The 2015 Juno Awards saw Canada’s favourite troubadour, Leonard Cohen, add to his unprecedented list of post-age 70 musical accolades by taking home the hardware for Album of the Year for his 2014 disc Popular Problems.
In celebration of the Junos and Canadian music legends, EverythingZoomer.com looks back at interviews with three home-grown stars who discuss how the Great White North helped shape their careers and Canadian music’s influence at home and abroad.
Often called the “architect of Canadian rock and roll,” Randy Bachman reflects on how the Canadian music landscape has changed since he emerged as one of the first internationally-successful Canadian artists in the 1960s as a member of The Guess Who:
“Since MTV started and the videos started to get out there, I know people all over the world would look and see what [was] coming out of Canada. Canada is so different and so diverse—no two bands are the same. You try to compare The Barenaked Ladies to Rush to April Wine to Metric to Arcade Fire—there’s no comparison. We all grew up in this wonderful era where our parents or grandparents were ethnic so that ethnic music was in our household growing up … and that influences your own music, plus everything else we’ve got in Canada. Me growing up in Winnipeg and being stuck there, and Neil Young being stuck there, and everybody else there, [we listened to] whatever came in there on the late night airwaves. We listened to A.M prairie radio at the top of the Great Plains.”
“But, that’s what I think Canadian music is like—every band is really individual. It’s hard to find two bands that are the same in sound and in composition and in their attitude and in the music they put out. So, it’s really exciting.”
Throughout his long career—whether making girls swoon as a teen idol or hanging with the Rat Pack in Vegas—legendary crooner, Paul Anka, says he hasn’t forgotten his, “Canadian days.” The Ottawa native, and former Zoomer magazine cover star, reflects on the Canadian sensibility that helped keep him grounded over the years:
“Is there a “Canadian sensibility”—a civilized dynamic of living? I think there is … we had our own stamp. So, that came to play for sure. And it came to play that I came from a good home and had great parents. Whatever goes on up there in our educational system, there’s definitely a Canadian vibe. I don’t know how to put my finger on it, but we’re educated differently, we look at life differently, we are brought up differently. And there’s a Canadian culture, and there’s something about being brought up there that has really kept me what I am. I believe that and I’ve [talked about] that to many Canadian artists. There’s just something about what lays within us that makes us that little bit different.”
Anka on the influence of Canadian music around the world:
“I was in Singapore, did a big show there. We had like 8,000 people. And that’s the only time you really feel how you impact them. So, when I tour down there they run up with all these old records. And some of them are in their 60s and their 70s … and it amazes me. Even when I was in Poland, even Russia. It was just amazing. And the music means a lot more to foreign places than it does here because we get so much of it. It’s a bigger impact down there in Asia and South America. It’s amazing the influence that we bestow on them. It’s amazing.”
“Life is a Highway” singer, Tom Cochrane, recalls riding up and down the roads in his early career with the band Red Rider:
“When we were struggling, Alberta was supportive, as the East Coast has been. But, all over Canada [has] always been pretty supportive.”
But it’s one particular encounter, with perhaps the greatest Canadian of all, that inspired Cochrane to keep moving forward, eventually establishing himself as one of the great rockers in Canadian history:
“We were living on a shoestring. And we’re driving back from Winnipeg to Toronto and I’m wondering, ‘Why the heck am I doing this?’ Sleeping in the back of the station wagon, we’re taking turns driving. And outside of Thunder Bay traffic stops and the rain’s pouring down and I wake up and this police car goes by and then slowly, out of the drizzle, comes this one-legged boy running. And you wonder whether it’s tears or whether it’s rain running down his face and he’s looking ashen. You can see the pain, but you can see the courage in his face. And that was the last day [Terry Fox] ran.”
“And it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was a moving experience and I thought, ‘How tough is my gig? How can I complain about this? I’m able to make music, I’m making people happy with the music.’ And it sort of changed my outlook on life. It was one of those markers that you pay attention to and you go, ‘I’m going to keep at this for a little while longer.’ It was a powerful experience.”
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