Canada Day is almost here!
July 1 marks the 150th anniversary of Canada’s enactment of the Constitution Act–making us an official country under the British empire!
While we’re known for hockey, maple syrup and our love of saying “Eh” and “Sorry”, we think our best export is music.
We’re counting down the Top 10 artists that define our country. From international recognition to embracing our strong heritage, we feel these are the best artists to encapsulate what we stand for as a country.
Trust us, it was not an easy list to make. Did we get it right? Or are there any glaring omissions? Let me know in the comments below:
10. Shania Twain
Shania Twain’s accomplishments are no feat to laugh at: she’s the best-selling female artist in the history of country music, with an estimated 85 million record sales attached to her name. Her second studio album, 1995’s The Woman in Me, sold 20 million copies alone and her third studio album, 1997’s Come On Over, became the best-selling studio album of all time by a female act (over 40 million units worldwide.) Her fourth and final studio album, 2002’s Up, sold another 10 million in the United States alone.
Twain also played a critical part in launching the career of Napanee, Ontario native Avril Lavigne when the latter won a contest to play on-stage with the country superstar in front of 20,000 people–talk about supporting your fellow Canadians!
Shania Twain has put Canada on the international map time and time again, and definitely deserves a spot on our top ten list.
9. Bryan Adams
With over 100 million records to his name, Bryan Adams is another artist that has found success on home soil and across the globe. He’s won 20 JUNOs and has been nominated 56 times. He’s been inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Canada’s Walk of Fame, the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
His track, “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” is considered one of the top-selling physical selling singles of all-time, sitting among company like Whitney Houston, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley and Elton John.
Not only is his music insanely successful, but Adams is a very charitable philanthropist, starting “The Bryan Adams Foundation” which aims to advance education and learning opportunities for children and young people worldwide. He’s also been a vocal supporter of organizations like Greenpeace and PETA.
8. Bachman–Turner Overdrive / The Guess Who
We can’t include one without the other: Randy Bachman‘s success in both groups is such an incredible feat.
The Guess Who achieved 11 gold/5 platinum Canadian certified albums and another 5 gold/3 platinum albums in the US, while Bachman-Turner Overdrive reached the 30 million threshold on an international level. With classic songs like “These Eyes”, “American Woman”, “Let It Ride” and “Takin’ Care Of Business”, Randy Bachman has captured the attention of music fans internationally through his incredible songwriting.
Songs like “Runnin’ Back To Saskatoon”, “Lightfoot” and “Prairie Town” capture the Canadian spirit and project our nation’s pride to the rest of the world, and we can’t think of a reason more deserving to be on this list.
7. The Tragically Hip
When it comes to the question “Who is the most Canadian band out there?”, many are quick to mention 14x JUNO winners The Tragically Hip. Hailing from Kingston, Ontario, the Hip have secured 9 #1 albums over the course of their career, with two hitting Diamond status (over 1,000,000 units, or 1 in every 30 Canadians back in the 90s!)
It’s hard not to go camping in the Ontario wilderness without “Bobcaygeon” playing in your head, or crossing into western Canada without humming “At the Hundredth Meridian.”
For a full breakdown of The Tragically Hip’s incredible feats, click here to head to our Hip timeline.
6. Stompin’ Tom Connors
Stompin’ Tom Connors was not shy about being Canadian: from “Long Gone to the Yukon” to “Bud the Spud”, his songwriting covered the country from west to east, north to south.
He’s written over 300 songs, many about our beloved country, and his 48 albums have sold over 4 million copies. A national treasure who will never be forgotten.
5. Joni Mitchell
Rolling Stone has called her “one of the greatest songwriters ever”, and Joni Mitchell‘s roots are purely Canadian: she got her start from busking in Toronto and playing small clubs in Saskatchewan. When she moved to the United States in 1965 and began touring, her music picked up traction, and songs like “Woodstock” and “Big Yellow Taxi” are significant cultural pieces of that era.
Not only does she write and create her own music, but she’s produced her own albums and designed the artwork to boot. With 19 studio albums over 40 years, Mitchell has continuously proven she’s a force to be reckoned with across every decade.
Although her discography is fantastic front-to-back, be sure to check out 1971’s Blue, rated the 30th best album ever made in Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.
Prog-rock Gods Rush are an obvious choice: while their worldwide sales of 40 million don’t quite catch up to the same level as some other acts on this list, the widespread cultural impact of their most beloved work is a feat that should not be ignored.
From Peart’s groundbreaking drum solos, to the band’s advancement of concept albums in mainstream music, the concept of rock ‘n roll as it stands today would not be complete if Rush never reached our ears.
On an achievement scale, Rush has received seven Grammy award nominations (with no wins, somehow), several Juno Awards and an International Achievement Award at the 2009 SOCAN Awards. They were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
3. Neil Young
Musician/filmmaker/technology entrepreneur/activist/etc. Neil Young has released an album in each of the past six decades. From his contributions to Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills Nash & Young to his incredible solo career, it’s amazing to think how Young has continuously held our attention since the 60s.
Young was awarded the Order of Manitoba and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Revisit the title track from the album that earned the 1994 Juno Award for album of the year, Harvest Moon:
2. The Band
A career spanning 12 studio albums, The Band were critical darlings, being hailed as one of the most important acts of the 60s and 70s.
While The Band broke up for good in 1999, their legacy of timeless music and reflection of Canada values will live on forever.
The group was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Canada’s walk of fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004 Rolling Stone ranked them No. 50 on their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time, and in 2008 they received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2004, “The Weight” was ranked 41st on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
1. Gordon Lightfoot
A true legend.
Gordon Lightfoot is referred to as Canada’s greatest songwriter and internationally as a folk-rock legend. His songs have been recorded by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr., Jerry Lee Lewis, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Barbra Streisand, among others.
He found success south of the border, with “If You Could Read My Mind” (1970), “Sundown” (1974), “Carefree Highway” (1974), “Rainy Day People” (1975), all reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and/or Adult Contemporary chart.
In November 1997, Lightfoot was awarded the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts. He has been presented with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario and inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Bob Dylan has said that when he heard a Lightfoot song he wished “it would last forever”. We completely agree, Bob.
Shop Canadian icons in the MusicVaultz store: