The Encyclopedia of Canadian Rock, Pop, and Folk Music
- 1990s and beyond
The Encyclopedia of Canadian Rock, Pop, and Folk Music is the go-to source for anyone interested in learning about the history of Canadian music.
Although commercial radio began in 1925, it wasn’t until the late 1940s that Canadian popular music began to be heard on a national level. The first Canadian pop record was “All My Lovin'” by the Crew-Cuts, released in 1952. It was a cover of an American doo-wop tune and went to number one on the Canadian charts.
The roots of Canadian rock and pop
Pre-1960: The roots of Canadian rock and pop Before the advent of rock’n’roll, the most popular form of dance music in Canada was big band swing. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, however, a new style of music called rhythm and blues began to emerge, and it soon had a big impact on the young people of this country. African-American R&B groups such as Louis Jordan and his Tympani 5, and Amos Milburn made records that were very popular with Canadian audiences, particularly those in the teenage demographic.
The Canadian music scene of the pre-1960s was dominated by British and American performers and recordings, although there were a few home-grown stars such as Paul Anka, Anne Murray, and Gordon Lightfoot. The first Canadian band to achieve international success was The Guess Who, whose single “Shakin’ All Over” (1965) reached the Top Ten in both Canada and the United States. In the late 1960s, several other Canadian bands began to make their mark on the international music scene, including Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and Rush.
The 1960s was a decade of change for Canadian Rock, Pop, and Folk Music. The Beatles came to America and changed the sound of popular music. They were followed by other British Invasion bands like The Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Kinks. These bands brought a new sound to the music scene, and many Canadian bands followed suit.
The British Invasion and its impact on Canada
In the early 1960s, a new type of music was introduced to Canada and the world – rock ‘n’ roll. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and other British bands found success in North America, and their music had a major impact on Canadian artists. These bands sparked a “British Invasion” of sorts, leading to a new wave of popularity for rock music in Canada.
During this time, many Canadian musicians began to experiment with different styles of music, incorporating elements of British rock ‘n’ roll into their sound. This fusion of styles would come to define the sound of Canadian rock music for decades to come. Some of the most popular Canadian rock bands of the 1960s, such as The Guess Who and The Paul Revere & The Raiders, were heavily influenced by British Invasion groups.
The British Invasion also had a major impact on the development of Canadian pop music. In the late 1960s, several Canadian-based record labels began to sign British artists to their rosters. These labels helped to promote British pop music in Canada, and many Canadians soon came to appreciate the style. By the end of the decade, British pop acts such as Petula Clark and Dionne Warwick were regularly topping the charts in Canada.
The rise of Canadian rock
In the late 1950s, a distinct Canadian pop music identity began to emerge, supported by a burgeoning recording industry and many talented musicians. One of the first Canadian rock and roll hits was “Rockin’ Sailor” by Halifax group The Novacks, which reached the Top Ten in 1956. By the early 1960s, numerous other homegrown bands had surfaced, including Terry Jacks and The Poppy Family in Vancouver, Shy Guys in Winnipeg, Paul Anka in Ottawa, The Guess Who in Winnipeg, and Céline Dion in Charlemagne, Quebec.
The folk music scene
Folk music in the 1960s was dominated by American singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, who were highly influential both in Canada and the United States. In Canada, artists such as Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young were also gaining popularity. Mitchell’s album Blue, released in 1971, was particularly successful and is often cited as one of the greatest albums of all time.
The golden age of Canadian rock
In the early 1970s, a new generation of Canadians came of age and, determined to create their own music and identity, turned to rock & roll. With few exceptions (such as Toronto’s FM), Canadian radio was highly conservative, so the only way for new bands to get exposure was to tour relentlessly. The result was a golden age of Canadian rock in which many of the country’s best and most popular groups — including Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the Guess Who, Rush, Heart, April Wine, Max Webster, Bryan Adams, and Triumph — honed their skills on the road before finding success at home and around the world. The collaborative nature of much Canadian rock also meant that many musicians became involved in multiple projects; for example, keyboardist Colin Towns appeared on records by Mushrooms, Ian Thomas Band, Sea level UK , Bulkhead UK , Murray Head , Nazareth , Graham Parker & The Shot , Eddie & The Hot Rods , Matthew Fisher Procol Harum .
In the early 1970s, a new generation of Canadians came of age and rock & roll quickly became their go-to genre for music. With few exceptions (such as Toronto’s FM), Canadian radio was highly conservative at the time, so the only way for new bands to get exposure was to tour relentlessly. The result was a golden age of Canadian rock in which many of the country’s best and most popular groups — including Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the Guess Who, Rush, Heart, April Wine, Max Webster, Bryan Adams and Triumph — honed their skills on the road before finding success at home and around the world. The collaborative nature of much Canadian rock also meant that many musicians became involved in multiple projects; for example keyboardist Colin Towns appeared on records by Mushrooms,, Bulkhead UK Murray Head Nazareth Graham Parker & The Shot Eddie & The Hot Rods Procol Harum .
The rise of punk and new wave
In the late 1970s, a new generation of Canadian musicians came to the fore who rejected the more polished, pop-oriented sounds of their parents in favor of a rawer, more street-wise style that was heavily influenced by British and American punk rock. Bands such as The Diodes, Teenage Head, and The Viletones injected a new sense of energy and attitude into the Canadian music scene, helping to usher in a new era of rock and roll. New wave artists like Rough Trade, Martha Ladly, and lovers Zeke Manyika also emerged during this period, adding a more art-rock sensibility to the mix.
