Monday, March 28, 2005

Canadian Acoustics

Jian Ghomeshi spent the winter trying to determine the “50 essential Canadian popular songs” of all time for CBC Radio. The recently produced “50 Tracks,” derived from tens of thousands of audience letters, calls and debate, is especially inspiring to me, a folkie from way back, because . . .

. . . topping the list is “Four Strong Winds,” probably my very favorite contemporary ballad of the 1960s. It was recorded by Ian and Sylvia in 1963 and quickly was covered by many prominent folk groups.

Just as delightful to me were the No. 4 ranking of “Northwest Passage” by Stan Rogers (1981) and, two places below it, “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” by Gordon Lightfoot (1967). The late Stan Rogers would receive my vote for best songwriter of all time, while my lasting admiration of Lightfoot’s work goes back to about the time of “CRT.”

Canadians clearly have a deeper appreciation for non-raucous, meaningful acoustic music than us Americans. Surprising to me is that of all the superb songs crafted by Rogers, “Northwest Passage” was picked as the favorite while none of his other masterpieces made the list at all. “Passage” is truly deserving, but had I voted, I would have included 4 or 5 other Rogers songs along with it among the top 10 or so. Also interesting is that two other Lightfoot ballads did make the list: No. 10 “Early Morning Rain” (1966) and No. 25 “Sundown” (1973). But . . . where was Lightfoot’s classic “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald?” Nowhere to be heard.


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