trestle bridge
As promised, here are the results of the Great Canadian Song contest. At the end of the first round, our four judges, Chris Corrigan, Darren Barefoot, Robert Cooke and I, whittled the 76 nominees down to 20 finalists. We then re-listened to all 20 songs and ranked them in order. Just as a reminder, to qualify, songs had to be written and performed by Canadians and had to refer at least peripherally to Canada or something identifiably Canadian. The idea was to select possible contents for a compilation CD that would introduce people from other countries to Canada through its music. The judges’ rankings are based strictly on personal preference — how proud we would be to play each song to someone who knew nothing about Canada or its culture and heritage.

Many of our favourite Canadian musicians (Bruce Cockburn, Sarah McLachlan, Marc Jordan, Ian Thomas, Blue Rodeo, Jesse Cook, Guess Who, Amanda Marshall, Alanis Morrisette, and Jann Arden just to name a few) didn’t make the list because their best (in our opinion, anyway) songs don’t refer to Canada.

Of the 20 songs that made the final list, 15 were ranked significantly higher than the remaining 5, so we’re cutting the list off at that point. That’s just the right number for a CD. Here’s the list, in combined rank order, with links to the lyrics where available.

1. Canadian Railroad Trilogy Gordon Lightfoot Gordon Lightfoot
2. A Case of You Joni Mitchell Joni Mitchell
3. Northwest Passage Stan Rogers Stan Rogers
4. Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald Gordon Lightfoot Gordon Lightfoot
5. Four Strong Winds Ian Tyson Ian & Sylvia
6. Helpless Neil Young Neil Young
7. Barrett’s Privateers Stan Rogers Stan Rogers
8. Acadian Driftwood Robbie Robertson The Band
9. Log Driver’s Waltz Wade Hemsworth McGarrigles
10. It’s Hockey Night in Canada Lynn Miles Lynn Miles
11. The Last Saskatchewan Pirate Arrogant Worms Arrogant Worms
12. Wheat Kings Tragically Hip Tragically Hip
13. Hillcrest Mine James Keelaghan James Keelaghan
14. Far Too Canadian Spirit of the West Spirit of the West
15. A Real Canadian Girl Stompin’ Tom Connors Stompin’ Tom Connors

We really tried hard to come up with a representative number of Francophone songs, First Nations songs, traditional Canadian folk songs and songs by women composers. But as you can see, the list is dominated by relatively modern (20th century) English Canadian songs penned by men. Please blame me, not my fellow judges, for this failing. My guess is that the best identifiably Canadian songs by Francophones, Native Canadians, and Canadian women, and the best traditional Canadian songs, have yet to be discovered by most Canadians, and we need to educate ourselves better on these important contributors to Canadian music and culture. We’ll work on it, and recruit some experts in such music to guide us and help with the judging, when we repeat the contest next year.

Meanwhile we will be submitting this list to the CBC, as they requested, and if they aren’t enthused about our idea for a compilation CD, we’ll use our entrepreneurial resources to try to find another publisher. If we’re successful, we’ll promote it on our blogs, the various Canadian blog directories and webrings and through BlogsCanada. These are all wonderful songs — songs of courage, love, loss, tragedy, loneliness and connection with our rugged geography, the land, and, of course, the weather.

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  1. David Jones says:

    EXCUSE ME!! Nothing from the Rise and Follies of Cape Breton? No My Island is a Rock in the Sea? No Out on the Mira? No Rita? No Rankins? No John Allan Cameron? No….no….no.

  2. Derek says:

    Can anyone out there please tell me where I can get a copy of Lynn Miles’ album Chalk This One Up To the Moon (includes your number 10 It’s Hockey Night in Canada).Thank-you.Derek – Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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