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    The 22 Best Canadian Musicians of All Time

    best Canadian musicians

    There’s something about Canadian music. Maybe it’s the snow, or the optimism, or the dark light of winter, that gives the world some of the best story-songwriters and musicians. In the land of maple leaves, hockey, and moose, a surprising number of musicians have emerged over the years.

    Crisscrossing across genres and ages, these intrepid men and women have etched music into our souls, with songs that haunt us and give us meaning. Many of the elder statesmen and stateswomen of music have not only influenced but attributed to other artists across the globe, sometimes as mere backup singers or studio musicians, though their talent and fame can often outshine those they help.

    Some have even contributed to cultural traditions that have become deeply ingrained. Although there are many amazing musicians from Canada, here are a few of the best, in no particular order.

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    Shawn Peter Raul Mendes

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    Shawn Peter Raul Mendes in 1998 in Pickering, Ontario, Canada. Named by Time as one of the most influential teens and Forbes as a 30 under 30 because of his pop superstar status. He became the first artist to have three hits on the contemporary chart before age 20.

    He is known for Stitches”, “Treat You Better”,”If I Can’t Have You” (2019) and “Señorita” (with Camila Cabello). He has won 13 SOCAN awards, 10 MTV Europe Music Awards, eight Juno Awards, eight iHeartRadio MMVAs, two American Music Awards. He received three Grammy Award nominations.

    Jane Child

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    Jane Child was born Jane Richmond Hyslop in 1967 in Toronto, Ontario, is singer, songwriter, and record-producer best known for her hit single “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love”.  Although she started out as a classically trained pianist.

    She is as well known for her edgy sound, which is a mix of R &B, rock, and grunge as her eclectic fashion style, with hair spikes and a nose chain piercing.  She has been called  “the female Prince”.

    Gordon Lightfoot

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    Gordon Lightfoot, born Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr in 1938 in  Orillia, Ontario is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who brought folk-rock and country music to international acclaim. He defined the folk-pop sound of the ’60s and ’70s. His songs like “Early Morning Rain” “If You Could Read My Mind” and “The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald” are some of his more well-known songs which feature his 12-string guitar and deep baritone voice.

    He’s been described as a national treasure. Among his many honors, he’s received 16 Juno awards and 7 ASCAP awards. He has been nominated for 5 Grammy awards.

    He’s been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. He has been awarded the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, Canada’s highest honor in the performing arts. Fifty-four years after his debut album, at age 82, he released his 21st album.

    Alanis Morissette

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    Alanis Morissette born Alanis Nadine Morissette in 1974 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada She’s won both Juno and Grammy Awards and holds the record for the best-selling debut album worldwide. She is known for pop rock and grunge.

    She is called the Debbie Gibson of Canada, and is known for  “Too Hot”, “Walk Away”, and “Feel Your Love”.  She has also had an extensive career in film, stage, and TV.

    Stan Rogers

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    Stan Rogers was born Stanley Allison Rogers in 1949 in Hamilton, Ontario. Although he had an untimely death in 1983 he is considered the finest folk musician/story writer, deftly weaving lives, history, and myth into his music.  He was known for his rich vibrato baritone voice and his songs, which have a traditional Celtic sound to them.

    His music was inspired by the lives of working people. His music, deep in storytelling tradition, told of fishing villages in The Maritime provinces and farms on the Canadian prairies and the wilds of the Great Lakes.

    His best-known pieces include “Northwest Passage”, “The Idiot”,  “Barrett’s Privateers”, ” Mary Ellen Carter”,  and “White Squall”  These maritime songs are often featured at Sea Music Festivals around the globe and have a melancholy element of things that are lost. His brother, Garnet Rogers, and son, Nathan carry on his tradition.

    Neil Young

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    Neil Young born Neil Percival Young in 1945  born in Toronto. Although he is best known with the group Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and Buffalo Springfield, as well his own band, Crazy Horse. He has played his guitar with many of the top acoustical bands.

    Surprisingly, he played as a studio session guitarist for the Monkees. His influence transcends his music.

    He is known for songs like “Cinnamon Girl” in which his unorthodox guitar rifts gave him the nickname of “the Godfather of Grunge”. He has over 100 songs best recognized are ‘Helpless’, ‘Powderfinger’, ‘Cortez The Killer’, ‘Southern Man’, and ‘Ohio’.

    Drake

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    Aubrey Drake Graham is known simply as Drake, born in 1986, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada is a rapper,  songwriter, actor, producer, and entrepreneur, and creator of OVO Sound record label. He has over 170 million records sold and is the highest-certified digital singles artist.