The folk music revival
In the early 1970s, there was a renewed interest in folk music in Canada, inspired in part by the international folk music revival. This revival was led by young urban dwellers who were interested in exploring their cultural roots. Many of them were university students who had been exposed to traditional folk music through their work with campus radio stations and student newspapers.
The revival focused on both traditional and contemporary folk music. Traditional folk musicians such as Mary Kate and Hugh Campbell (see Kate & Anna McGarrigle), Valdy, James Keelaghan, Sylvia Tyson (see Ian & Sylvia), Stan Rogers and Garnet Rogers were rediscovered by a new generation of listeners. Newer performers such as Andy Verhalen, Chris Williamson, Genticorum, Le Nique and Mamadi Keita also became popular.
The revival spawned a number of festivals dedicated to folk music, including the Mariposa Folk Festival (est. 1961), the Ottawa Folk Festival (est. 1968) and the Winnipeg Folk Festival (est. 1974). These festivals provided an important showcase for both established and emerging talent. The Mariposa Folk Festival, in particular, served as a training ground for many young festival volunteers who went on to play important roles in the development of the Canadian music industry.
The 1980s was a decade of change for Canadian rock, pop, and folk music. The punk and new wave movements had a major impact on the music scene, and many artists began to experiment with different genres. This decade saw the rise of many popular Canadian musicians, including Bruce Cockburn, Bryan Adams, and Leonard Cohen.
The birth of Canadian hip hop
Hip hop music first appeared in Canada in the early 1980s, withfa local scene developing in Toronto. Much like hip hop’s originsin New York City, Canadian hip hop was born out of a combinationof black and Latino culture, as well as the influence of Jamaicanreggae and dancehall music. Early pioneers of Canadian hip hopincluded groups like Maestro Fresh Wes, Dream Warriors and MichieMee.
The new wave of Canadian rock
The new wave of Canadian rock was a revival in Canadian popular music of the formative influences on English-Canadian rock music in the 1950s and 1960s. The new wave scene in Canada was never as big or as influential as its counterpart in the United Kingdom, but it did produce some noteworthy bands and artists.
One of the most important bands of the new wave era was Toronto’s Teenage Head, whose debut album, Frantic City, is often cited as one of the best Canadian rock albums of all time. Other important bands included Brampton, Ontario’s Blue Peter; Vancouver’s Pointed Sticks; and Montreal’s Rationals.
The new wave era also saw the emergence of a number of important solo artists, including Joey Gregory (of Teenage Head), Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan, Dan Hill, Gino Vannelli, and Kate & Anna McGarrigle.
The decline of folk music
In the early 1980s, the popularity of folk music declined in Canada. This was due to a number of factors, including the rise of punk and new wave music, and the commercial success of British folk-rock groups such as Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span. As a result, many Canadian folk musicians struggled to find an audience for their music.
1990s and beyond
The 1990s saw a significant change in the music scene in Canada. Grunge and alternative rock became popular, and many new artists emerged. Some established artists continued to enjoy success, while others found it harder to maintain their popularity. In this section, we’ll look at some of the most successful and influential artists of the 1990s and beyond.
The grunge years
In the early 1990s, the Canadian music scene was dominated by Anglo-Canadian pop and hard rock performers such as Bryan Adams, Anne Murray, Celine Dion, Joni Mitchell, Rough Trade, The Pursuit of Happiness, 54-40, and Tom Cochrane. In 1991 two Seattle-based grunge bands, Nirvana and Pearl Jam, released seminal albums that would have a profound impact on the Canadian music scene. Nirvana’s Nevermind (DGC) created a sensation upon its release in September 1991 and would eventually sell over 30 million copies worldwide. Led by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain, Nirvana popularized a bleak and aggressive form of rock that would come to be known as grunge. With its unapologetic rejection of hair metal and pop music values, grunge quickly found favour with disaffected youth across North America.
Pearl Jam’s debut album Ten (Epic), released in August 1991, entered the US charts at number two behind Nevermind and went on to sell over 13 million copies in the US alone. While Nirvana’s success was largely attributable to the popularity of its biggest hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Pearl Jam’s popularity was more evenly distributed across its album tracks. Ten spawned several radio favourites including “Alive,” “Even Flow,” “Jeremy,” and “Black.” Although both bands achieved immense mainstream success, they remained fervently committed to their underground roots. In keeping with this commitment, both bands refused to make videos for their most popular singles and both groups shied away from excessive media exposure.
The rise of electronic music
In the early 1990s, a new generation of Canadian electronic musicians began to emerge, many of whom were influenced by the UK club and rave scenes. Prominent artists included Winnipeg’s Greggow and Toronto’s Alter Ego, whose 1989 single “Rocker” was one of the first homegrown club hits. Montreal duo Power Pill Fist also made a splash with their 1997 album 1200 Micrograms.
The new millennium
The new millennium dawned with a number of changes in the Canadian music scene. Most notably, the rise of digital music downloading and streaming services like Napster, iTunes, and Spotify, which began in the late 1990s and early 2000s, led to a dramatic decline in record sales. This had a profound impact on the music industry, particularly major labels and record stores, but also on musicians, who saw their incomes shrink asalbum sales declined. In response to this change, many musicians turned to touring and live performance as a way to make money, while others embraced DIY culture and self-released their music online.