Top 20 Canadian Musicians
In honour of Canada Day, we proudly present our first playlist of the top 20 musical acts Canada has ever produced. Usually our playlists are limited to 10, but with so many great Canadian musicians, how could we possibly choose just 10? To help with the selection, we asked everyone here on the slice.ca team to offer their picks for this oh-so-special honour. Of course, we’re sure we’ve left off someone’s fave, but we had to cut if off somewhere. What we have included are some of the world’s greatest musicians, and some of the world’s soon-to-be greatest. So without further ado, happy Canada Day!
1. Leonard Cohen - “Hallelujah”
Considered by many to be an unparalleled masterpiece of songwriting, this song has also been covered by a slew of artists, from John Cale in the first Shrek film, to Willie Nelson, Bon Jovi, and Canadians Rufus Wainwright, k.d. lang, and Simple Plan.
2. Joni Mitchell - “Big Yellow Taxi”
Covers are still being made of this song about nature’s losing war with civilization. With its references to pesticides and deforestation, it’s just as relevant today.
3. Neil Young - “Heart of Gold”
We’ve clearly started our list off with the big guns. Young has a dizzying number of albums under his belt: six from his years with Buffalo Springfield, six from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, one from the Stills-Young Band, and an amazing 34 albums on his own. Of those 34, more than half a dozen went platinum or multi-platinum.
4. Oscar Peterson – “You Look Good To Me”
Frequently called Canada’s greatest gift to jazz, over the course of his six-decade career Peterson performed and recorded with musical monoliths Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Duke Ellington.
5. Stompin' Tom Connors – “Sudbury Saturday Night!”
Despite being almost completely unknown outside of Canada, Stompin Tom Connors was voted 13th greatest Canadian, fifth greatest living Canadian, and the top Canadian performing artist by voters in the CBC’s “Greatest Canadian National Survey” in 2004. Far be it from us to leave him off our humble list.
6. Anne Murray – "Snowbird"
For the current crop of Canadian music listeners, she might only be known as someone your mother, or possibly, grandmother listened to. But she’s sold 54 million records, has won more than 30 Grammy, Juno, and American Music awards, and was said to be Elvis Presley’s favourite female vocalist, thank you very much.
7. Sarah McLachlan – “Angel”
Despite being only 42 years old, Sarah McLachlan’s career spans more than two decades and includes album sales over 40 million worldwide. In 1996, she created Lilith Fair, the first and most successful all-female music festival ever.
8. Bryan Adams – “It’s Only Love” (duet with Tina Turner)
Whether you like arena rock or not, there can be no list of the top musicians in Canada that doesn’t include Bryan Adams. With hits such as “Run to You”, “Summer of ‘69”, “Heaven,” and “Cuts Like a Knife,” Adams has also collaborated and written songs for Tina Turner, Roger Daltrey, Neil Diamond, Bonnie Rait, and Joe Cocker.
9. The Barenaked Ladies – “If I Had a Million Dollars”
With a career spanning more than 20 years, BNL started as duo vocalists Ed Robertson and Steve Page playing at college campuses. Their first major release, 1991’s Yellow Tape, sold so fast it became the first independently released tape to go platinum in Canada. Soon they were chart-toppers around the world, with hits such as “The Old Apartment,” “One Week,” and “If I Had a Million Dollars.”
10. The Tragically Hip – “New Orleans Is Sinking”
Quite possibly the most beloved Canadian band, The Hip manage to sell out arena-size concerts in Canada and the States, despite their lack of chart success outside of Canada.
11. Blue Rodeo – “5 Days In May”
From their first hit single, “Try,” from their Outskirts album released in 1987, Blue Rodeo has maintained a presence on the Canadian music scene, selling over three million albums and winning four Juno “Best Group” awards.
12. Maestro Fresh West – “Let Your Backbone Slide”
Wes Williams aka Maestro Fresh Wes paved the way for Canadian rappers with this fresh cut that was the first Canadian hip hop single to reach gold status and premier on Billboard’s Top 20 Rap Singles Chart. “Let Your Backbone Slide” was all the rage of dance floors worldwide in the early 90s and can still be heard sampled in today’s electronic music.
13. Our Lady Peace – “Superman’s Dead”
The band was the soundtrack of many Generation Xers lives during the 90s. They were the quintessential alt-rock troupe with introspective lyrics, pulsing hooks, and Raine Maida's unique vocals (and frontman good looks).
14. Alanis Morisette – "You Oughta Know"
Her first album, Jagged Little Pill, sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. Featuring singles like "You Oughta Know," "Head Over Feet," "Hand in My Pocket," and "Ironic," it was the best-selling debut album by a female artist in the U.S. and the highest-selling debut album worldwide. Her second album, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart.
15. Broken Social Scene – “Superconnected”
An ensemble indie rock band (with a growing international following), BSS can have as many as 17 members. Former and occasional bandmates include Leslie Feist, Emily Haines (Metric), Bill Priddle (Treble Charger), and Amy Millan and Evan Cranley (Stars), to name a very few.
16. Feist – “1234”
Leslie’s Feist’s shreddy voice was caused from her time with Calgary punk band Placebo in the 90s and now serves her well on her quieter, more reflective efforts, which include “Mushaboom,” “1234,” “My Moon My Man,” and “Sea Lion Woman.”
17. Arcade Fire – "Intervention"
With only seven years under their belt, this Montreal-based band has already released three albums—Arcade Fire, Funeral, and Neon Bible—with the last two being nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 2005 and 2008 GRAMMY Awards.
18. K’Naan– “Waving Flag”
Toronto-raised, Somali-born rapper K’naan’s hit “Waving Flag” was already a hit when it was re-released by Canada’s Young Artists for Haiti to benefit aid relief for Haiti and re-mixed yet again as the official anthem of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Can it get any bigger than that?
19. Tegan and Sara – “Here I Am”
Tegan and Sara are identical 30-year-old twins from Calgary who have developed a devoted following for their indie pop/rock/New Wave music. Since releasing their first album, Under Feet Like Ours in 1999, five more have followed. Their popularity in part is due to their live performances, where the twins share personal stories and banter.
20. Stars – “Take Me To the Riot”
Members of Stars—vocalist Torquil Campbell and keyboardist Chris Seligman—are also members of Broken Social Scene. Quite prolific, they’ve released 12 albums since 2001 and several of their songs have been featured on the American teen drama, “The OC.”
Written by: Reni Walker