Thursday, May 12, 2011

Song of my country

Readers of this blog may remember our earlier ruminations with regard to the beaver as a national symbol for Canada, now that the fur trade isn't what it used to be.

In that regard, we were pleased to advise the powers that be, and are now turning attention to the suitability of the current national anthem.

O Canada has served as a de facto national anthem since 1939, and became official in 1980, a more politically attuned replacement for God Save the King/Queen.

All well and good, but it has its own deficiencies. It's a bit out of tune with the times, don't you think, plus they keep changing the lyrics so there is always a lot of humming when people sing it at hockey games and the like. A bit embarrassing when there are tourists in the vicinity, not to mention that some women do not self-identify as "sons," as in "all thy sons command."

Actually, the lyrics aren't too bad, except for the "sons" thing, but the melody is definitely 19th, not 21st, century.

Rick Salutin is promoting Stan Rogers' Northwest Passage as a replacement. It makes mention of many parts of Canada, and evokes that connection to the land and the north that we so revere, despite the fact that almost all of us live in cities within 100 clicks of the U.S. border, and half the population winters in Florida.

It's a fine song, indeed, but harking back to a 17th century expedition that ended in starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning, scurvy, and death doesn't really help with rebranding us as a digitally-advanced, Twitter-savvy, silicon valley north kind of place.

Looking for something with a more contemporary flavour, we turn to other great musicians from Canada's past.

For example, how about Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins' tour de force Hey Bo Diddley. This tune has the advantage that almost anyone can remember the lyrics, which are mostly comprised of the phrase "Hey Bo Diddley," and the melody, which is mostly the note "E."

Unfortunately, this paean to an R&B guy from Mississippi would probably not find favour in the precincts of the Albany Club.

OK, we're just being silly, now. Getting a bit more serious, let's consider Gordon Lightfoot's Early Morning Rain, a song about a loser going nowhere while the world passes him by. Hmmm, no I guess not. Doesn't really get the blood up.

Any of the tunes from Oscar Peterson's Canadiana Suite would be list-toppers, but they have no lyrics, which pretty much excludes them from consideration. It's that embarrassing humming thing, again.

Nope, I think my pick is BTO's Takin' Care of Business:
You get up every morning
From your 'larm clock's warning
Take the 8:15 into the city
There's a whistle up above
And people pushin', people shovin'
And the girls who try to look pretty
And if your train's on time
You can get to work by nine
And start your slaving job to get your pay
If you ever get annoyed
Look at me I'm self-employed
I love to work at nothing all day
That's Canada, eh?

Update: Check William Shatner's rendition of O Canada.

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