From artists like country singer Hank Snow in the 1950s, to the hard rock of bands like Rush and The Guess Who in 1960s and 1970s, to worldwide pop stars like Bryan Adams, Céline Dion, Shania Twain in the 1980s and 1990s, to the promise of the current wave of Canadian musicians typified by performers as diverse as the Arcade Fire, Billy Talent, k-os, Avril Lavigne Bucky Kentucky and Alexisonfire, Canada's music is a valuable contribution to global culture.
The most immediate effect of the Canadian content regulations was the sudden rise to fame of Anne Murray, whose 1970 "Snowbird" was a multi-million selling record. Led by The Guess Who, Murray, Lighthouse, the Poppy Family and The Irish Rovers, the early 1970s were a golden age for Canadian music. Following in these pioneers' footsteps was a wave of new bands, including April Wine, The Bells, Triumph, The Stampeders, Five Man Electrical Band, Crowbar, Trooper, FM, Fludd, Saga, Prism, and Chilliwack.
The Canadian music industry was still nascent, however, with little independent music media and a limited distribution infrastructure. The two most internationally renowned bands to arise from this industry were Rush and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, both dominated by powerful managers. Bachman-Turner Overdrive's manager, Bruce Allen, went on to Loverboy and eventually manage such major pop stars as Bryan Adams, Martina McBride, and Anne Murray.
Canadian cultural critics have noted that in general, the late 1970s were a lesser era for Canadian music. Many of the acts who had defined the earlier half of the decade were no longer recording, and the new artists emerging in this era simply didn't seem to be able to capture the Canadian pop zeitgeist in the same way. Many of them, in fact, were only "one-hit wonders".
However, a number of established Canadian acts, including Rush, Bruce Cockburn, Gino Vannelli, April Wine and Neil Young, remained influential and recorded some of their most popular material of all during this period, and former Guess Who lead singer Burton Cummings emerged as a popular solo artist. Another of this period's most influential and popular rock bands, Heart, resulted from the collaboration of two sisters from Seattle with a supporting band from Vancouver.
Hardcore punk, a term first used by Vancouver's D.O.A., briefly upset the New Wave hegemony in the period between 1981 to 1983 with groundbreaking acts such as zeroption dominating North American underground radio.
The 1980s also produced mainstream pop-rockers such as Bryan Adams, Tom Cochrane, Platinum Blonde, Glass Tiger, Honeymoon Suite, Coney Hatch, Headpins, Helix, Toronto, Sheriff and Corey Hart. As well, the era produced the quirky art-pop of Jane Siberry—who never exactly became a pop star, but remains one of Canada's most enduring cult artists—and the country cowpunk of k.d. lang, who did eventually become one of pop music's biggest names. Lisa Dalbello, who had emerged in the late 1970s as a dance-pop singer, also transformed herself into a darker, edgier art-rocker, shedding her first name and becoming simply Dalbello in 1984. Another musician from this period, Annette Ducharme, has had more success as a songwriter for other musicians than as a recording artist.
In the late 1980s, the Canadian recording industry continued to produce popular acts such as Alannah Myles, Tú, Blue Rodeo, Andrew Cash, Barney Bentall, Jeff Healey, Chalk Circle, Kim Mitchell, Frozen Ghost, Sass Jordan, and Colin James. However, alternative rock also emerged as an influential genre, with independent artists such as 54-40, The Tragically Hip, Sarah McLachlan, Spirit of the West, The Waltons, Cowboy Junkies, The Pursuit of Happiness, and The Grapes of Wrath all gaining their first widespread attention during this time.
Also notable is Canadian progressive thrash metal band Voivod, who were and are highly respected in the metal community.
Toronto radio station CFNY emerged as an influential player in Canadian music during the New Wave era. It was the first commercial radio station in Canada to support many of Canada's new and emerging artists, as well as alternative artists from the United States and Great Britain. It retained its tastemaker status throughout the decade, until new owners in 1989 tried to turn it into a conventional Top 40 station.
As in the United States, music videos became an important marketing tool for bands in the early 1980s. With the debut of MuchMusic in 1984 and MusiquePlus in 1986, both English and French Canadian musicians had outlets to promote their music through video. The networks, however, were not just an opportunity for artists to get their videos played—the networks created VideoFACT, a fund to help emerging artists produce their videos.
