MOST COMMENTS: Weekly survey: Who is the greatest Canadian artist (solo or band) of all time?

It’s Canada Day on Wednesday–an awkward day for a national stat, but never mind–so our thoughts are naturally turning to what makes this country so special.

Simple question this week: Who is the greatest Canadian artist–solo, duo, band, whatever–of all time? If this country were to be remembered for just one artist before the heat death of the universe, who would that be?

Damn, there’s so many to choose from. Leonard Cohen. Rush. Neil Young. Joni Mitchell. The Hip. Guess Who. Oscar Peterson.

No wrong answers, obviously, but let’s see what you think. Leave your picks in the comments section below.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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.

59 thoughts on “MOST COMMENTS: Weekly survey: Who is the greatest Canadian artist (solo or band) of all time?

  • June 29, 2020 at 10:00 am
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    Someone from today would probably argue that due to record numbers and selling the most units right now would be drake. But our all time best Canadian artist of all time has got to be Neil Young. Neil young has had a career like none other. Being able to sell as many records as he did even though we can all agree as a singer is voice isn’t top tier but there’s something about the way he words things in his voice that sounds like an older self singing to you about everything wrong with today. And no other Canadian artist has had the long lasting impact that Neil young has had. Neil is a legend and when he dies we will build statues in Ontario.

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    • June 29, 2020 at 10:32 pm
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      Rush/ not a big fan at all but they they worked hard to have a long career playing stadiums and making albums for they’re dedicated fans i cant think of any other canadian band that worked as hard as rush and they also made great creative music

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      • June 30, 2020 at 10:27 pm
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        There have been so many great Canadian artist and still are. But the one and only BEST of all time is The Tragically Hip!!! 🇨🇦✌️

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    • July 1, 2020 at 5:41 am
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      Rush? Extremely musically talented, however completely unlistenable. Drake? Dreadful. Loverboy? What a farce. April Wine, were not good enough to play venues other than high schools. Gordon Lightroom? Very sad…can no longer sing. Now The Band certainly is a decent choice. And The Tragically Hip are Canada’s favourite backyard band. Leonard Cohen, the Canadian poet…a Bob Dylan.
      However watch Pearl Jam’s encore of “Keep On Rockin In the Free World” in 2010 at the ACC when Neil Young joins in…and you”‘ll agree Mr. Young is most deserving of being the iconic Canadian band. A legend!

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    • June 29, 2020 at 11:33 pm
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      So many superb ones to choose from but I think Loverboy is one of the greatest Canadian bands!

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      • July 1, 2020 at 10:14 am
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        Joni mitchell. It always surprises people that rockers like this flight tonight and Woodstock are joni tunes. Not just a folky .. eclectic and intelligent. Never listen to Neil young harvest anymore. But never tire of blue.

        Then again there’s guy lombardo

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  • June 29, 2020 at 10:05 am
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    It’s a crowded field but I would suggest Stompin’ Tom. Like a Canadian Woody Guthrie, he traveled the country and wrote about it. For non-Canadians, it can be hard to relate to his songs. For the rest of us, it’s music we understand. Call it a guilty pleasure.

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    • June 29, 2020 at 10:12 am
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      Stan Rogers overall, but if we are looking at alternative music, I’d say Spirit of the West.

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      • June 29, 2020 at 11:03 pm
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        The Flatliners are super underrated. Checkout the album Cavalcade if you’re checking them out.

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    • June 29, 2020 at 10:15 am
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      It depends on your metric for success. I personally would say Leonard Cohen, given his overall impact on the world of popular music for the last half-century, but if we are talking straight numbers, notwithstanding the short career to date, Drake would be hard to argue against. Spotify seems to be the new metric for success, and Drake has 2 of the top 10 most streamed songs of all-time, and was the most streamed artist on Spotify in 2015, 2016 and 2018. I can’t say I’m a huge fan, but I imagine this level of success will not only result in one of the most profitable Canadian acts of all-time, but will likely result in ripples in pop music on an international level for decades to come.

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    • June 29, 2020 at 4:27 pm
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      Anvil

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  • June 29, 2020 at 10:06 am
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    I think it’s got to be Rush, hands down. Global recognition at an unprecedented scale for a Canadian band/artist

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    • June 30, 2020 at 7:26 am
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      Skinny Puppy? Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet? Leonard Cohen?

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  • June 29, 2020 at 10:23 am
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    1. Joni Mitchell
    2. Neil Young

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    • June 29, 2020 at 11:36 am
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      At one time I would’ve said Rush (and in terms of worldwide recognition, it still probably should be them), but I don’t even find Rush to be as consistent as almost 30 years of….. SLOOOOOAAAAANNNNNNN!!!!!

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  • June 29, 2020 at 10:31 am
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    In terms of ‘Canadianess’, I think it’s a tie between The Tragically Hip and Gordon Lightfoot. Both singing about their love for Canada and staying true to their roots. Love them both. ❤️🇨🇦

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    • June 30, 2020 at 10:52 pm
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      Oh and a close runner up behind The Hip is…
      Finger 11 🇨🇦❤️

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  • June 29, 2020 at 10:34 am
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    Lots of ways to define the “greatest Canadian artist”.

    Band(s)
    1. The Hip – the most CANADIAN
    2. Rush – arguably most commercial success
    3. Arkells – don’t have the nostalgia factor yet but are well on their way.

