maple leafA few years ago, the late, great Peter Gzowski of the CBC asked his listeners to nominate the best Canadian songs of all time. He played many of the nominations on his show, and had a small panel that whittled down the nominations to a top ten list. I don’t recall all ten, but believe #1 was a Nova Scotian song called “Rise Again”.

I thought it might be interesting to try a blog version of the contest, so I’m inviting all Canadian bloggers, and all Canadian readers, to help me come up with a list of nominees. I’ll then circulate the list to any Canadian who wants to be a judge, and winnow it down, first to a list of 12 finalists, and then in a second ballot to a ranked list. If there’s sufficient interest I may try to get the CBC (possibly the program Sounds Like Canada) to air the final twelve, or even make a compilation CD. Whatever we come up will surely beat the hell out of the ghastly (Enter Your Nationality Here) Idol.

Here’s how to participate:

  1. To nominate or judge, you must be a Canadian citizen or resident.
  2. Nominations can be e-mailed to me, or posted in the comments thread below.
  3. To qualify for nomination, songs must be written and performed by Canadians, and refer at least peripherally to Canada (see examples below).
  4. If you want to be a judge, please notify me by e-mail or in the comments thread below by March 21. Judges must be willing to try to audition every song nominated. How you obtain or access copies is up to you.
  5. On March 28 nominations will close and a ballot of all nominees will be sent to everyone volunteering to be a judge.
  6. On April 11, I will tabulate all ballots received and publish the list of 12 finalists. Judges will have a week to rank the 12 finalists and the ranked list will be re-published, and publicized to interested Canadian media, on April 18.

Obvious nominees:

  • Canadian Railroad Trilogy and Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (Gordon Lightfoot)
  • Snowbird (Gene MacLellan)
  • Mon Pays (C’est l’Hiver) (Gilles Vigneault)
  • Northwest Passage (Stan Rogers)
  • Canada centennial song (Bobby Gimby)
  • Four Strong Winds (Ian Tyson)
  • Something to Sing About (Oscar Brand)
  • A La Claire Fontaine (Traditional)
  • Rise Again (Leon Dubinsky)
  • Here’s a site with a lot of possible nominations.

My more obscure nominations:

  • Prairie Town (Randy Bachman)
  • Life is a Highway (Tom Cochrane)
  • Little Lambs (Marc Jordan)
  • Gavin’s Woodpile (Bruce Cockburn)
  • See the Sky About to Rain and Ambulance Blues (Neil Young)
  • A Case of You (Joni Mitchell)
  • Five Days in May or English Bay (Blue Rodeo)

I’m especially looking for more songs written by women, French-Canadian and Native Canadian songs.

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  1. pogge says:

    Runnin’ back to Saskatoon – Burton Cummings & Kurt Winter

  2. Doug Alder says:

    I’m shocked, shocked I say to see that you have left that great Canadian songster Stompin’ Tom Connors of your list there :-) OK to rectify this most egregious oversight I offer the following Stompin’ Tom masterpieces1. Sudbury Saturday Night (Ontario)2. Bud the Spud (PEI)3. Okanagan Okee (BC)4.A Real Canadian Girland as the piece de resistance his greatest contribution to Canadian culture 5. The Hockey Song

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    Pogge: Added. You really like that one, eh? I’m a fan of the Guess Who and grew up on the prairies, but the songs of theirs I like don’t refer to Canada, though they have that Canadian ‘look & feel’ to them.Doug: Added. If you’re gonna make me, and the other judges, listen objectively to 5 Stompin’ Tom songs I hope you’re at least volunteering to be a judge of this contest ;-)

  4. Brent Ashley says:

    A personal favourite is Jolie Louise by Daniel Lanois on the Acadie album. Sung in a very understandable franglais, it’s Canadian through and through.I’m also partial to anything by the Rheostatics, who are possibly the most Canadian band since Stompin Tom.

  5. Stompin’ Tom rocks. Or stomps. I guess. Dave what’s a Candian ‘look and feel’. If ‘The Guess Who’ do not look and feel Canadian I’m not sure who does. Are Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen out? Alanis Morrisette? Stan Rogers? I mean Bobcaygeon by The Tragically Hip mentions Bobcaygeon but it really nothing to do with Bobcaygeon. Or the Hip’s song about Bill Barylko – the title of which I can never figure out – is not one of their best songs, so would it trump some of their better work?I hope we are not going to include tripe like ‘Okay, Blue Jays.’In fact I would suggest we immmediately agree to eliminate a number of your more obvious picks – ie all of them – and in the spirit of the blogosphere come up with the ten best/least heard Canadian songs/voices of all time. I have none in mind, really. which would be the point. If the inspiration for this comes as an antidote to Canadian Idol, then I’m all for it.

