Percy Faith

Born: 1908, Toronto, Ontario
Debut: 1950
Died: 1976
Genre: Easy Listening
Biggest Hit:
“Theme From a Summer Place” (1960)
–  Peaked at #1 on the U.S. Charts
–  Peaked at #2 on the U.K. Charts
–  Peaked at #4 on the Canadian Charts
–  #1 single of the year in the U.S. (Billboard)
–  Won Grammy (1961) Award for Record of the Year
Some Other Hits:
–  “Delicado” (1952)
–  “Song from the Moulin Rouge” (1953)
–  “Theme for Young Lovers” (1960)
Percy Faith, conductor, arranger, pianist, and composer, was born in Toronto in 1908. He was to become Canada’s second easy listening musician (after Guy Lombardo), helped tremendously by recording the biggest single of the year 1960 on the U.S. Billboard charts—“Theme from a Summer Place”. He also arranged hits for other artists including Johnny Mathis, Burl Ives, Doris Day, and Tony Bennett. His band-leading career began at the height of the brass-dominated swing era which he rearranged into softer mood music by introducing large string sections.
At age seven, Faith began taking violin lessons; piano followed three years later. From 1920 on, he performed as an accompanist for silent films in Toronto cinemas. In 1923, at age 15, he gave his first recital in Toronto’s prestigious Massey Hall and was considered a prodigy. His career as a concert pianist was destroyed, however, when he injured his hands in a fire three years later.
Undeterred from pursuing his desired career in music, he turned to arranging, first for hotel orchestras, and then for radio. It was during this time that he developed his lush pop instrumental style, and he became a staple for the CBC live-music broadcasting in the 1930s. At the end of the decade “Music by Faith” was also being aired in the United States, and he was offered a job as director of “The Carnation Contented Hour” on NBC radio Chicago, which he accepted. He composed piano, choral, and orchestra works and won a $1,000 prize in 1943 for his operetta “The Gandy Dancer”. During these years, he often visited Canada to conduct concerts and CBC TV special broadcasts.
After five years in Chicago, he was offered a job with NBC in New York which he took in 1945. Percy Faith’s real recording and arrangements for popular singers began in 1950 when he joined Columbia Records as musical director and recording artist. He arranged pop and folk songs for other singers and pioneered easy listening mood music with the release his own albums. He was the first to record albums consisting solely of songs from Broadway shows and was one of the first to experiment with Latin rhythms.
He wrote Guy Mitchell’s first (and number one) single, “My Heart Cries for You” and he arranged three big hits for Tony Bennett. He scored his own first number one single in 1952, “Delicado”. His “Song from Moulin Rouge” also did well the following year. In the mid-50s, Faith began composing film scores, beginning with Love Me or Leave Me.
In 1960, Percy Faith scored his mega-hit, “Theme from a Summer Place”: #1 in the U.S., #2 in Britain, and #4 in Canada. It was the biggest song of the year in the U.S. according to their Billboard charts and it won a Grammy Award for record of the year. He won another Grammy Award in 1969 for his album, Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet. With the advent of harder rock in the late-1960′s, Faith’s music became gradually less popular, though he still recorded up until his death from cancer in 1976.

Birth of Canadian Rock ‘n Roll (1950s)

In the 1950s, Canada continued contributing new musicians to the world stage in the genres of country (Tommy Hunter), jazz (Moe Koffman, trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, and guitarist Lenny Breau), and classical (Pierrette Alarie, Lois Marshall, Louis Quilico, Léopold Simoneau, and contralto Maureen Forrester). Following in La Bolduc’s footsteps were Quebec artists who enriched the landscape of Canadian music by singing folk music in fabulous French. It wasn’t until Beatlemania swept Canada in the 1960s that Quebec artists began to perform pop and rock; for now, folk was the genre of choice. An important word on this is best summed up by the Canadian Music Encyclopedia: 

In Québec, the history of popular music unfolded quite differently. Instead of copying Americans, French Canadians created their own style of pretty and simple poetry inspired by traditional folk songs and played on the guitar by chansonniers (“songmakers” or singer-songwriters).

First and foremost among these chansonniers was the inspired genius of Félix Leclerc, who deservedly became Canada’s first international folk superstar. Second in rank to him was Jean-Pierre Ferland who started out as a folk musician in the 50s, but in the 70s switched to pop/rock releasing some critically-acclaimed albums. Other chansonniers included Yves Albert and Jacques Labrecque. In 1956, Raymond Lévesque scored a big hit with his “Quand les hommes vivront d’amour”. Its message of brotherhood and search for justice, its folky guitar and jazzy piano made it, amongst changing pop styles, a timeless classic of chanson québécoise. The song has been performed by many French singers.  

Percy Faith became Canada’s second easy listening star (after Guy Lombardo). In the following decade he scored a massive hit with his “Theme from a Summer Place”, the number one single of the year on 1960′s Billboard chart. 

Nearly-forgotten Winnipeg songstress Gisele MacKenzie (no relation to Bob and Doug, eh), after getting her own CBC radio show, recorded some songs of her own which became hits in 1955. 

Prior to American Bill Haley’s revolutionary comet-clocking chart-topper, Canada had already set itself up to usher in the rock ‘n roll era with its hit R&B group The Four Lads. Following suit were The Crew Cuts and The Diamonds. These three Toronto-based quartets launched the rock era in Canada by converting some American R&B tunes into rock and by creating some original selections of their own.  

With all this activity in the 1950s, Canadians would never have believed what was to happen in 1957. Their first anglophone international pop superstar arrived from within the nation’s capital. And he was of neither European nor African descent, but Asian. He released a single that rocketed up to Number One on both sides of the Atlantic and became the second best-selling single of all-time (after Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”). He was Canada’s first real teen-idol, scored several more chart-toppers in the late 50s, became a millionaire while still a minor, switched from rock to adult contemporary in the 60s, wrote the theme for the Tonight Show, composed Tom Jones’ biggest hit, foiled Frank Sinatra’s plans of an early retirement by writing his signature song, and rekindled his own singing career with several chart-toppers in the 70s. To date, he has written some 400 songs. He should be regarded as the godfather of Canadian pop. And his name is Paul Anka.