country. Its name was Supertramp. Canada’s love affair with Supertramp was to continue on well beyond its retirement in 1982. Two of the band’s albums were to reach diamond status. In terms of homegrown talent, the mid-70s was one of the most productive periods in Canadian music history. The biggest year of the decade for Canadian music was 1974. Three of the Top 10 songs of the year (including #1) were by Canadian artists. But let’s begin with 1973.


The two biggest Canadian songs of the year were “Last Song” by Edward Bear (#16) and “Danny’s Song” by Anne Murray (#50). The third biggest was by a short-lived outfit called Skylark (“Wildflower” – #52). The most significant thing about this Vancouver-based band was that one of its members went on to become an internationally famous music producer and composer, responsible for smash hits from such artists as Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Chicago, Josh Groban, and many others. His name? David Foster. We will profile him later on in a special entry dedicated to Canadian music producers.
British-born Keith Hampshire never became a superstar but had two big hits in 1973: “Daytime Night-time” and his cover of Cat Stevens’ “First Cut is the Deepest”. Another import from the U.K. was Scottish-born Murray McLauchlan, one of the most significant folk singers of the 70s. He had a big hit in ’73: “Farmer’s Song”. New Brunswick’s French folk singer Edith Butler began composing her own material in 1973 and, with growing recognition (she won a number of awards) and popularity, she found her albums going gold in the 80s.
One-hit wonders duo Gary and Dave scored with “Could You Ever Love Me Again”. They were fairly popular in Europe but left the music business to become airline pilots. Another short-lived outfit was The Defranco Family, comprised of five Italian-Canadian siblings. Their debut single “Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat” reached #3 on the Billboard charts and sold 2 million copies. They were also successful with “Abra-Ca-Dabra” and “Save the Last Dance for Me”.
The real-life brother of hoser “Doug McKenzie” (eh), Ian Thomas got going with the hit “Painted Ladies” from his debut album. It reached #4 in Canada and #34 in the U.S. He’d started out in the band Tranquility Base at the turn of the decade. Several other Top 40 hits followed well into the 80s: “Liars”, “Coming Home”, “Hold On”, “Chains”, and “Levity”. We like “I Really Love You” (a 70s synthesizer ballad) and “Harmony”, both of which received radio airplay.
Chilliwack, named after a medium-sized city in British Columbia, grew out of a 60s band called The Collectors. They made the Top 10 in ’73 with “Lonesome Mary” and scored several more hits in the decade culminating in their and #1 hit in the early 80s: “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)”.


“We had joy. We had fun. We had seasons in the sun.” These words typified the year, and the song that housed them, after spending four months on the charts, was not only the biggest of the year but also of the decade; it sold 11 million copies worldwide making it one of the most successful singles of all-time. Previously, we’d mentioned The Poppy Family, consisting of a husband-wife duo who scored two big hits. After their divorce, the husband—Terry Jacks—embarked on a brief solo career, which yielded this one lone hit. It won a Juno Award two years in a row for best-selling single, resulting in Winnipegger Jacks himself being awarded with male artist of the year in 1974. After the success of “Seasons in the Sun”, Jacks moved on to producing for such artists as The Beach Boys, Nana Mouskouri, DOA, and the aforementioned Chilliwack.
The third biggest song of 1974 was Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” and the ninth was Paul Anka’s “You’re Having My Baby”. Andy Kim and Joni Mitchell had big hits this year with “Rock Me Gently” and “Help Me” respectively.
The Guess Who scored a hit with “Clap for the Wolfman” (#68 of the year). As we’d mentioned, Randy Bachman had left the group. And what was good ol’ Randy up to? Forming his own band. The early 70s was a time of sappy, soft rock, which wasn’t for everyone. The last echoes of harder rock that had dominated the 60s faded out with the retirement of Creedence Clearwater Revival in ’72. But Randy Bachman picked up the slack that same year when he, with brothers and friends, formed Bachman-Turner Overdrive. They began recording in 1973 but it took a year before radio began airing their gearhead, workingman rock. Were they popular? You bet. Their rock anthem “Takin’ Care of Business” continues to be popular today and finished the year ’74 in 66th spot. They did even better with the song that launched arena rock, always a favourite at roller and skating rinks—”You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”—the 16th biggest song of the year.
Believe it or not, there were two bands whose albums outsold B.T.O.’s. Their names? Harmonium and Beau Dommage. Unlike B.T.0. they were each able to achieve multi-platinum certifications for a couple of albums. Three of Harmonium’s albums appear in Bob Mersereau’s “Top 100 Canadian Albums”.
Canadian news anchor Byron MacGregor read a newspaper editorial written by Gordon Sinclair about the United States which garnered such a huge response that he was asked to record “The Americans” over the soundtrack “America the Beautiful” performed by The Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The record became a big hit, reaching #4 on the Billboard singles chart and #1 in Canada. It finished the year ’74 in 67th place. It was re-released in 1979 after the Iran hostage crisis and in 2001 after the 9-11 Attacks. The recording has sold over 3 ½ million copies and all of his proceeds have been donated to The American Red Cross.
1974 was also the year that saw the debut from new age guitarist (one of the best in the world) Liona Boyd. Italian Montrealer Gino Vanelli realized his breakthrough with “People Gotta Move”. And Diane Juster, after becoming popular via performances of her songs by Julie Arel began to shine on her own.