  6. Stan Rogers is on your list there, Dave. Oooops.

  7. And Joni Mitchell!. Ooops again. Boy do I not have an eye for detail. Were they on the original email?

  8. Rheostatics….yes yes yes…anything off of their Group of Seven album…Something uniquely Canadian about Bobcaygeon, by the Tragically Hip.Also, for Aboriginal music, I love Gerry Alfred and the Medicine Beat. Real rooted Yukon music.It’s tough to find a real far reaching Canadian song though…so many of these piece are regional and fail to capture something of a common thread. What would be unifying themes? Hockey? Banks? Air Canada? I have several American friends who have taken Canadian citizenship, and upon their swearing in, I always present them with a CD of 25 songs which I tell them are the Canadian citizen’s user manual. Many of the songs on that compilation have been mentioned so far, but other than the Railroad Trilogy and maybe Northwest Passage, none of them have national or nearly national scope.

  9. Deb says:

    One name – Lucie Blue Tremblay. Check her out. And I am not even Canadian. But I used to be Minnesotan, does that count?

  10. Deb says:

    French-Canadian Native American woman – Buffy Ste. Marie. Song – either “Until it’s time for you to go” in French, or for that sorta Canadienne feel, “Welcome, welcome, Immigrante”, a truly excellent song and a real earworm – ah!

  11. Dave Pollard says:

    Some great nominations here, thanks — and another two dozen by e-mail already. Now what I need is 2-3 more people to volunteer to be judges. Any takers?

  12. kara says:

    Hey I went to school with Stompin’ Tom Connors daughter ;)And lets not forget Anne Murray (she grew up in a small Nova Scotia coal mining town.)

  13. Are there any good curling songs?

  14. Darren says:

    I’ve posted my nominations here: I’d be happy to be a judge.Brian: There’s a song by Sarah Harmer from the movie “Men with Brooms” called “Silver Road”. Obstensibly, it’s about a gravel road, but I think they kind of adapted it to also be about a sheet of curling ice.

  15. “Prairie Town” by Randy Bachman, with Neil Young. “Winter nights are long, summer days are gone / Portage and Main, fifty below / Springtime melts the snow, rivers overflow / Portage and Main, fifty below.””Fifty Mission Cap,” by the Tragically Hip (the one about Bill Barilko).”Spirit of Radio,” by Rush, which is about CFNY.”Canadiana Suite,” by Oscar Peterson.”Barrett’s Privateers,” by Stan Rogers.”Suzanne,” by Leonard Cohen. Her place by the river was in Montreal.

  16. Actually one more song does come to mind…Un Canadien Errant. Amazing exile song.

  17. Mambrina says:

    Universal Soldier – Buffy Ste. Marie (He’s the universal soldier and he is really is to blame/His orders come from far away no more/They come from him and you and me and brothers, can’t you see/This is not the way to put an end to war)Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell (They took all the trees/And put them in a tree museum/And they charged all the people/A dollar and a half to see ’em/Don’t it always seem to go/That you don’t know what you’ve got/Till it’s gone/They paved paradise/And they put up a parking lot)The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot No matter how many times I hear this song, chills run up and down my spine… (“Superior,” they said, “never gives up her dead/when the gales of November come early!”)Helpless – Neil Young More chills always evoked by the opening line – even though I don’t care for the style – maybe because CBC used to play it between programs when I was practically an infant it got embedded in me (There is a town in north Ontario….)Prairie Town – Randy Bachman Every stubblejumper who left home (like me) can feel this one in the soul…Everything by Leonard Cohen!

  18. Kim says:

    Susan Aglukark is a talented Native artist. “This Child” and “Hina Na Ho” are two of my favourite songs.

  19. Thomas Dusome says:

    Have you heard about a man named Ron Hawkins? There is nothing less then genious in his work, all of it, in one way or another. try him out for size. Anything by Lowest of the Low or Ron Hawkins and the Rusty Nails should make some kind of an impact

  20. Don Knight says:

    Please check out my nomination for this gem from the west coast. Hope you like it.

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