The roster of artists emerging in this decade includes The Tea Party, Matthew Good Band, Sloan, The Gandharvas, Change of Heart, Skydiggers, Eric's Trip, the Doughboys, Crash Test Dummies, The Lowest of the Low, 13 Engines, Odds, The Killjoys, I Mother Earth, Econoline Crush, Age of Electric, The Rankin Family, Alanis Morissette, Rheostatics, Ashley MacIsaac, Susan Aglukark, The Cowboy Junkies, Limblifter, Great Big Sea, Our Lady Peace, The Philosopher Kings, Junkhouse, Treble Charger, Deborah Cox, Jann Arden, Ron Sexsmith, Hayden, Céline Dion, Rufus Wainwright, Crash Vegas, Loreena McKennitt, The Watchmen, and Shania Twain. The Barenaked Ladies didn't just clear the way for alternative bands, but for a whole new Canadian pop landscape, defined by a national pride and self-confident distinctiveness that had never been seen before in Canadian music.
Few bands benefited more from that landscape, however, than The Tragically Hip. Unlike the Guess Who, The Tragically Hip's lyrics proudly wore their Canadian perspective on their sleeves. And while the Hip have yet to achieve the level of success outside of Canada, it finally didn't matter: their Canadian fan base alone was enough to sustain a long, healthy career.
Alanis Morissette, too, kicked off another revolution in Canadian music. Just as Dalbello had a decade earlier, Morissette began as a dance-pop artist before transforming herself into an alternative rocker in 1995. She released the album Jagged Little Pill in 1995. The album was only expected to sell about 250,000 copies at the most, however it went on to sell over 30,000,000 worldwide it became the best selling debut album in history as well as the second best selling album by a female artist and the tenth best selling album of all time. The album stayed in the top ten charts longer than any other album in history except Michael Jackson's Thriller. However, Morissette's transformation launched an era in which Canadian women ruled the pop charts worldwide.
In the late 1990s, Morissette, Shania Twain, Céline Dion and Sarah McLachlan were among the most popular and influential recording artists in the world, but several other Canadian women made waves of their own. Deborah Cox's 1998 single "Nobody's Supposed to be Here" was the longest-running chart topper in the history of Billboard's R&B charts, Jann Arden scored an international hit with "Insensitive".
Also in the late 1990s, Elton John's 1997 re-recording of "Candle in the Wind" in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales spent almost two years on the Canadian Top 40 charts, substantially longer than in any other country. This was, in fact, a structural quirk of the Canadian market rather than a reflection on Canadian tastes in music—whereas some countries combine radio airplay and sales into a unified hits chart, in Canada these are separate charts. So few CD singles are available in Canadian record stores, in fact, that in some weeks, a single that is available on CD can chart on sales of fewer than 100 copies.
The decade has also been notable for a surprising number of ambitious indie rock albums by bands such as Tegan and Sara, The New Pornographers, Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, The Hidden Cameras, The Dears, Constantines, Metric, The Weakerthans, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Stars, Death from Above 1979, Feist, Wolf Parade, The Stills, Final Fantasy, The Unicorns, Royal City, Cuff the Duke, Black Mountain, The Luyas, Wax Mannequin, Chad VanGaalen, The Meligrove Band, Jim Guthrie, Veda Hille, Tokyo Police Club, Islands, Frog Eyes and Sunset Rubdown. Canada has also produced acts of a more avant-garde nature; better known acts such as the new-wave slanted Les Georges Leningrad and AIDS Wolf, comprised of members of the printmaking collective, Serigraphie Populaire, or Seripop. These two acts have achieved a certain notoriety in circles embracing a more noise-oriented aesthetic, similar to that of international acts such as Lightning Bolt or Boredoms. Each of these bands has attracted a large following by pursuing unique interpretations of pop and rock music, subverting many of the conventions of the genres in a way that is still fresh and accessible. The Canadian indie rock scene has been the focus of national and international attention in many publications, such as Spin, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, as well the Canadian edition of Time.
However, as with the American series, other Idol contestants — most notably Billy Klippert, Gary Beals and Toya Alexis — have also been offered recording deals as a result of their Idol exposure, and may also emerge as major artists as well.