Paul Anka, teamed up with Odia Coates, continued his comeback with three huge hits: “One Man Woman/One Woman Man” (the biggest Canadian song of the year), “I Don’t Like To Sleep Alone”, and “(I Believe) There’s Nothing Stronger Than Our Love”. Bachman-Turner Overdrive also scored a hat trick with “Hey You” (2nd biggest Canuck tune of the year), “Roll On Down the Highway”, and “Quick Change Artist”. The Stampeders had two big hits: “New Orleans” and “Hit the Road Jack”. Quebec’s Michel Pagliaro scored an English hit with “What the Hell I Got”.
A newcomer that year was Hagood Hardy. “The Homecoming”, an easy listening tune of great beauty, was the third biggest Canadian hit of the year. Hardy was born in the U.S. as his mother was an American citizen. After studying at the University of Toronto, he played the vibraphone in jazz clubs before recording solo works. Later on, he scored the music for CBC-TV’s “Anne of Green Gables” series. Pianist Andre Gagnon came out with a winning album, Neiges. It became the first Canadian album to reach multi-platinum status in the country and won a Juno Award for Album of the Year. Children’s music got a big boost when Raffi released his debut album.
1975 also saw the debut of one of the most popular singers of the late-70s, Dan Hill. This year he scored a moderate hit; his “You Make Me Want to Be” broke into the Top 30.

The Canadian Invasion (1970-1972)

April WineBy the 1970s, Canadians had had enough of their musicians taking the best of the nation’s music to the United States because they couldn’t earn a living at home. To discourage this, two significant building blocks in the development of the Canadian music industry were put in place. The first of these was the establishment of the Juno Awards. The televised annual ceremony, held amidst a gala of stars, gave out awards to the best in Canadian music.
The second, which was controversial, involved the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announcing new regulations governing Canadian broadcasting. The new rules required that 30% of the songs on playlists of Canada’s AM radio stations had to fulfill two of the following four characteristics: the music was composed by Canadians, the lyrics were written by Canadians, the recording artist was Canadian, and the recording was performed (i.e. recorded) in Canada. The regulations, known as MAPL, were designed to compel radio stations to promote Canadian music.
Although some radio stations fulfilled the rules defiantly by playing the Canadian songs early in the morning or late at night, the new regulations allowed the Canadian music industry to really take off. The first artist to benefit from the new rules was Anne Murray whose song “Snowbird” became an international multi-million seller. With the groundbreaking international success of The Guess Who, a number of acts who’d been ignored by radio in the 60s saw breakthroughs in the 70s (Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Lighthouse, The Five Man Electrical Band, and The Bells). This precipitated what became known in the United States as the “Canadian Invasion”.

Female Stars

First and foremost was Anne Murray who would go on to sell over 54 million records worldwide becoming a national treasure. Second in rank was Diane Dufresne, the first francophone female rocker. Patsy Gallant emerged and released successful songs in both French and English. Country singer Renée Martel had three chart toppers from 1972-1973: “Un Amour Qui Ne Veut Pas Mourir”, “Partir Au Soleil”, and “Si On Pouvait Recommencer”. The other big country singer who began rising to fame and glory was Carroll Baker.

