Forty-nine songs for a president

CBC Radio 2 has invited Canadians to name forty-nine songs from north of the forty-ninth parallel that explain to President-elect Barack Obama who we are. The difficulty is this: what exactly constitutes a Canadian?? Healey Willan, the Dean of Canadian Composers, certainly deserves a place, but he was born in Britain. Still, he described himself as “British by birth, Irish by extraction, Canadian by adoption, and Scotch by absorption.”

And what about Robert Goulet who grew up in Canada but was born in the U.S.? He made his name in the Broadway production of Camelot singing “If Ever I Should Leave You.” Neither country claimed him after he mangled the American national anthem at the Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston heavyweight fight in 1965.

Both Willan and Goulet are on my list, which is sweeping in its embrace. My nominations tilt toward artists from Atlantic Canada, which may reflect my own Celtic roots, but also celebrates the many talented individuals and groups who have sprung from that region, Cape Breton Island in particular.

I’ve picked a few songs for political purposes: The Tragically Hip’s “New Orleans is Sinking” and Bruce Cockburn’s “If I had a Rocket Launcher.” Other choices exist just to let the President-elect know that we’ve been good at this for a while. A 14-year-old Priscilla Wright, for example, appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1955 singing her international hit, “Man in a Raincoat.”

In no particular order, here are my forty-nine picks for the President:

John Allan Cameron – The Minstrel of Cranberry Lane

Hank Snow – I’m Movin’ On

Ian and Sylvia – Four Strong Winds

Rita McNeil and The Men of the Deeps – Working Man

Bryan Adams – Summer of ’69

Great Big Sea – Tickle Cove Pond

Healy Willan – Passacagalia and Fugue No. in E Minor

Gordon Lightfoot – The Canadian Railroad Trilogy

P.J. Perry – The Song is You

Joni Mitchell – Chelsea Morning

Gilles Vigneault – Mon Pays

Ashley MacIsaac – The Devil in the Kitchen

Jann Arden – Insensitive

Susan Aglukark – O Siem

The Rankin Family – Fare Thee Well Love

k.d. lang – Constant Craving

Various – O Canada

Leonard Cohen – Suzanne

Sarah McLaughlin – Angel

Stan Rogers – Barrett’s Privateers

René Simard -Comment Ça Va

Priscilla Wright – Man in a Raincoat

The Diamonds – Little Darlin’

The Guess Who – Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon

Stompin’ Tom Connors – Bud the Spud

Celine Dion – Titanic

Alannah Myles – Black Velvet

Barenaked Ladies – If I had a Million Dollars

John McDermott – Danny Boy

Anne Murray – Snowbird

The Canadian Brass – Messiah

Ronnie Hawkins – Forty Days

Paul Anka – Diana

Neil Young – Helpless

Bruce Cockburn – If I had a Rocket Launcher

Moe Koffman – Swinging Shepherd Blues

Alanis Morissette – Thank U

Nelly Furtado – I’m Like a Bird

Kate and Anna McGarrigle – Bundle of Sorrow, Bundle of Joy

Jeff Healey – Angel Eyes

Roch Voisine – I’ll Always Be There

Shania Twain – (If You’re Not in it for Love) I’m Outta here

Robert Goulet – If Ever I Should Leave You

The Barra McNeils – Mouth Music

Liona Boyd – Madrilena

The Tragically Hip – New Orleans is Sinking

Terri Clark – Better Things to Do

Blue Rodeo – Bad Timing

Natalie MacMaster – David’s Jig/Valerie Pringle’s Reel

1 Response

  1. Nice breadth of performers there. And thank you, thank you for not choosing American Woman as the Guess Who song.

    Angel Eyes is a beautiful song by John Hiatt. His 1987 album Bring the Family is a worthy addition to any collection.

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