Music History

Prepping for Canada 150: 50 Legendary Canadian Songs

My brother and sisters throughout Corus Radio were asked to compile a list of 50 legendary Canadian songs and then pass comment on them. Here’s the final result. For the full list and all the comments, go here.

1. Spirit of the West – Home for a Rest

This song was a guaranteed “play” at your local bar or club in the ’90s — and may still be, depending on where you frequent — but there’s no denying the BC band’s pep and energy. At every Spirit of the West concert, Home for a Rest was always the final song to be played (save for encores).

“One of (if not) the most popular singalongs in pubs along the east coast. Definitely a great song to hear when you’re three sheets to the wind” — Stephen Keppler, 92.5 Fresh Radio

2. The Tragically Hip – Bobcaygeon

Arguably one of the most Canadian songs out there, Bobcaygeon is filled with references to Canuck locales. The Tragically Hip have long been considered the quintessential “Canadian” band, and it’s hard to deny it. Every song has an echo of Canadiana deep in its notes.

“While it’s become a Canadian summer anthem, it listens even better on a cold winter day. One of the greatest examples of The Hip’s ability to poetically tackle social issues” — Scott Hackman, CISN Country 103.9

3. Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi

Both a political and personal song, Big Yellow Taxi is Mitchell’s biggest hit. Its poignancy is so strong, even still, that numerous artists have performed their own version, including Bob Dylan and the Counting Crows. Janet Jackson famously sampled the tune in her 1997 song Got ‘Til It’s Gone.

“I love the giggle at the end. Canadians care about making a stand, but we’ll also have fun while doing so!” — Elle Dee, 91.5 The Beat

4. Anne Murray – Snowbird

This mellow, carefree tune by Anne Murray is the first-ever gold record awarded to a Canadian solo female artist. Ever. Aside from that historical achievement, Snowbird is a Canadian classic, and like Mitchell’s song, has been covered by other artists like Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby.

“What can you say about the Canadian songbird and this song? Anne Murray is a true treasure, and has influenced so many other Canadian stars like Shania and Celine” — Chris Scheetz, CISN Country 103.9

5. k.d. lang – Constant Craving

k.d. lang has always been ahead of the curve, and this song was an instant hit, dominating the radio in 1992. It won her the best female pop vocal performance Grammy in 1993 and the MTV Video Award for best female video.

“She put Consort, Alta. on the map, and quickly got the attention of both the Canadian Beef industry and international big music stars (Roy Orbison)! Constant Craving is struggle between good and bad cravings in life” — Paul O’Neil, 92.5 Fresh Radio

6. Shania Twain – Man! I Feel Like a Woman

This fun song came at the height of “new” country, and Shania Twain was the undisputed queen of the movement. The Timmins, Ont. native, with her easy good looks and brassy attitude, brought a new flavour to a genre in danger of growing stale.

“Started her working life with a chainsaw in Northern Ontario, and I think this song shows that side in a strange way” — Chris Scheetz, CISN Country 103.9

7. Kim Mitchell – Patio Lanterns

Alternatively called a “timeless summer rock anthem” and “a lighthearted joke of a song,” your perception of Patio Lanterns is totally subjective. Despite some loathing of this tune, by 1996, the song had been played on Canadian radio stations more than 100,000 times (for perspective, it was released midway through 1986).

“This song makes me excited for summer. You’re instantly at the same little party as Kim Mitchell, wondering who would be the first to kiss” — Jacqueline Sweeney, CISN Country 103.9

8. Bachman-Turner Overdrive – Takin’ Care of Business

Try to get this one out of your head! Playfully dubbed “the provincial rock anthem of Manitoba,” TCB (as it’s affectionately known) is a timeless classic, perfect for that long road trip or commute to work. The origin story goes that Randy Bachman was driving to a gig in Vancouver when he heard a radio DJ say “We’re takin’ care of business!” … and the rest is history.

9. Terry Bush – Maybe Tomorrow (The Littlest Hobo theme)

If you grew up in the ’80s and the early ’90s, you could catch episodes of dog TV show The Littlest Hobo in syndication (and if you’re lucky, even today you can catch it on Sunday mornings). Hokey and heartwarming, the song is a perfect partner for the show. Try not to sing along.

“Growing up in small town Saskatchewan in the ’90s, we only had two TV stations and this show was a family fave! This song brings me back to my childhood. While all the other kids had MTV, we had The Littlest Hobo!” — Dani Rohs, 92.5 Fresh Radio

10. The Guess Who – Running Back to Saskatoon

Sure, The Guess Who has many outstanding classics (including American Woman, unfortunately not included in this list), but Running Back to Saskatoon has a distinctly Canadian feel. A combination of blues, rock and country, the song is a dedication to Canadian locales, and they’re mentioned in the lyrics; Moose Jaw, Moosomin, Red Deer, Medicine Hat are among them.

“As a kid growing up in Winnipeg, I remember Guess Who pride being very, very strong. But when Running came out, it was the first time many of us heard a big-time rock band name-check a Canadian city in a song. And it was a hit! Suddenly it was cool for rock bands (not just folkies) to sing about our country” — Alan Cross, 102.1 The Edge

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38319 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Prepping for Canada 150: 50 Legendary Canadian Songs

  • There should have been something by the Grapes of Wrath on the list


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