Male Stars

The men were more plentiful (haven’t things changed since the 90s!). First in rank would be Gordon Lightfoot. Although his debut came in 1962, his big (international) breakthrough came eight years later. Neil Young had finished dabbling with Buffalo Springfield and went solo. He was always more successful outside of Canada, especially in the U.S. And he had the first #1 album in Britain by a Canadian artist. Pianist André Gagnon rose to prominence as did Frank Mills after his departure from The Bells.
A number of other singers emerged, like R. Dean Taylor, whom American critics consider one of the most underrated acts ever to record under the Motown label. His “Indiana Wants Me”, which opened the decade, made the Top 5 south of the border, becoming one of the label’s first hits from a white artist. The following year, Taylor came out with “Gotta See Jane” which did even better in Canada, finishing as one of the biggest Top 40 hits of the year in his native Toronto.
Tex Lecor achieved international success with the Georges Langford song “Le Frigidaire”, which he, amazingly, recorded in five languages. The French version topped the charts in Quebec for five straight weeks in early ’72. His “Quand Ca Ne Tourne Pas Rond” also did well. Award-winning folk music came from Ottawa-native Valdy.
Donald Lautrec continued churning out French hits (he was the one who sang a French version of “Whiter Shade of Pale” called “Le Jour du dernier jour”). On Remembrance Day in 1972, Lautrec’s “Le Mur Derriere La Grange” peaked at #2 on the Montreal charts. 1972 also was a big year for Georges Dor. Not only did his “Pour La Musique” top the charts in Quebec, but CKAC radio designated Dor’s “La Manic” as the most popular song of the last fifty years.


The early 70s, like the late-60s, were dominated by The Guess Who, naturally. Their “American Woman” was the 2nd biggest Canadian tune of the whole decade and they had five additional songs that made the yearly Top 100. Perhaps the second most significant band of the period was April Wine with three huge hits that decade (and a couple in the early 80s). Bluesy Offenbach became a formidable force as well. Calgary‘s The Stampeders scored three major hits.  
Lighthouse succeeded with “One Fine Morning” (1971) and “Pretty Lady” (1973). They won Juno Awards for Best Group of the Year in 1973 and ’74. The Five Man Electrical Band‘s “Signs” was the 22nd biggest song of the year in 1971 and they subsequently scored with “I’m a Stranger here” two years later. Original Caste scored two major hits in 1970: “Mr. Monday” and “One Tin Soldier”. They disbanded the following year.
There were a couple of one-hit wonder bands that appeared. The first of these was Mashmakhan. Their “As the Years Go By” was the 10thbiggest hit of 1970. The following year, gospel-ish Ocean came out with the third most successful Canuck song of the decade: “Put Your Hand in the Hand”.
Before moving on to the big guns, below are mini-profiles of semi-major acts: Patsy Gallant and The Bells / Frank Mills.

Patsy Gallant

Patsy was one of ten children who all sang in a family group, The Gallant Sisters. She began singing when she was five. In 1967, she started a solo career, appearing in TV commercials and variety shows. Her debut album appeared in 1970 and she became, not only one of the few Canadians to have hits in both official languages (English and French) but also one of the few successful Canadian disco artists later in the decade. Patsy Gallant’s “Tout Va Trop Vite” reached No. 3 on the Canadian French charts in 1972. Later in the decade she had huge success with “From New York to L.A.”, and her “Sugar Daddy” was the best-selling Canadian single of the year in 1978. She won the Juno Award for Best Female Singer of the Year in both 1977 and 1978.

The Bells / Frank Mills

The Bells were a Montreal outfit who debuted in 1968. But their first big hit came in 1971—”Stay Awhile”, the 27th biggest song of the year. Their “Fly Little White Dove, Fly” was nominated for a Juno. Pianist Frank Mills departed for a successful solo career performing instrumental piano pop. His first major hit, which faired much better in Canada (topping the charts) than the U.S., was “Love Me Love Me Love” in 1972. “Pretty Little Fool” followed that year. His huge international breakthrough, however, came in 1979 care of his album Music Box Dancer with two hit singles: its title-track and “Peter Piper”. The album reached #21 on the Billboard charts and its title-track reached #3.

Broadcasters Drop Support (1967-1969)

Young Canada Singers - CanadaSomething must have happened at the end of 1966 but what exactly is a mystery. While 1965 and 1966 saw 53 and 45 Top 40 Canadian hits respectively, 1967 saw only 28, only two of which made the Top 10. This is ironic given that 1967 was Canada’s centennial year. The year that should have seen the most support towards Canadian music instead saw a turning away from it. While discussion commonly blames the British Invasion, consider that the majority of the year’s ten biggest hits were by American artists. Even more ironic was that a weekly singles chart was released on July 1, 1967 (Canada’s centennial birthday), and, for the first time in chart history, not a single entry by a Canadian artist appeared in the Top 40. This downturn in broadcasters’ support of Canadian music was lowest in 1968 when, through the entire year, only seven songs by Canadian artists made the Top 40. A few key players began to call for Canadian content regulations which were to eventually be launched in the early 1970s. With the CRTC established in 1968 and MAPL regulations on their way, 1969 saw an upswing, though many of the Canadian hits were aired on Canadian radio only after they had charted in the United States.

