It’s Canada Day, and a glorious one it is. I’ve been taking a break from writing and blogging, to refill my creative well and enjoy what’s turning out to be a beautiful summer here in Nova Scotia. Now I’m feeling refreshed and ready to reconnect. I’m looking forward to a day of fun in the sun, but first, a tribute to what is (in my unapologetically biased opinion) the greatest country in the world.
This morning I’ve been thinking about songs that capture the essence of Canada. I’ve come up with five. I’ll start with the one that I think should be our national anthem – Northwest Passage, by Stan Rogers. To me, this song expresses the history and reality of a huge country that still dominates us with its size and its climate, just as it did in the day of Sir John Franklin.
For just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea
Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage
To make a Northwest Passage to the sea
Next, the Canadian Railroad Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot. A tribute to the ‘navvies’ whose labour connected the country from Atlantic to Pacific, and a reminder that the comfort and ease we enjoy was bought for a high price.
Third, Kiri’s Piano by James Keelaghan. I love the thoughtfulness and intelligence of Mr. Keelaghan’s lyrics, as well as his compelling voice and gift for melody. This song describes a dark period in our history: the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War 2. It’s based on a true story.
No Canada Day playlist would be complete without this exquisite French tune, Mon Pays, Ce N’est Pas un Pays, C’est l’Hiver, by Quebec folk icon Gilles Vigneault. This song takes me back to my childhood in Montreal, to snow days when silent, white-blanketed streets became a playground.
And last but far from least, River by Joni Mitchell, in my book the most original Canadian singer-songwriter ever, from her Blue album. A generation of Canadians came of age listening to this album. It expresses all the passionate angst of youth and binds it to the natural rhythms of the country.
I wish I had a river I could skate away on… You can’t get more Canadian than that. Enjoy.