On September 16, 2004, Kalan Porter was named as the second Canadian Idol, winning over Theresa Sokyrka. Jacob Hoggard has released 2 post-Idol albums with band Hedley) in Canada and 1 in the United States. Many say he is the most successful to come from Canadian Idol. Melissa O'Neil became the third winner — and the first female winner and the youngest Idol winner in North America (at that time)—on September 14, 2005, narrowly winning over runner-up Rex Goudie. She was followed by Eva Avila in 2006 and Brian Melo in 2007.
In 2006 the Canadian Idol contestants were recognized by the Juno Awards with eight nominations, including Album of the Year, Artist of the Year, Pop Album of the Year, Rock Album of the Year, and New Group of the Year.
The blues is a vocal and instrumental form of music based on the use of the blue notes, often with a repetitive twelve-bar structure, which evolved in the United States in the communities of former African slaves. Canadian blues refers to the blues and blues-related music (e.g. blues-rock, folk blues, etc.) performed by blues bands and performers in Canada.
In Canada, there are hundreds of local and regionally-based Canadian blues bands and performers. As well, there is a smaller number of bands or performers that have achieved national or international prominence. These bands and performers are part of a broader Canadian "blues scene" that also includes city or regional blues societies, blues radio shows, and blues festivals.
A small number of Canadian blues bands and artists have achieved national or international prominence by touring across Canada, the US, or Europe, and releasing recordings that have received critical or audience acclaim in Canada and abroad. The performers below are listed according to the decade during which they first achieved national or international prominence:
Canadian blues recording labels include: NorthernBlues Music (launched in 2001 by President Fred Litwin); Stony Plain Records, an Alberta-based label founded by Holger Petersen; and Electro-Fi Records [www.electrofi.com], launched in 1997 by founder and president Andrew Galloway.
Canadian blues societies help to promote the appreciation and performance of blues music. Blues societies are often involved in the organization or promotion of local blues festivals and educational activities. Blues society educational activities include presentations on blues history, elementary school "outreach" activities, and workshops. Some blues societies organize awards for blues musicians.
Several important musicians of international stature were born and raised in Canada. These include the pianist Glenn Gould, violinist Lara St. John, tenor Ben Heppner, soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, and many more.
With regard to composition, the earliest composers of classical music in Canada were generally Québécois Catholics who wrote religious music. In the twentieth century Canada has had many internationally-known composers, such as R. Murray Schafer, Srul Irving Glick, John Beckwith, Louis Applebaum, Violet Archer and Lucio Agostini.
Canadian country as developed by Otto Wilke, Carter, Snow and Earl Heywood, used a less nasal and more distinctly pronounced vocal style than American music, and stuck with more traditional ballads and narratives while American country began to use more songs about bars and lovers quarrels. This style of country music became very popular in Canada over the next couple decades. Later popular Canadian country stars range from Stompin' Tom Connors to Shania Twain.
Radio and television stations in Canada which play country music, however, are often more flexible in how they define the genre than their counterparts in the United States. Canadian country stations frequently play artists more commonly associated with folk music, such as Bruce Cockburn, Leahy and The Rankin Family.
Internationally-renowned electronic artists from Canada include pioneering Winnipeg-based breakcore artist Aaron Funk a.k.a. Venetian Snares, indie-electronica group Junior Boys & quirky sound-artist Vitaminsforyou. Albertan electronica musicians include Mark Templeton, Escapist Opportunities, and organizers Electronic Music Calgary, creating venues throughout the province, though mainly in Calgary.
In the 1970s, chansonniers grew steadily less popular with the encroachment of popular rock bands and other artists. Some performers did emerge, however, including Jacques Michel, Claude Dubois, and Robert Charlebois.
With the first stars popularizing the chansonnier format, a new generation of popular singers emerged in the 60s. These included Gilles Vigneault, Pierre Létourneau, Pierre Calvé, Hervé Brousseau, Georges Dor, Monique Miville-Deschênes, and Claude Gauthier. The boîtes à chansons, a kind of performance place for chansonniers (akin to coffee houses in the United States), also appeared during the 1960s, spread across Quebec.