The top Canadian song of 1967 was “Canada” by The Young Canada Singers, the only #1 hit and only Canadian entry on the year-end Top 100 (41st of the year). It sold 270,000 copies. The song was written by Bobby Gimby (lyrics) and Ben McPeek (music) in honour of the centennial and Expo 67 and sung by a choir of children, versions recorded in both official languages. The year also saw the Top 40 debut of The Collectors who later re-Christened themselves Chilliwack. They started out as a promotional tool for Vancouver CHR station CFUN. CFUN later changed format being unable to compete with the much more popular CKLG. Although he has never scored any Top 40 hits (his songs covered by other artists have charted), poet Leonard Cohen is considered a principal figure in the realm of songwriting, and he debuted in 1967.

Already a popular folk singer in Québec, Robert Charlebois ventured to California experiencing the movement of psychedelic rock which reshaped his musical vision. He staged the experimental, psychedelic show L’Osstidcho in 1968 Montréal which forever changed the face of song in Québec. His “Lindberg” became a huge hit. The most successful Anglophone soloist of the late-60s was Andy Kim. He scored 13 Top 40 hits through his career. “How’d We Ever Get This Way” reached #9 on the RPM charts in 1968. “Baby I Love You” was the top Canadian song of 1969 (11th of the year, RPM). Andy was also the co-composer of The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar” one of the biggest hits of all-time worldwide. One of the most successful Canadian bands of all-time debuted on the charts in 1968 thanks to “Morning Magic”—Calgary’s The Stampeders. Although remembered mainly for their chart topper “Sweet City Woman” in 1971, the band managed 15 Top 40 hits, seven of which made the Top 10.

“Which Way You Goin’ Billy” was a Top 10 hit for The Poppy Family in 1969. Terry Jacks from the outfit was to score a massive worldwide hit as a soloist in the mid-70s (“Seasons in the Sun”). London, Ontario’s Motherlode scored the big international hit “When I Die”. Canadian radio stations aired it only after it had become a Top 20 hit in the United States and sold half a million copies.


1967’s Biggest Hits
1968’s Biggest Hits
1969’s Biggest Hits
Leonard Cohen
Robert Charlebois
Andy Kim
The Stampeders

Birth of Nationwide Music Charts (1964-1966)

RPM Magazine March 8, 1965Prior to 1964, Canada did not have national song charts. Walt Grealis, OC, eager to develop a dynamic music industry in Canada, decided to take it upon himself to establish this via his magazine RPM. Single-handedly, he contacted record stores and radio stations across the country and painstakingly compiled the charts every week often working into the night. RPM became the authority for national music charts for 36 years and until Nielsen took over the role in the new millennium. The first single from a Canadian artist to top the nationwide charts was “Ringo” by broadcaster and actor Lorne Greene. It was a spoken word country and western tune. Another country artist in the period was Lucille Star who scored several hits, some with her partner Bob Regan (the duo was dubbed The Canadian Sweethearts). Her “French Song” was popular in 1964.

Vancouver’s Terry Black emerged as a teen star and managed several hits including “Unless You Care”. He made an appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. After working full-time for the Bell Telephone Company, Shirley Matthews scored the major hit “Big Town Boy” recorded in New York. After retiring from professional singing, she became an accomplished tennis and squash player and now owns a fitness and racquet club chain. When she was 10, Gale Garnett emigrated from New Zealand to Canada and became both a singer and an actress. “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” reached #2 on the charts and won a US Grammy Award.

Edmonton became somewhat of a musical hub in the 60s thanks to a number of Edmontonian stars which included the Allan Sisters and Wes Dakus. The latter built a recording studio in the city. Barry Allen, guitarist for Wes Dakus’ band The Rebels enjoyed a fairly successful solo career. Buffy Sainte-Marie, Canada’s first high-profile First Nations musician arose writing “Universal Soldier” which was later covered by Scottish artist Donovan.

Although in the midst of the British invasion, a remarkable number to hits were scored by Canadian artists in 1965 and 1966. (This was to change in the late 60s downturn). Leading the way was rock band The Guess Who. From 1965 to 1975, they scored 33 Top 40 hits. When their fame skyrocketed internationally in the early 1970s, they led what was dubbed “The Canadian Invasion” in the United States. Another group that did well was Little Caesar and the Consuls. Their song “You Really Got a Hold on Me” (a cover of The Miracles’ 1962 hit) topped the charts in 1965. The following year, they cracked the Top 10 with “You Laugh Too Much”. Embryonic forms of Steppenwolf (The Sparrows) and The Five Man Electrical Band (The Staccatos) scored hits during the mid-60s.

