runnerBy the deadline Sunday night, there had been over 100 nominations for the Great Canadian Song Contest. To be eligible, songs had to be written and performed by Canadians, and refer at least peripherally to Canada. I dug through all the nominations and removed those that did not qualify (most often because, no matter how much they may strike us Canadians as distinctively Canadian, there is nothing in the lyrics to stamp them conclusively as such. In a few cases, marked with asterisks, there is some ongoing debate about whether they are describing Canada or not, so the judges will have the additional task of voting on whether they qualify. The objective of the contest, aside from recognizing great writing and composing talent (in contrast to the execrable Canadian Idol, which has nothing to do with Canadian music at all), is to allow Canadians to pull together a compilation of uniquely and distinctively Canadian songs (legally, of course — after all, we are Canadians) as a personal gift for our non-Canadian friends (and for those of our countrymen who deny the existence of Canadian culture).

My biggest disappointment was the vast array of brilliant Canadian writers who have not penned a single unarguably Canadian song (Sarah McLachlan, f’r’instance) and those whose only musical mention of Canada is disparaging, or in parodies or secondary works. And I confess that, lacking Francophone nominators, the selection of French language songs in the list is iffy. So the list below is conspicuous for the absence of a great many enormously talented Canadian writers and composers.

Nevertheless, I will now send a ballot to the three brave souls (Robert Cooke, Darren Barefoot and Chris Corrigan) who agreed to beg, borrow or steal a copy of all qualifying nominated songs (there were 76 in all) between now and April 11, and help me winnow the list down to about 12 finalists, which the four of us will then, in a wild exercise in subjectivity, attempt to rank. Additional volunteers to judge will still be accepted. Alert the media — here we go. Attempts to influence the judges in the comments below, or with lavish gifts, are welcome. Attempts to argue with me on my disqualifications from the list will be cheerfully ignored. As in all contests, the judges’ decision, boneheaded or not, is final.

Song  / Writer (Performer if other than writer)

01 A Case of You    Joni Mitchell
02 A Real Canadian Girl    Stompin’ Tom Connors
03 Acadian Driftwood    The Band
04 Ah que líhiver    Gilles Vigneault (Pauline Julien)
05 Alouette    Traditional
06 Ambulance Blues    Neil Young
07 Banks of Newfoundland    Francis Forbes
08 Barrettís Privateers    Stan Rogers
09 Bobcaygeon    Tragically Hip
10 Bud the Spud    Stompin’ Tom Connors
11 Cíest líHiver Demain    Robert Charlebois
12 Canada centennial song    Bobby Gimby
13 Canadian Dream    Rheostatics
14 Canadian Railroad Trilogy     Gordon Lightfoot
15 Canadiana Suite    Oscar Peterson
16 Coldest Night of the Year    Bruce Cockburn
17 English Bay    Blue Rodeo
18 Far Too Canadian    Spirit of the West
19 Farewell to Nova Scotia    Traditional
20 Fifty Mission Cap    Tragically Hip
21 Five Days in May*    Blue Rodeo
22 Four Strong Winds    Ian Tyson (Ian & Sylvia)
23 FrÈdÈric    Claude LÈveillÈe
24 GaspÈsie    FÈlix Leclerc
25 Gavin’s Woodpile    Bruce Cockburn
26 Good Fortune    Weeping Tile (Sarah Harmer)
27 Grandfather Song    Gerry Alfred & the Medicine Beat
28 Heather Down Road    Maria Dunn
29 Helpless    Neil Young
30 Hillcrest Mine    James Keelaghan
31 Hockey Night in Canada    Lynn Miles
32 Horses    Rheostatics
33 Je Reviendrai a MontrÈal    Robert Charlebois
34 Jolie Louise    Daniel Lanois
35 Líhymne au Printemps    FÈlix Leclerc
36 LíIndependentriste    Robert Charlebois
37 La fin justifie les moyens    Jean-Pierre Ferland (Ginette Reno)
38 Lakeside Park    Rush
39 Land of the Silver Birch    Traditional
40 Le Plus Beau Voyage    Claude Gauthier
41 Life is a Highway    Tom Cochrane
42 Little Lambs    Marc Jordan
43 Log Driverís Waltz    Wade Hemsworth
44 Lukeyís Boat    Traditional (Great Big Sea)
45 Midwinter Nightís Dream    Rheostatics
46 Mon Pays (C’est l’Hiver)    Gilles Vigneault
47 MontrÈal    Lucie Blue Tremblay
48 My Country Tis of Thy People Youíre Dying    Buffy Sainte Marie
49 Northern Wish    Rheostatics
50 Northwest Passage    Stan Rogers
51 Okanagan Okee    Stompin’ Tom Connors
52 Pirates of the Saskatchewan    Arrogant Worms
53 Powderfinger    Neil Young (Cowboy Junkies)
54 Prairie Town     Randy Bachman (Neil Young)
55 Rise Again    Leon Dubinsky (Rankin Family)
56 River*    Joni Mitchell
57 Roses & Blue Jays    Buck 65
58 Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon    Guess Who
59 Sainte-AdËle, PQ    Jean-Pierre Ferland
60 See the Sky About to Rain*    Neil Young
61 Snowbird    Gene MacLellan (Anne Murray)
62 Something to Sing About    Oscar Brand
63 Song for the Mira    Allister MacGillivray (Rita MacNeil)
64 Song of the North    Susan Aglukark
65 St Jean Port Joli    Lucie Blue Tremblay
66 Sudbury Saturday Night    Stompin’ Tom Connors
67 Suzanne*    Leonard Cohen
68 The Black Fly Song    Wade Hemsworth
69 The Crawl    Spirit of the West
70 The Hockey Song (The Good Olí Hockey Game)    Stompin’ Tom Connors
71 This Heart That Lives in Winter    Lynn Miles
72 Un Canadien Errant    Traditional (Leonard Cohen)
73 Waiting in Canada    Jann Arden
74 Welcome, Welcome Immigrante    Buffy Sainte Marie
75 Wheat Kings    Tragically Hip
76 Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald    Gordon Lightfoot

