September 9, 2010
Let us now praise Canadian women who sing
I thought it would be nice to highlight some of the amazing women from Canada that have ventured out from the Great White North to delight, inspire, and influence popular music. This list is not exhaustive but features some of the impressive female talents that have surely put Canada on the music map.
Anne Murray (b. June 1945)
The first Canadian female solo artist to have a #1 hit in the USA and the first Canadian to earn a Gold record from RIAA, Anne Murray hails from Springhill, Nova Scotia. I fondly remember watching her on various variety shows in the 70s and 80s on CBC. Ms. Murray has many beloved songs, none more than her 1970 cover of "Snowbird".
Joni Mitchell (b. November 1943)
There are certainly far more commercially successful female performers from Canada but none will ever have the staggering, wide-ranging influence of Joni Mitchell. Born in Alberta, Ms. Mitchell eventually settled in Saskatchewan. Her vast catalogue of songs have been coveted and covered by many musicians, with her 1969 "Both Sides Now" as a real stand-out.
k.d. lang (b. November 1961)
Born in Alberta, k.d. lang began as a country singer with a passion for the haunting music of Patsy Cline. Picked as a back-up singer for the legendary Roy Orbison, the pair subsequently recorded a duet of "Crying" that earned a Grammy award in 1989. Her first big hit was 1992's "Constant Craving" and in that same year she came out as a lesbian and remains a prominent gay-rights activist. Her vocal abilities are astonishing, highlighted best in this cover of fellow Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".
Sarah McLachlin (b. January 1968)
If you attended attended a Canadian university in the 1990s odds are you made love to Sarah McLachlin's 1993 album Fumbling Towards Ectasy. Many times. Many, many times. You could not escape this album in any dorm or cafe. For the pansexual crowd McLachlin, Indigo Girls, and Erasure were on constant rotation. Anyway...in the USA McLachlin came to the fore with her 1997 album Surfacing and the inaugural Lilith Fair festival. For my money, McLachlin's two first albums, Touch (1988) and Solace (1991) remain her best. Check out the gorgeous "Ben's Song" from her debut.
Celine Dion (b. March 1968)
Okay, okay, I can already hear the groans. But love her or hate her--and there is no one in the middle--Celine Dion is the juggernaut of Canadian female singers. She is the consumate belter of pop ballads and she has out-sold just about every music act on the planet, with album sales upwards of 200 million units. Already popular in Canada her big US hit was 1993's cover of Jennifer Rush's "The Power of Love". When that 1997 movie about the boat arrived on the scene, Dion was everywhere. A long stint in Vegas and a partnership with Cirque du Soleil solifidied her status as an anchor of the pop music industry.
Diana Krall (b. November 1964)
Hailing from British Columbia Diana Krall sold more jazz albums in the 1990s and 2000s than any other female jazz singer. While she does write her own songs she primarly covers the great standards. Although already established it was her 2001 record The Look of Love that brought her to a high level of fame.
Shania Twain (b. August 1965)
From the little northern Ontario town called Timmins Shania Twain conquered the world with her 1997 pop-country crossover record Come on Over. This became the best-selling record by a female solo artist ever, with sales of 39 million units. Wow! Ms. Shain seems to have stepped back to focus on her family, as we have not heard much for her since. I have always loved "You're Still the One".
Alanis Morissette (b. June 1974)
In the late 1980s/early 1990s Alanis was a bubblegum pop singer from Ottawa (Ontario) in the vein of Debbie Gibson. That all changed dramatically with her 1995 mega-hit album Jagged Little Pill. Fuelled by anger and passion, Alanis whipped up a record that caught on fire and would go on to sell 33 million units. I have always loved her 1998 follow-up single "Thank U".
Nelly Furtado (b. December 1978)
Hailing from British Columbia, Nelly Furtado announced her talent with her 2000 debut Whoa, Nelly! featuring the radio-friendly "I'm Like a Bird". However it was her 2006 record Loose, produced by super producer Timbaland, that propelled her to global fame. The single "Promiscuous" was her first number-one hit in the US, and it was followed by the even bigger global hit "Say it Right". I am very partial to "Powerless" from her 2003 sophomore album, Folklore.
Avril Lavigne (b. September 1984)
Bursting on the international music scene with her 2002 debut album Let it Go, the eastern Ontario native had her first top hit with "Complicated". A solid singer and songwriter, Lavigne has now sold 30 million records. Most know her tough-girl attitude as her main persona, but Lavigne reveals her vulnerability and vocal ability in her 2004 gem "I'm With You".