It is often overlooked, but Canada has generated some of the greatest and most influential rock acts of all time. So often the focus is on bands that hail from the UK or USA, but the Great White North has had their fair share of legends too. There is not one particular style that is typically associated with Canada, and instead it is just good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, with a big impact on many subgenres. Aside from Nickelback and Justin Bieber, there are dozens of fantastic Canadian bands that you should be listening to.
10. Broken Social Scene
Broken Social Scene are best described as a musical collective, and in their 16 year existence they have had between six and 19 members. The majority of the members play in other Toronto-based acts and from some well known bands, but Broken Social Scene refuses to be labeled a “supergroup.” Due to the size of the collective, it means that there is always a lot of instrumentation which has been known to include guitars, violins, woodwinds, horns and plenty more. They also experiment with alternative song structures, and this gives them a distinctive and instantly recognizable sound. They have four studio albums to their name, with their most recent being 2010’s Forgiveness Rock Record. Any indie rock fan will enjoy each album, but their most critically acclaimed work is 2002’s You Forgot It in People. The band has been on hiatus since 2011, but did perform live in 2013.
9. Arcade Fire
In recent times, there has been no bigger or more successful band to emerge from the Great White North than Arcade Fire. The Montreal-based indie rock band are famed for their hypnotizing live shows and, similarly to Broken Social Scene, they are known to have dozens of members on stage and a wide variation of instrumentation. They first formed in 2001, but would take the world by storm with their debut album, Funeral, which won dozens of awards and is considered to be one of the best albums of the decade. They were soon playing shows all around the world and developed an enormous fan base. 2006 saw the arrival of Neon Bible, and again it was a critical success and one of the top releases of the year. Impressively, their rise to fame continued with The Suburbs in 2010 and their most recent effort, Reflektor, in 2013.
A power trio hailing from Ontario, Triumph found great success in Canada and the USA in the late ’70s and ’80s. The band are often compared to Rush because they come from a similar area, they are a trio and also developed a reputation for their formidable live shows. Triumph deserve their own credit though, and any hard rock or metal fan will instantly fall in love with this band. Triumph released many fantastic records, but most consider their earlier work to be their best. 1979’s Just a Game and 1981’s Allied Forces are usually cited as their greatest albums. The band was formed by Gil Moore (drums, vocals), Mike Levine (bass, keyboards) and Rik Emmet (guitar, vocals), but Emmet would leave in 1988, and this lead to the band’s split a few years later. They were inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in 2007.
7. Alanis Morissette
Ottawa born singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette had an enormous impact throughout the ’90s, and over her impressive career she has delved in alternative rock, pop rock, post grunge and electronica. The multi-instrumentalist rose to fame and became a global star with her third release, Jagged Little Pill, in 1995. This spawned gigantic singles such as “Ironic,” “You Oughta Know,” “All I Really Want” and “Hand in My Pocket.” The success of this album paved the way for dozens of female singers, including Pink, Shakira and Avril Lavigne (a fellow Canadian). This has proven to be her finest work, but she has released several other highly regarded albums and has sold over 60 million records globally. Her remarkable voice, brilliant songwriting ability and distinctive style have made her an important musical figure, so much so that she has been labeled the “Queen of alt-rock angst” by Rolling Stone.
6. Bryan Adams
Legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams has had a huge impact on music in Canada, the USA and all around the world. He has had an astonishing career that began with his eponymous debut album in 1980, and he is still going strong today with his latest release scheduled for October 2015. It has been a long and fascinating journey for Adams in between these records, seeing him develop a reputation for his songwriting ability, before breaking through in North America with 1983’s Cuts Like a Knife, which spawned the huge hit “Straight From the Heart.” He then became a global star a year later with Reckless, and has not looked back since. He collaborated with Rod Stewart and Sting for the single “All for Love” in 1993, which turned out to be an enormous success that topped charts around the world. A truly great contributor to music.
5. The Guess Who
The Guess Who first formed in 1958, and in these early years they formed quite the reputation in Canada. In the late ’60s and ’70s, they found international fame through a number of classic singles, including “American Woman,” “No Time” and “Share the Land.” Whilst it was for these singles that they found fame, The Guess Who were certainly not a one hit wonder band. They released many fantastic albums throughout their history, most notably 1969’s Canned Heat and 1970’s American Woman. They have had a few different lineups over the years, including key members Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman both departing and finding success with Bachman-Turner Overdrive (a narrow miss off this list). The Guess Who were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1987, and in 2002 the founding members received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.
4. The Band
The members of The Band first met as they joined the backing group of Ronnie Hawkins, known as The Hawks. After leaving Hawkins in the early ’60s, Bob Dylan hired them for his U.S. and worldwide tour in 1965 and 1966, and following this they decided to become their own act. After being known as “the band” by different front-men, they settled that would be their own name and began to perform under this moniker from 1968 onward. They would come into their own, producing a number of hits that include “Up on Cripple Creek,” “It Makes No Difference” and “The Weight.” Many consider The Band to be one of the most influential acts of all time, impacting artists including Eric Clapton, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Beatles, and all acts that incorporate country and rock. In 1994, The Band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
3. Joni Mitchell
When discussing the greatest female rock stars, Joni Mitchell will always be included. She is widely considered to be one of the best and most influential songwriters of all time, and whilst not strictly a rock act, her impact on the genre is substantial. Mitchell first started as a folk singer, but her sound would develop and evolve, seeing her incorporate rock, jazz and pop elements. She has an extensive back catalogue of work with dozens of incredible records, but it is 1971’s Blue and 1974’s Court and Spark that are her most famous and two important records in music history. Due to her ability to blend different genres, and her phenomenal songwriting ability, Joni Mitchell has an enormous fan base all around the world and is a highly respected artist. Sadly, Mitchell suffered a brain aneurysm in early 2015 and is currently unable to walk, but is speaking well.
In 1968, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart came together in Toronto to form Rush. They would go on to become a much adored band with an astonishing instrumental acumen, with each member demonstrating extreme talent. They delved in the hard rock and progressive rock scene throughout the ’70s, before experimenting with synthesizers in the ’80s. They then returned to a guitar-orientated sound, and have continued to release records consistently with their latest effort coming out in 2012, Clockwork Angels. Whilst they have sometimes garnered criticism for being pretentious, their incredible talent cannot be denied and this is most evident through their astonishing live shows. People are often completely blown away at these shows due to the musicianship and understanding they have of each other, but it could soon be coming to an end with Rush planning to stop large-scale touring at the end of the year.
1. Neil Young
One of the greatest musicians of all time, Neil Young’s influence can be felt all over the rock, folk and country genres. He has had a phenomenal solo career which demonstrates his abilities as a songwriter, guitarist and singer, but he has also been a part of two incredible rock bands in Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash. He has been highly active in the industry for around 45 years, and he has experimented with rock, noise-rock, rockabilly, blues, synth-pop, folk rock, and even the grunge scene has been known to be influenced by his work. His insistence on experimentation and not sticking to one genre is bold, brave and admirable (plus it takes enormous talent), and it is a large reason that he is such a respected and influential figure in the world of music. Born and raised in Canada, Neil Young is a remarkable and legendary musical figure.