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  1. Darren says:

    Wow. Weird spam.To my question: what are the asterisks in the list for?

  2. Mike says:

    Very wierd spam. Number 76… totally. I played that song so often growing up I think my dad through my record player (remember those) out on the front lawn.Number 76.

  3. says:

    I move that you name all 76 as winners. What good is voting on music? All these different songs have touched different people. This is going to prove that my tastes are different from the mass average, and make me feel as an outcast from the “group mind” simply because a different song may touch me than “people” think is right. Is this trip necessary?

  4. says:

    And furthermore… There are so many brilliant players in Canada. There are music forms available nowhere ales. Have you ever seen April Verch go at it with her fiddle? Now there is a Master of the insturment and dance which is 100% Canadian. This contest is actually a poll on the marketing penetration success of various entertainment brands peddling their intellectual property. The music itself is merely a product unit in this context. Which Canadian record label stamped their brand on your head the hardest?

  5. Raging Bee says:

    No mention of Robert Paquette?

  6. I played with April Vertch…sigh…it was amazing…I agree…as a judge I’m not going to pretend that we are coming up with a definitive list, but all 76 do make a great playlist to give to newcomers. It’s fun, really, that’s all.

  7. Gregor…I do want to take some exception with the idea that these songs have all come down the big media pipe. The fact that folks nominated performers like Gerry Alfred, The Rheostatics, Wade Hemsworth, Lucie Blue Trembley, the Arrogant Worms, Lynn Miles, Stan Rogers and James Keelaghan speaks volumes to the gems that are buried in the indy market. These aren’t your average big market penetrators, but they have made a mark on the culture nonetheless.

  8. says:

    In as short a time as the white settlers have occupied the northlands, their culture has certainly eclipsed all of the songs sung for hundreds or even thousands of years by the previous residents who lacked recording studios.

  9. Phil says:

    Spirit of the West – now there’s a blast from the past for me. We used to hear them here in Seattle (they were from BC) in the early 80s when Irish-style music was the only thing that would soothe our 4-yr-old son’s savage soul. Wonder if they’re still around? I have one or two vinyl albums.

  10. shari says:

    As a mom, my cultural world has shifted tremendously. I was sorry not to see a Raffi song, you know the children’s singer, on your list. Seriously, I’m a big fan of Stan Rogers (who by the way performed on a Raffi song along with Daniel Lanois) so I’m happy.

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