IF I HAD A MILLION DONUTS
Canadians of my generation believed that native son Robbie Robertson could wipe the floor with Eric Clapton on any given day.
Canadians of today believe that native son Daniel Lanois wipes the floor of any producer you can name on the planet on any given day.
Canadians wildly cheered as Arcade Fire picked up Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammys; an award widely considered to be the top prize in today's global music industry. The Montreal band then won the Best International Album trophy at the 2011 BRIT Awards.
Canadians today marvel at the continuing global "Biebermania" hysteria centered on Canadian teenager Justin Bieber, the YouTube sensation turned into an international pop phenomenon.
As well, Canadians are proud of the international standings of Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne, Michael Bublé, Nickelback, Diana Krall, and k.d. lang.
Canadians are also chest-beating proud that such contemporary Canadian artists as Drake, Broken Social Scene, Leslie Feist, deadmau5, Richie Hawtin, and Ron Sexsmith are players on the world stage.
They are delighted that Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot, Rush, and Blue Rodeo---Canada’s Oldest Road Warriors---remain relevant, and busier than ever today.
As well, Canada has a significant number of performers that have notable careers—either at home or at home and abroad—including Metric, Silverstein, Billy Talent, Hedley, Simple Plan, City and Colour, Hey Rosetta!, Kathleen Edwards, Tegan & Sara, Fred Eaglesmith, Jesse Cook, Nikki Yanofsky, Johnny Reid, and Finger Eleven.
For decades, Canada’s proximity to the United States was viewed as diluting the cultural blood of the country. Until recent times, Canadian artists would gaze south to America, obsessive in both their fascination and fears of the massive American marketplace with its seductive popular culture.
When Canadian artists ventured outside Canada to win recognition, Canadians generally seethed with resentment. Each success story led to agonizing articles in the Canadian media about the country being unable to hold onto its heroes or being unable to forge its own national identity.
In the ‘70s, Canada’s sedate music scene was transformed by the emergence of homegrown rockers Crowbar, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Rush, April Wine, the Stampeders and others.
At the same time, Canadians were unnerved by the sheer awesome level that Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young had reached internationally. However, it was Leonard Cohen—whom Canadians met as a brooding young poet of the 1960s—who heated the cultural stakes of the country.
An eminent writer of the English literature, Cohen gave importance and dignity to songwriting. His songs were discussed, analyzed, agonized over, and made love to the world over.
"I would not know how high to jump or how far I was falling without Leonard Cohen,'' said U2's Bono a few years back. "His songs are conversations I have been trying to have all of my life with some of the same people... Jesus Christ, Judas Iscariot, Yahweh, all the women in the world, Buddha."
Notably, with few exceptions, Canadians didn’t identify with the barroom brawlers, and schoolboys of Canada’s pop music early days.
Only reluctantly would they admit to others about knowing that Anne Murray, Gino Vannelli, Andy Kim, Terry Jacks, and Dan Hill---despite their unquestionable international popularity---were Canadian.
Any talk about Paul Anka would make Canadians slightly defensive.
The cringe factor.
Today, Nickelback carries that particular banner; however unjustly.
What changed the affection of Canadians toward their own artists was the true blue Canadian presences of Bryan Adams, Tom Cochrane, Corey Hart, Kim Mitchell, Loverboy and Blue Rodeo in early ‘80s; followed by the emergence of Cowboy Junkies, The Tragically Hip, and the Jeff Healey Band shortly afterwards.
The striking achievements of Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette, Shania Twain, Barenaked Ladies, Jann Arden, and Sarah McLachlan in the ‘90s further favourably shifted sentiments toward Canadian music universally.
By then Canadians had discovered that they could identify with so many of their artists, and what they sang about.
Indeed, there is a bounty of songs by Canadian artists that resonate strongly with Canadians; and draws them to blissfully sing together in ragged unison around campfires, rehearsal halls, living rooms, and barrooms.
“I got my first real six-string/Bought it at the five-and-dime.”
“If I had a million dollars.”
“It was in Bobcaygeon, I saw the constellations.”
And, the old-war-horses:
“There is a town in north Ontario.”
“Think I’ll go out to Alberta, weather’s good there in the fall.”
“On the back of a cartoon coaster
In the blue TV screen light
I drew a map of Canada
The 2010 FIFA World Cup lasted 31 days. What people heard when they turned on television around the world was K'Naan’s “Wavin' Flag,” the official anthem of Coca-Cola's World Cup advertising program, with the lyric:
“When I get older, I will be stronger.”
K'Naan, you also make us proud.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world.
Legendary BBC2 DJ/historian Bob Harris has described him as "the glue that holds the Canadian music industry together."
Senior editor of CelebrityAccess since 2008, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007, and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record.
He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times.
He is co-author of the 2011 book,” Music From Far And Wide” chronicling the growth of Canada’s pop music scene.
Music Canada Editor: Can you name the lyrics quoted by Larry? If so, send us a comment! There are prizes for the first correct answer.