Departing from country band Les Montagnards, Claude Dubois released a solo album in the mid-60s and landed two big hits: “J’ai Souvenir Encore” and “Ma petite vie”. He became one of the all-time greats of Franco music in Canada including induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Debuting in 1966, Michel Pagliaro was to become one of the few Canadian acts who has scored hits in both official languages. He was the first to score Gold records in both English and French.


1964’s Biggest Hits
1965’s Biggest Hits
1966’s Biggest Hits
Buffy Sainte-Marie
The Guess Who
Claude Dubois
Michel Pagliaro
Five Man Electrical Band
Mini Profiles on Barry Allen, Terry Black, and Little Caesar & the Consuls

’60s Hybrid Bands

Previously, we learned that many Canadian acts, like Hank Snow and Paul Anka, had moved to the U.S. to bolster their careers. Now, with CBC radio firmly established and the debut of CBC television in 1952, enabling artists to gain significant exposure, many began remaining at home, like Bobby Curtola. Moreover, foreign singers and bands began recording or settling in Canada, even American artists (we’ll look at Heart later). Arriving in Canada from Northern Ireland were The Irish Rovers who, during a lengthy (especially performance-based) career, scored a few hits including their 8 million selling cover of Shel Silverstein’s “The Unicorn” in 1968 and their Juno-nominated smash “Wasn’t That a Party” in 1980. East Prussian born John Kay became a naturalized Canadian citizen and founded the rock band Steppenwolf. An American artist who ended up settling in Canada was Ronnie Hawkins. He started out as a solo artist with a backing band called The Hawks who broke with Hawkins to become their own hybrid band called The Band. What do I mean by “hybrid” band? Let me explain…
In the middle of the 60s, Canada and the United States were swept up in Beatlemania. The British Invasion knocked Paul Anka, Elvis, and a host of acts off the charts. In order to combat this, Canadians and Americans joined forces, coming together to create what I’m calling “hybrid bands”. These were bands, some of whose members were Canadian and some American. There were perhaps five very popular ones: The Band, Steppenwolf, The Mamas and the Papas, The Lovin’ Spoonful, and Blood Sweat and Tears. The latter three were predominantly American outfits (only one member in each band was Canadian), so we will just write a few notes on them. The first two were primarily Canadian bands, so we will profile them. Because it released only three albums and was never a big commercial success (though highly regarded by rock critics and an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) we will not talk about Buffalo Springfield here, but later on we will mention them in conjunction with Neil Young whom we will profile in great detail. 
Denny Doherty in The Mamas and the Papas
Denny Doherty was a Canadian singer-songwriter who, with three Americans, were The Mamas and The Papas, a hybrid band from 1965 to 1971. They released five albums and scored ten hit singles, the biggest being “California Dreamin’” (#4), “Monday, Monday” (#1), and “Dedicated to the One I Love” (#2). Doherty co-wrote the bands’ songs “I Got a Feelin’”, “For the Love of Ivy”, and “I Saw Her Again”, the latter reaching #5 on the Billboard charts and, naturally, going #1 in Canada. Doherty was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1996. The Mamas and The Papas were inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
Zal Yanovsky in The Lovin’ Spoonful
Zal Yanovsky was a Canadian guitarist and singer who, from 1965 to 1967, was in the short-lived hybrid band The Lovin’ Spoonful with three Americans. They scored a number of hits; their three biggest all came in 1966—“Summer in the City” (#1 in both the U.S. and Canada), “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind” (#2), and “Daydream” (#1 in Canada and #2 in the U.S.). Zal Yanovsky was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1996. The Lovin’ Spoonful was inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
David Clayton-Thomas’ Blood, Sweat, and Tears
In 1968 Blood, Sweat and Tears recruited a Canadian lead singer: David Clayton-Thomas. All other members were American. Clayton-Thomas is the one who fronted the band when they rose to superstardom, and he is the one who, unaided, composed one of their biggest hits—“Spinning Wheel”. Their second album (self-titled) topped the Billboard charts, was the third biggest of the year, and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year beating out The Beatles’ Abbey Road! Their follow up album (Blood, Sweat, and Tears 3), released in 1970, also topped the charts. The band’s biggest hits were all released in 1969, reached #2 on the Billboard Pop Charts, and went #1 on the Canadian charts. These were a version of Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die”, Clayton-Thomas’ “Spinning Wheel”, and a cover of Berry Gordy and Brenda Holloway’s “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”. David Clayton-Thomas was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1996.