The Chansonnier tradition has continued with artists who have been carrying on since the 1970s to the present. One good example is Diane Dufresne who also is prolific in the area of cabaret or theatre-rock.
Devon, Maestro Fresh Wes and Dream Warriors did manage, for a brief time in the late 80s and early 90s, to break through to mainstream pop. In 1991, Milestone Radio applied to the CRTC for an urban station in Toronto, which would have been the first such station in Canada, but that application was denied in favour of a country music station (something which Toronto already had on its radio dial.)
The decision was controversial, and hurt the Canadian hip hop scene considerably. Only one Canadian rapper, Michie Mee, made an appearance on the national pop charts between 1992 and 1998—and even she only managed it by partnering with the hard rock band Raggadeath. (Snow, who had a hit in 1993 with "Informer", is sometimes mistakenly labeled a rapper, but in fact was more accurately described as dancehall than as hip hop.)
It should be noted that many American hip-hop bands were popular in Canada, and that Black Canadian musicians such as Infidels, Deborah Cox and The Philosopher Kings had notable successes in the pop and rock genres. But for Canadian hip-hoppers, by and large the door was closed.
That began to change in 1997, when several pivotal events occurred in close succession: Dubmatique broke through as the first Quebec rap band to top the francophone pop charts, the Vancouver hip hop band Rascalz gathered an all-star crew of emerging Canadian rappers to record the anthem "Northern Touch", which beat the odds to become the first Canadian hip hop hit in half a decade, and a controversy erupted in Toronto when Milestone was again passed over for an urban radio station. Instead, the CBC was awarded 99.1 to move its existing Radio One station from the AM band—and, ominously, this was believed at the time to be the last available FM frequency in the city.
Then, in 1998, Rascalz refused the Juno Award for Best Rap Recording, citing that the award was presented during the non-televised portion of the ceremony along with the technical awards. Stung by the allegation of racism, the Junos moved the Rap award to the main ceremony the following year. Also that year, Maestro Fresh Wes, now known simply as Maestro, broke Canadian hip-hop's hit jinx, with "Stick to Your Vision" becoming his first chart hit since 1991.
Hip-hop and trip-hop acts such as Esthero, Choclair, Saukrates and Kardinal Offishall were also beginning to make waves in the press, as the Rascalz controversy and Maestro's comeback renewed attention on Canadian hip-hop.
In the same year, the CBC's Toronto station completed its move to FM. Because the FM frequency offered better broadcast coverage, the CBC found that it was able to surrender two repeater transmitters serving communities outside of the city.
In 1999, the CRTC held hearings to assign the two FM frequencies surrendered by the CBC in 1998. One of the frequencies was awarded to Milestone, on the company's third application. (The other frequency was awarded to Aboriginal Voices for a station to serve First Nations communities.)
In 2000, CBC Television created and aired Drop the Beat, a television series about hip hop music and culture.
Finally, in 2001, Milestone's CFXJ (Flow 93.5) debuted as Canada's first urban music station. Urban stations quickly followed in several other Canadian cities, as well, and for the first time, Canadian hip-hop artists had a network of radio outlets for their music. Swollen Members, Nelly Furtado, k-os, Buck 65, Sixtoo, Jully Black, Jarvis Church, Shawn Desman, Glenn Lewis, Remy Shand, Eternia, and Toya Alexis were among the rap and R&B acts to benefit from this new era in Canadian music.
The first wave of Canadian industrial was born out of the Juno Award winning New Wave act, Images in Vogue. From this Vancouver-based band, guitarist Don Gordon went on to found Numb, and percussionist Kevin Crompton left in 1985 to focus on his side project, Skinny Puppy. Quickly signed to Nettwerk Records, Skinny Puppy is still an influential industrial act. Skinny Puppy has spawned numerous sideprojects over the years, including Download, The Tear Garden, Doubting Thomas, ohGr, Cyberaktif, and others.
Out of this environment also came Front Line Assembly, formed by former Skinny Puppy member Bill Leeb in 1986. Joined by Rhys Fulber (and later by Chris Peterson), FLA became one of the most commercially successful electro-industrial acts of the 90s, and spawned a host of sideprojects, including (but not limited to) Conjure One, Pro-Tech, Synæsthesia, Will, Intermix, Noise Unit, Equinox, Cyberaktif, Mutual Mortuary, and the vastly successful Delerium, which began life as an ambient project.