    He has won four Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards, a record 27 Billboard Music Awards, two Brit Awards, and three Juno Awards. He’s known for What’s My Name?” (featuring Rihanna), “God’s Plan”, “In My Feelings”, “One Dance” (featuring Wizkid and Kyla), and “Good for What”.

    Renee Rosnes

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    Renee Rosnes born as Irene Louise Rosnes born in 1962 in Regina, Saskatchewan. She was a founding member of the SFJAZZ Collective.

    She is a jazz pianist, composer, and arranger. She’s won SOCAN Composer of the Year, and 2 Juno awards. She has played with most of the Jazz groups and ensembles in Canada.

    Robbie Robertson

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    Robbie Robertson, born Jaimie Royal Robertson born 1943 in Toronto, Ontario. He’s a songwriter, film composer, producer, actor, and author. He’s best known for his work as lead guitarist and songwriter for The Band.

    He created an instrumental in the Americana music genre and he’s been inducted to the Rock and roll Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, as well as being on the Canadian Walk of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine ranks him as 59th in the list of 100 greatest guitarists he wrote “The night they drove Old Dixie down”, “Broken Arrow”, and “Somewhere down Crazy river”. He wrote the film score for the movie “The Color of Money”, co-writing “It’s in the Way that You Use It” with Eric Clapton.

    Measha Brueggergosman

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    Measha Brueggergosman born in  1977  in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. She started her career as a mezzo-soprano by playing the lead in the opera Beatrice Chancy, a story of slaves, which echoes her family’s story of coming to Canada.

    She has sung with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra and she has performed Elektra, Dead Man Walking, and Turandot and the Verdi Requiem. She has won three Grammy awards.

    Celine Dion

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    Celine Dion born Celine Marie Claudette Dion in 1968, in Charlemagne, Quebec, is known for her incredible technically perfect vocal skills. She is the best-selling Canadian record artist in history. She came to international recognition by winning both the “Yamaha World popular song festival” and the “Eurovision song contest”.

    She’s won five Grammy awards. Not to be stopped, she even attempted opera with her lovely soprano voice that has a resonant vibrato. She commands a stage with her voice.

    She had a concert residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. She is known for her duets with her idol Barbra Streisand.

    Her most well-known songs are “Power of Love”, “My Heart will go on”, “To love you more”.  To date, she has recorded 26 studio albums.

    KD Lang

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    KD Lang born Kathryn Dawn Lang in 1961 in Edmonton, Alberta. She took the pop and country singer-songwriter world by storm when she won not only the Juno but the Grammy awards. She’s known for songs like “Constant Craving” and “Miss Chatelaine”.

    She performed at the closing ceremonies of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, and opened the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver British Columbia. In addition to her music, she has been active in animal and gay rights.

    Mathew Byrne

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    Mathew Byrne born in 1988 in St. John’s, Newfoundland, is rapidly becoming one of the best new talents in the folk tradition of Stan Rogers and his own parents, folk duo Pat and Joe Byrne. With his rich baritone voice and smooth lyric guitar, he plies the songs of the working folk covering old favorites and creating historical stories that blend seamlessly in the maritime folk tradition.

    He is also part of the band, The Dardanelles. He received two Canadian Folk Music Awards. A youngster on the list, he is well known up and down the Eastern Seaboard for his thoughtful ballads like “Banks of Newfoundland”, “Fair Ellen”, “Grey Funnel Line”, “Loss of the Schooner Maggie”, and “Come Fare Away.”

    Joni Mitchell

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    Joni Mitchell born Roberta Joan Anderson, 1943 in Fort McCloud Alberta Canada. She was known for songs like “Chelsea Morning”, “Both sides Now”, and “The Circle Game”.  These songs are covered by many other folk musicians.

    Her unique sound comes from her ethereal soprano voice and her multiple ways of tuning her guitar. Her songs are about social ideas, as well as romance disillusionment, and joy. She attained nine Grammy awards and an induction to the Rock and roll Hall of Fame.

    She is known for ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, ‘Help Me’, ‘Free Man in Paris’, and ‘A Case of You’. Joni Mitchell’s album Blue was rated by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 greatest albums of all time, claiming the number three spot. Joni blended jazz with rock and roll, R&B, non-traditional Western beats with just a slice of classical music added to the mix to create her sound.

    Glenn Gould

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    Glenn Gould born Glenn Herbert Gold in 1932 in Toronto, Ontario, was well known in the classical world as one of the finest and most celebrated pianists of the 20th century. His proficiency and detailed precision and thoughtful interpretations of the contrapuntal music of Bach and Beethoven astound.

