Thursday, July 1, 2010

O Canada

Happy Canada Day! Like most Americans, I have spent this day thinking about who the greatest Canadian rock star is. It's not a simple question, because there's more to it than just "Who was the greatest rock star who was born in Canada?" Many of the biggest stars from the Great White North, from Joni Mitchell and the Band to Bryan Adams and Shania Twain, have long since emigrated to Les Etats-Unis and surrendered whatever remnants of Canadian identity they once had. We could take the easy way out and call Neil Young the greatest Canadian rock star, but there isn't very much that's Canadian about him anymore, is there?

On the other hand, you have acts like the Tragically Hip, who are quintessentially Canadian, which is probably why no one cares about them down here in the Lower 48. Or Barenaked Ladies, who are the perfect Canadian band: funny, polite, inoffensive, eager to please, bland. They manage to be endearing and boring at the same time, which isn't an easy feat to pull off.

I guess my question is: Which Canadian act has had the most success here in America without surrendering its fundamental Canadianness? I would posit that it's Rush, whom everybody knows but no one would ever mistake for Americans. Plus, Geddy Lee sang on Bob and Doug McKenzie's indelible and excruciatingly Canadian hit "Take Off."

Anyone else?


  1. I think you're right--it's Rush. I think more than any aspect of Canadian culture, Rush symbolize uncompromised Canadian content.

    I saw them at a Toronto festival in 2003, where they began with their local tribute "YYZ," and 400,000 people roared in recognition, even though it's an instrumental. Any American in attendance had to feel incredibly jealous.

  2. Alanis Morissette.

    Oh...and Celine Dion and Paul Anka!

  3. Don't They Might Be Giants feel very Canadian?

  4. How 'bout Gordon Lightfoot?
    Or Gordon Sinclair?

    But seriously -- I think it takes a Canadian to mine both the melancholy and the hit-making potential of a Great Lakes freighter wreck.