During the swing boom of the late 1930s and early 1940s, Canada produced such notable bandleaders as Ellis McLintock, Bert Niosi, Jimmy Davidson, Mart Kenney, Stan Wood, and Sandy De Santis. In the 1940s, Bert Niosi and Oscar Peterson became widely known. Peterson became internationally acclaimed, and is a widely-respected Canadian jazz musician.
Going back to the late 60s, Canada has produced metal bands that have and continue to influence metal bands to this day. In 1964 , Toronto based band The Sparrows formed in Toronto, Ontario , this band later changed their name to Steppenwolf and featured Canadians John Kay, Goldy McJohn and Jerry Edmonton. Steppenwolf's 1968 single Born to be Wild was the first use of the word Heavy metal in a song's lyrics. In 1970, Woodstock, Ontario based Warpig released their Proto Metal debut which although never reaching mainstream success like fellow heavy metal bands Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer, has become a cult favorite within the Doom metal scene. In 1974 Toronto based progressive hard rock trio Rush released their first album and has become Canada's most internationally successful Hard rock export. Along with Rush was Triumph who enjoyed a successful string of albums in the late 70's and early to mid 80's and were an impressive live band who was known for elaborate stage lighting and pyrotechnics.
It was not long after the Bay Area Thrash metal scene and Teutonic thrash movement exploded that a new wave of Canadian thrash bands began to rise up and earned a dedicated following. Bands like Toronto's Anvil, Sacrifice and Razor, Montreal's Sword, and Ottawa's Exciter were local successes but also managed to become successful in Europe and Japan thanks in part by being invited to open for bands like Metallica and Slayer on their early tours.
Some of Canada's most successful bands in the 1980s were metal bands that opted to change their style from the early 80's roots metal sound to the growing Hair Metal style that became mainstream in the late 80's. Bands like Helix, Kick Axe, Brighton Rock and Killer Dwarfs saw growing popularity in the mid 80's thanks in part to Much Music and MTV playing their videos in regular rotation.
The year 1999 presented Spit, the debut album of the all-girl metal band Kittie, composed of Guitarist and singer Morgan Lander, drummer Mercedes Lander, bassist Talena Atfiels and guitarist Fallon Bowman, hailing from London, Ontario.
Canada's Death metal scene has produced artists most of whom are based out of Quebec. Bands like Kataklysm, Cryptopsy, Quo Vadis,Augury, Martyr, and Neuraxis have a strong underground following and are signed to major independent metal labels. In the 2000s Canadian metal has been put on the map by Vancouver band Strapping Young Lad featuring Devin Townsend, 3 Inches of Blood and Regina band Into Eternity. James Labrie lead singer of Dream Theater is Canadian born. Canada has a very strong underground metal scene in cities such as Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City. In recent years Canada has spawned notable deathcore acts such as Despised Icon, Beneath the Massacre, and Ion Dissonance. Some other notable bands are Profugus Mortis, and Unexpect
Often, however, Canadian records were simply covers of American or British pop hits. One important example was a Winnipeg band called Chad Allan & the Expressions, who had a 1965 hit with a version of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates' "Shakin' All Over".
Folkier singers like Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Denny Doherty (of The Mamas & the Papas), David Clayton-Thomas, Neil Young, Andy Kim, Zal Yanovsky (of The Lovin' Spoonful), John Kay (of Steppenwolf), and Ian & Sylvia also found international audiences. Their success paved the way for a new wave of Canadian singer-songwriters, including Stan Rogers, Murray McLauchlan, Bruce Cockburn and Willie P. Bennett.
Perhaps the most notable Canadian rock band is Rush, which is still active after over 30 years. Other notable and outstanding musicians are bands such as The Tragically Hip and The Tea Party which broke up in 2005 and was known for its diverse middle-eastern and Indian influences and variety of musical styles.
The decks stacked as they were against Canadian artists building successful long-term careers, the Expressions wanted radio stations and record buyers to believe they were a British Merseybeat band in disguise. So when they released their debut album, it didn't bear their own name — instead, it was labelled "Guess", And record executive was confused by this, so he put down "Guess Who?" as a joke, and then it became the band's permanent name.
