Happy Canada Day everyone! This post marks the third year in a row where I’ve written about something Canadian on Canada Day. Sadly, since I just came up with the idea to do this list a few hours ago, it’s hardly the most complete, thought-out list ever. But, it’s kinda fun. Plus, how many of you non-Canuck readers are gonna know the difference anyway? You probably think Canadian music begins and ends with Celine Dion and Bryan Adams. Bastards.
5. “The Weight” by The Band from Music from Big Pink (1968)
This song has been devalued over the years through countless uses in commercials and movies, but… it’s still pretty good, even if it’s not all that Canadian. But I never really decided if Canadian-ness is a qualification for this list, or if the artist being Canadian is enough (which is probably why I didn’t title this “Top 5 Canadian Songs”). And any song written by Robbie Robertson qualifies as Canadian, even if the lead singer (Levon Helm) wasn’t Canadian.
Sample lyric: “I pulled into Nazareth, was feeling ’bout half past dead/
I just need some place where I can lay my head”
4. “My Number” by Tegan and Sara from This Business of Art (2000)
My favourite song by my favourite band, its inclusion here was obvious for me. The placement wasn’t as obvious, especially since I’m also thinking about a Songs of the 00s list and hadn’t decided where it would place there. I’d write more about the song, but I already did once, so just follow the link would ya?
Sample lyric: “He grabs me by the hand/
Drags me to the shore and says/
Maybe you don’t love me/
But you’ll grow to love me even more”
3. “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” by Arcade Fire from Funeral (2004)
Not having completed an 00s list makes #3 and #4 hard, since they were battling out for contention there too. Also, do I give this song a proper write up now, or later when I have more time to think about it? But what if it misses that list? So many things to think about. Basically, this song blew me away the first time I heard it with its building majesty and cinematic scope, and it pretty much has never failed to do so with repeated listenings. An absolute triumph.
Sample lyric: “You change all the lead/
Sleepin’ in my head to gold/
As the day grows dim/
I hear you sing a golden hymn/
The song I’ve been trying to sing”
2. “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell from Blue (1971)
A contender for my Top 5 Songs of the 70s list, “A Case of You” gets the distinction of being the only song on this list to actually use the word “Canada” (in fact, she goes the extra mile by singing “Oh Canada”). So it would be right at home no matter what the qualifications I put into a Canadian song list. I personally don’t care too much for Mitchell’s hippie music from the 60s, but really enjoy her Blue album, which was in part a response to the backlash against 60s hippies. A perfectly melancholy song, “A Case of You” is filled with a beautiful longing that is really powerful.
Sample lyric: “On the back of a cartoon coaster/
In the blue TV screen light/
I drew a map of Canada/
1. “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young from Harvest (1972)
My number one Song of the 70s, it’s no surprise that it comes up number one here as well. I guess I could’ve tried to be tricky and said that “Alabama” was more Canadian… but that would be silly. You know what happens when you rush out a list? It ends up being a bunch of repeats or previews for future lists. Happy Canada Day!
Sample lyric: “I wanna live, I wanna give/
I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold”
Honourable Mentions: “So Long, Marianne” by Leonard Cohen, “Four Strong Winds” by Ian & Sylvia, “Mushaboom” by Feist