    Solo
    1. Neil Young
    2. Celine Dion – i get it, not rock, not for everybody but international icon and whether its your cup of tea or not, ridiculously talented.

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  • June 29, 2020 at 10:50 am
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    Rush. Full Stop. Using every metric possible.

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    • June 30, 2020 at 2:45 pm
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      Gordon Lightfoot , started in the Sixties , still performing . Can any other Artist match his longevity and contributions to Canadian music ?

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  • June 29, 2020 at 11:22 am
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    Gordon Lightfoot deserves to be in the conversation.

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  • June 29, 2020 at 11:33 am
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    Rush – global success

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  • June 29, 2020 at 11:35 am
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    Lots of artists to consider. Tom Cochrane would have to be part of the conversation I would think.

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  • June 29, 2020 at 1:08 pm
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    Ron Hawkins, solo and all his bands – lowest of the low, do good assassins, rusty nails

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  • June 29, 2020 at 1:32 pm
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    Lightfoot, Rush or Ann Murray. Maybe Drake?

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  • June 29, 2020 at 1:40 pm
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    The answer is Rush. There is no argument. They epitomized what it is to be Canadian. True to their craft, never bowing to corporate music demands, hard working, loyal, caring, generous, steadfastly Canadian in every way (and on the world stage), respected around the world, and painfully nice beyond all definitions of what nice is.

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  • June 29, 2020 at 1:55 pm
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    I hate my answer. Even after the heat death of the universe, Céline Dion and “My Heart Will Go On” will go on and on and on…Ad Infinitum…Ad Nauseam

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    • June 29, 2020 at 2:43 pm
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      Sloan, hands down. They’re what you get when a Canadian band has the grit and determination to keep going against all odds. They’ve been at it for almost 30 years, and they have yet to release a full album worth of vaguely subpar music.

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  • June 29, 2020 at 2:07 pm
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    I would define “best” as musically innovative and reflecting Canadian values/cultures. I am not convinced commercial success is great criteria to use since the boomer bands have been around longer and enjoy heavy rotation on classic rock radio stations it may favour the traditional Canadian cannon. So I humbly submit the following:

    1. The Weakerthans- John K. Samson lyrics surpass everyone. They are poetic, philosophically interesting and utilize a wide range of literary devices. In one album three songs are written as sonnets. The music is melodic and introspective and off stage they have contributed to a wide variety of other art forms: poetry, film, and visual art.

    2. A Tribe Called Red- This group of Indigenous artists have linked dub step and traditional Indigenous (from various nations) music. They have collaborated with many other artists (Buffy Sainte Marie) and their music is probably some of the most creative anywhere. Nobody has linked the traditional/modern, the urban/rural as wells they do. They have been outspoken regarding racism and cultural appropriation. They support Idle No More and have given free concerts for those communities who could not afford to have them.

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  • June 29, 2020 at 2:08 pm
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    The only angel on Earth I know of is Sarah McLachlan

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  • June 29, 2020 at 3:32 pm
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    Alan Doyle/the Great Big Sea…why? They still live in Canada 🇨🇦-should that not be a qualifying note?

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    • June 29, 2020 at 10:53 pm
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      So many, however, I am going with 2 piano players, Glenn Gould, Oscar Peterson. Two of the greatest pianists the world has ever seen. And they are Canucks!

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  • June 29, 2020 at 4:40 pm
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    The Band, without question the most acclaimed Canadian Rock Band in history. Two albums on inside of Rolling Stones top 50 of all time. Rock Hall of Fame on first ballot( it took Rush 15 years). Grammy Lifetime achievement award. Most famous concert Film in history The Last Waltz directed by Scorsese. Idolized by Rock Stars like Harrison and Ringo, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello, Roger Waters. Pioneers of Americana.

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  • June 29, 2020 at 7:52 pm
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    What about the Headstones? Hugh Dillon is an accomplished actor as well and still has time to put out great music. One of their songs from their new album is #3. Give it a LISTEN

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  • June 30, 2020 at 6:30 am
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    As far as I’m concerned, it’s Big Wreck. They are fantastic, and they have a cover of Closer to the Heart that, gasp, is better than the original.

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  • June 30, 2020 at 1:49 pm
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    1. Spirit of the West

    2. Neil Young
    3. Rush
    4. Tragically Hip

    All have had super long careers of excellent lyrical storytelling within this great nation of ours. If you haven’t had a change, examine the written word within their catalogs, and tell me you don’t see a litre of Canada pour out of every song. While not all have had international exposure to the level of global awareness, it doesn’t make sense to promote a truly Canadian establishment to the outside world just for the sake of promoting “Canadian-ness”. That’s not what we are all about. In addition, the range of musical styles that each one of these icons has established, experimented with, collaborated with, and failed with, truly defines what I think of as a musical artist. Longevity in the Canadian psyche HAS to be a key criteria here. You don’t get to share your experimenting musically unless you have been doing it for decades.

    Oh, the ability to have a large demographic range of Canadians, coast to coast, break out in spontaneous dance, sing along and “sociable” moments, no matter their diverse backgrounds and current lots in life, has got to put you in the “greatest of all time” conversation.

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  • July 1, 2020 at 12:07 pm
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    Easily The Hip. Never sold out, always stayed true to their roots. Even in his last days Gord tried to make our country a better place. Who can even stand in the musical shadow of that man, in terms of Canadian-ness?

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