The ruse worked, and within a few years The Guess Who were one of Canada's biggest musical names. To this day, their best-known songs ("American Woman", "Share the Land", "These Eyes", etc.) remain among Canada's most enduring classic rock anthems.
French settlers brought music with them when inhabiting what is now Quebec and other areas throughout Canada. Since the arrival of French music in Canada, there has been much intermixing with the Celtic music of Anglo-Canada. French-Canadian folk music is generally performed to accompany dances like the jig, jeux dansé, ronde, cotillion, and quadrille. The fiddle is a very common instrument, played by virtuosos like Jean Carignan, Jos Bouchard, and Joseph Allard. Other instruments include the German diatonic accordion, played by the likes of Philippe Bruneau and Alfred Montmarquette, spoons, bones, and Jew's harps.
Since 1979, Quebec music artists have been recognized with the Felix Award.
The traditional genre is heavily influenced by the music brought to the region by the European settlers, the most well known of which are the Scots & Irish celtic and Acadian traditions. Folk songs are those passed on orally, usually composed by unknown persons. In the Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island), sea shanties are widespread among the whaling and fishing workers. The lumber camps of New Brunswick have also produced their own body of folk songs. Irish and Scottish settlers in the eastern provinces of Canada brought traditions of fiddling and other forms of music. Having declined in popularity during the 20th century, a revival of Maritime traditional inspired music began in the late 1970s, lead by artists such as John Allan Cameron and Stan Rogers and later, the The Rankins, Mary Jane Lamond, Natalie MacMaster, Ashley MacIsaac, Barra MacNeils, and Barachois.
Successful pop acts from all genres have had degrees of national and international success since the beginning of recorded music period. Performers as diverse as Hank Snow, Anne Murray, Matt Minglewood and April Wine have all experienced tremendous success as popular music acts with considerable national and international tours and record sales. Since the 1990s, bands such as Sloan, Joel Plaskett, Matt Mays and Buck 65 have made a considerable impact.
As with the Maritime provinces, contemporary artists were the catalyst for a revival of interest in traditional music. Great Big Sea, Figgy Duff and Irish Descendants carried the traditional sounds of Newfoundland across Canada and around the world. The most popular being Great Big Sea.
Folk songs may be written by an individual, or they may be passed on from generation to generation, said to have been received through a vision or dream. These songs generally have one melody, which may be performed by an individual or a group.
Instruments include drums, rattles and flutes, constructed from natural objects.
Powwows are a common part of native music today. These are meetings and intertribal celebrations of music, dance and culture. The musical traditions of powwows draw on those adapted from the Plains Nations.
Few First Nations bands have gone mainstream in Canada. Arguably, the band that became the most popular was Kashtin, a duo that released their self-titled debut in 1989 an album that would eventually go double platinum despite that all the songs were in the band's native language, Innu.
Throat singing has become well-known as a curiosity. In katajjaq, female singers produce melodies from deep in their throats. A pair of singers stare at each other in a sort of contest. Common in Northern Quebec and Baffin Island, katajjaq singers perform in sync with each other, so that is producing a strong accent while the other is producing a weak one. The contest ends when one singer begins laughing, runs out of breath or the pair's voices become simultaneous. To some extent, young Inuit have revitalized the genre, and musicians like Tudjaat have even incorporated pop structures.
This trend has also been reinforced by a decrease of the industry in the New York City area, mainly spurred by factors like the rebranding of the 30+ year old Caribbean radio station WLIB 1090-AM by Inner City Broadcasting Corporation in 2004. The ICB rebranding was a tremendous setback to the Caribbean community and in an essence splintered the Caribbean music industry again across the New York City metropolitan area. In Canada, station's like Flow FM and CHIN, both located in Toronto, Ontario have served to bind the Caribbean music industry with their regularly rotated scheduling for Soca and Calypso music. During this time several of the leading Caribbean music DJs industry (which just happen to be based in Ontario) take to the air and launch several new songs or mixes. Some song mixes have been entered for various Caribbean Carnivals back in the Caribbean region and have created awareness in the Caribbean of new Soca and Calypso talent based in Canada.