    Known for his unorthodox musical interpretations and mannerisms, he left touring at 31 to concentrate on studio work, leaving a large body of work. One of his quirks was a devotion to a peculiar chair.

    He insisted on playing concerts only sitting on the chair his father had made, even when it became old and lost its seat. The chair is in a glass case at the National Library of Canada.

    Paul Anka

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    Paul Anka born in 1941 in Ottawa, Ontario. Another surprising Canadian, he achieved success when he was 14 years old in 1956 in New York City, and became a heartthrob through the 50s and 60s with chart comebacks in the 70s and then again in the 90s. A singer-songwriter and actor, he became famous with songs like “Diana”, and “Lonely Boy”.

    He wrote the theme for The Tonight Show. He co-wrote three songs with Michael Jackson, “This is It”, “Love never felt So Good”, and “It Don’t matter to Me”, which all became hits.

    He’s won the Juno award for composer and is inducted into the Music Hall of Fame. He’s also an officer of the order of Canada and has a maple leaf on the Canadian Walk of Fame.

    Leonard Cohen

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    Leonard Cohen, born Leonard Norman Cohen in 1934 in Westmont Quebec. He was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honor. As a Jewish singer-songwriter and novelist, he explores religion, death, depression, and politics.

    His music career didn’t start until he was 33 years old. He blends acoustic style with Eastern Asian and Mediterranean influences to produce a minimalist sound. He is best known for the highly covered “Hallelujah”.

    Shania Twain

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    Shania Twain, born Eileen Regina Edwards in 1965 in Windsor Ontario is known as the Queen of country-pop. She created a crossover genre that is all her own.  She is one of the best-selling artists of all time.

    With songs like “Come on over”, “The Woman in Me”, and “Up”, she dominates both country and pop. She’s received five Grammy awards, a World Music Award and 27 BMI songwriter awards and has stars on the Canadian Walk of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She’s the only female artist in history to have three consecutive albums certified Diamond.

    Guy Lombardo

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    Guy Lombardo born Gaetano Alberto Lombardo in 1902 in London, Ontario, he was a well-known bandleader who for over 50 years, played at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, then the Waldorf Astoria Hotel every New Year’s Eve. First, as a radio program, then moving to CBS television, he popularized “Auld Lang Syne” as the “New Year’s Song” and was named “Mr. New Year”.

    For several generations, he epitomized a celebration to start the year. He was featured on a Canadian postage stamp and has  3 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    Bryan Adams

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    Bryan Adams born Brian Guy Adams in1959 in Kingston Ontario. At age 20, he rose to fame with his top 10 albums “Cuts like a Knife”. He’s known for ballads like “Straight from the Heart” “Reckless” “Run to you” and “Heaven”.

    He wrote the theme song “Everything I do, I do it for you” for the movie Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves. His style embodies hard Rock arena, rock, soft rock. and even a bit of Glam Rock in his early career.

    In addition to being a guitarist and singer-composer, he is also a record producer and philanthropist.  He has received the prestigious “Order Of British Columbia Award”

    Susan Aglukark

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    Susan Aglukark born in 1967 in Churchill, Manitoba is known as an Indigenous Inuit. Her music is a smooth blend of Inuit folk music and country and pop beats. Her most successful song is “O Siem”.

    It reached No. 1 on the Canadian country and adult contemporary charts. She has released seven studio albums and has won three Juno Awards.

    She was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada. She is known for “Whaler’s Lullaby”, Breakin’ Down”, “Shamaya”, and “Suffer in Silence”.

    Michael Bublé

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    Michael Bublé born Michael Steven Bublé in 1975 in Burnaby, British Columbia. He is a modern version of the 1940’s crooners. Few know that he was a child entertainer, “Mickey Bubbles” and that he studied opera for many years, playing Bar Mitzvahs, cruises, conventions, and weddings to pay for lessons.

    He wrote “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and “Dumb ol’ Heart”, for the film “Here’s to Life!” and received two Genie Award nominations for Best Original Song. He is best known for his quirky, tongue-in-cheek, and playful videos that accompany his music. He pulls music from a variety of eras and makes them his own.

    Songs like  “Fever”, “For Once in My Life”, “Home”, “Moondance”, and “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” with Barry Gibb on backup vocals. He wrote “Everything” for Emily Blunt and then “Haven’t Met You Yet” for Luisana Lopilato. He has received numerous awards, including four Grammy Awards and multiple Juno Awards.

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