From hosting one of the largest outdoor concert audiences ever, to the rise of the Toronto indie scene in the early 2000s, and saying farewell to the Tragically Hip in the summer of 2016, Canada has left quite a footprint on the music scene.
In celebration of Canada Day, here’s a look at some of the moments Canadian music fans can be most proud of.
The Hip’s Farewell Concert
The country shut down one Saturday evening in 2016 to watch what was supposed to be The Tragically Hip’s final performance. With the news of Gord Downie’s terminal diagnosis, it was an emotional summer that led to the whole country tuning in on every possible screen to watch the iconic band end their journey where it all began: in Kingston, Ontario. An estimated 11.7 million Canadians tuned into the live performance, with millions more watching around the world online and at viewing parties.
The MCRT was a benefit concert that took place in Toronto on July 30, 2003. The concert aimed to raise funds to help Toronto recover from the SARS outbreak that happened earlier that year. The event had about 500,000 people in attendance, making it the biggest outdoor ticketed event ever in Canada.
Three Canadian Women Clean Up the Grammy Awards
In 1996, Joni Mitchell, Shania Twain, and Alanis Morisette did Canadian women proud with multiple Grammy wins. The three artists combined won seven awards, four of them won by Morisette, whose Jagged Little Pill won Album of the Year, Best Rock Album, and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.
First Canadian Musicians on a Stamp
In 1980, the faces of Canadian musical legends Emma Albani and Healey Willan were put on the Canada Post stamp. The two artists became the first Canadian musicians to do so.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive sets a World Record
In Vancouver in 1994, BTO, along with 1322 guitarists, earned their spot in The Guiness Book of World Records after playing “Taking Care of Business” for 68 minutes. The record was made for the most guitarists playing the longest song, which has since been broken but nevertheless stands as one of the coolest moments in Canadian music history.
The Spoons release Arias & Symphonies
The Burlington band’s second album was released in 1982. Although new wave had already been around for a few years, Arias & Symphonies played a pivotal role in defining the genre in Canadian music.
Leonard Cohen Records “Hallelujah”
Hallelujah was recorded in June 1984 and released in December of that same year. The track received barely any recognition on its initial release, but is now one of the biggest songs in Canadian music history.
Rush Receives Order of Canada
On February 15, 1997, Rush became the first rock band to receive the Order of Canada.
Joni Mitchell “Big Yellow Taxi”
1970 was the year that Joni Mitchell’s big hit “Big Yellow Taxi” was released. The song blew up quickly in Canada and was praised for its environmental commentary. It was also covered by multiple artists, most recognizably by Counting Crows.
The Beatles Met by Screaming Fans in Montreal
On the night of September 7, 1964, The Beatles were met by hordes of screaming fans when they landed in Montreal for their first Canadian tour. Two years later, the band would play their final Canadian show in Toronto, 12 days before they announced the end of touring together.
Neil Young at Massey Hall
Massey Hall has had its share of notable performances, but Neil Young’s appearance in 1971 is among the venue’s best. That was the year of Young’s Journey Through Past Solo Tour, and the live album of that concert reached first place in Canada for most sold units that same year.
Tanya Tagaq’s Polaris Prize Win
Tanya Tagaq stole the show during 2014’s ninth annual Polaris Music Prize. The Inuk singer not only took home the Polaris Prize, but also captivated the award show’s audience with a closing performance that received a well-deserved standing ovation.
The Rise of Modern Canadian Pop Music
2015 saw a boom in Canadian pop artists consistently topping the charts. That year, Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late reached number one on the chart, along with Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face.” A few years earlier, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” topped the charts in over a dozen countries and became one of Canada’s biggest pop songs of all time, laying claim to being the fourth best-selling digital single of all time. Since 2015 we’ve also seen artists Shawn Mendes and Alessia Cara reach chart topping status, making a name for Canadian pop music in the late 2000s.
Toronto’s Indie scene in early 2000s
The arrival of Broken Social Scene in the early 2000s effectively signaled a shift of focus on the indie rock landscape. Arts & Crafts Records, the label founded by Kevin Drew, Jeffrey Remedios, and Daniel Cutler was led by BSS and Feist. It became the centre of a local music scene that put Toronto on the global map for indie music, rivaling NYC for relevance in the 2000s.