Canada Rocks by Dietrich Kalteis

dietrich k

(Photo credit Andrea Kalteis)

I can’t imagine a day without music. When I write, I put on my headphones and play whatever inspires me to spin a story.

There have been so many great Canadian artists, and here are some of my favorites that I’ve listened to over the years. I’ve linked some of the tunes in hopes that you’ll check them out and find something that you haven’t heard in a while, or something that’s new to you.

Growing up in Toronto, Canadian music was all around, and I still connect certain tunes to certain times in my life, things I was doing when a particular song hit the charts. Goldies like Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere,” Bobby Curtola’s “Fortune Teller,” and Shirley Matthews “Big Town Boy.” And what red-blooded Canadian didn’t ring in the New Year with Guy Lombardo.

Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins, or The Hawk as he’s known to some, originally hailed from Arkansas, but he moved north of the border and helped shape the rock scene here early on, giving us hits like “Mary Lou”, “Forty Days” and more. Here he is with The Band in ’76 from the film The Last Waltz, doing “Who Do You Love?

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Leonard Cohen showed up in the early sixties with “Suzanne”. From there he turned out so much more, was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was also invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honor. And he received a Prince of Asturias Award for literature, as well as the Glenn Gould Prize. Since he passed away in 2016, a posthumous album of new songs has been announced.

It’s called Thanks for the Dance, and here’s the first track called “The Goal”.

Then there’s Gordon Lightfoot who came on the scene with “Early Mornin’ Rain” and helped define the folk-pop sound of the sixties in a career that’s spanned over five decades and turned out over twenty great albums. Along with other prestigious awards, he’s won sixteen Junos, been nominated for five Grammys, and he’s been inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.

Another great Canadian songwriter, Joni Mitchell came along in ’68 with her first album Song to a Seagull, and she’s given us so many memorable songs since. She’s also won nine Grammys, three Junos, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. She became only the third Canadian singer-songwriter, along with Gordon Lightfoot and Leonard Cohen, to be appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada. Here’s the title track from her 2007 studio album Shine.

And who doesn’t remember the riff for “American Woman” by the Guess Who, a band out of Winnipeg in ‘65, delivering one smash hit after another over the next decade. If you ask me, Burton Cummings stands among rock’s top vocalists, and Randy Bachman is one of the finest guitarists on the planet. And if you give their 2007 album Jukebox a listen, you’ll see they’ve gotten better with age. Here’s a retake of “American Woman” from the album.

Members of Steppenwolf hailed from the Sparrows, a Canadian blues/rock band that produced a handful of recordings, with frontmen Jack London, and later with John Kay. Check out “Twisted” from the ’67 album John Kay and the Sparrows. It’s interesting to note Kay’s still going strong and performing solo.

Since Neil Young’s self-titled debut album in ’69, he’s given us forty solid studio albums, won a Juno for Artist of the Year, won a Grammy, was nominated for an Oscar, and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I can’t wait for the new album called Colorado coming out in October. Here’s a taste, a track called “Milky Way”. Just no sign of him burning out or fading away.

I still covet the original vinyl of a couple of favorite local bands from the late sixties. I used to love going down to Sam the Record Man’s on Yonge Street and picking up the latest discs. And I still never tire of hearing the albums now. Give The Ugly Ducklings’ a listen. This is “Nothin’” from Somewhere Outside recorded in ’67. Another album that I’ve given a lot of play over the years is Magic People by The Paupers, released the same year, featuring rock drummer Skip Prokop, later to play with Lighthouse. Check out “Think I Care.”

The late ‘60s also gave us The Band, who originally came together as The Hawks, the backing band for Ronnie Hawkins, and debuted on their own in ’68 with Music From the Big Pink. They turned out nine more fabulous albums, as well as three they recorded with Bob Dylan.

Other Canadian favorites moving into the ‘70s were Murray McLauchlan with his self-titled debut release in ‘72, four-time Juno award-winning Bachman Turner Overdrive, Blood Sweat & Tears, Lighthouse, Heart, King Biscuit Boy, Crowbar, Downchild Blues Band, and A Foot in Coldwater. And by the mid-seventies we added Triumph, April Wine, and Rush, who went on to turn out twenty-five gold and fourteen platinum records, making them the third best-selling rock band in history behind the Beatles and the Stones.

When I researched for my novel, Zero Avenue, set in Vancouver during the early days of punk rock, I revisited the sounds of some kickass bands like D.O.A., as well as the Young Canadians, the Subhumans, Dishrags and Pointed Sticks. And east of the Rockies there were the punk sounds of the Demics, the Viletones, the Diodes, and another favorite Teenage Head. Check out “Let’s Shake” from 1980s Frantic City.

Into the eighties there was glam, new wave, heavy metal and music videos with the debut of Much Music in ’84. Along came Rough Trade, and the underrated David Wilcox. Here’s “My Eyes Keep Me in Trouble” from the ’83 album of the same name. Other artists I loved during that time: Powder Blues Band, Doug and the Slugs, and k.d. lang.

The late eighties gave us Colin James, and also Jeff Healey, another awesome guitar player. Here’s See the Light from his ’88 debut album.

And of course, there was Kingston’s the Tragically Hip, another multi-award winning group that turned out a superb body of work. Give a listen to “New Orleans is Sinking” from their second LP Up to Here from ’89.

In the nineties glam and new wave got old and gave way to hip hop, alternative and grunge. It was also the time for emerging bands like Fathead, The Crash Test Dummies, Bif Naked, and some blues-based rock by Wide Mouth Mason, and ska-dipped punk by The Planet Smashers. It was also the time for some new-age music with Loreena McKennitt, and some jazz with Diana Krall and Holly Cole.

In the new millennium there was post-grunge, pop punk and indie rock. And for folks like me who now lean old-school there are bands with their roots in blues like the Sheepdogs and Monster Truck, David Gogo, MonkeyJunk, and Sue Foley.

This is just an sample of some of the great Canadian music that I’ve enjoyed over the years, and my apologies for all the deserving bands and songwriters I couldn’t mention in this amount of space. But, one thing is for sure, Canada has turned out a lot of talent, and it looks like we’re just going to keep on rocking.

Desperate times call for desperate measures in Dietrich Kalteis’s latest lightning fast crime caper set in the Dust Bowl.
 
Call Down the Thunder (ECW Press, October 2019) follows Sonny and Clara Myers as they struggle on their Kansas farm in the late 1930s, a time the Lord gave up on. The land has dried up and become worthless, the bankers are trying to squeeze farmers out of their homes, and Sonny and Clara’s marriage is in trouble. Faced with a decision between withering along with the land or surrendering to the bankers and hightailing it to California like most of the other farmers, Sonny and Clara are on opposing sides.
 
In a fit of temper, Clara takes off westward alone. Determined to get back both his wife and the good old days, Sonny comes up with a risky plan that will let him keep his land and even prosper, all while giving the banks a taste of their own misery. He sets the scheme in motion under the cover of the commotion being caused by a rainmaker hired by the mayor to call down the thunder and wash away everyone’s troubles.
 
Dietrich Kalteis is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning (bronze medal, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best regional fiction), The Deadbeat Club, Triggerfish, House of Blazes (silver medal, 2017 IPPY, for best historical fiction), Zero Avenue, and Poughkeepsie Shuffle. He lives with his family on Canada’s west coast

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Dietrich Kalteis is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning (bronze medal, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards, for best regional fiction), The Deadbeat Club, Triggerfish, House of Blazes (silver medal, 2017 IPPY, for best historical fiction), Zero Avenue, and Poughkeepsie Shuffle. He lives with his family on Canada’s west coast