Bio: Toronto-born rap superstar Drake is an international sensation known all over the world. He has sold over 170 million records, making him one of the highest selling musicians in the world today. Having won 4 grammy awards and set many chart records, he is probably the most famous Canadian musician in the world today. When he isn’t performing or producing new music, he can be seen watching the Toronto Raptors home games, passionately celebrating and shouting.
Best track: ‘Hotline Bling’ or ‘God’s Plan’ (We can’t decide!)
Fun fact: His first job in the entertainment industry was as an actor, not a singer. He was a cast member in Degrassi: The Next Generation. If you ask Canadians over 35 years old they will all know that show, as it was a big hit at the time.
Bio: Born in 1945, Neil Young has been an incredible force in popular music for over 50 years. He started in 1969 with the band ‘Buffalo Springfield’, and after that he started a truly phenomenal solo career.
Although he was born in Canada, he moved to the USA when he was young to find a career in music and he has lived in California since the 1970s. Neil Young is loved all around the world and his songs often feature lyrics about Canada or Canadian culture. He is often compared to Bob Dylan, and Rolling Stone magazine listed him as #2 in the ‘Greatest Songwriters in Music History’. Neil Young and his music hold a special place in the heart of all Canadians, and he still performs live at the age of 74!
Best track: ‘My my, hey hey (out of the blue)’ or ‘Heart of Gold’
Fun fact: Despite being Canadian, he is a passionate supporter of the San Jose Sharks (an Ice Hockey team from California), and is active in American politics. Politically, he supports the legal rights of farmers against large corporations, and he has participated in many anti-war protests.
The Arcade Fire
Bio: The band was formed in 2001 in Montreal, one of Canada’s great artistic cities. Their catchy songs and incredible live performances have caused their popularity to grow steadily over the last 20 years, and they even collaborated with David Bowie. Their live performances often feature 15-20 musicians on stage, which means that their concerts are truly unique. Over the years they’ve played indie-rock, pop, dance, and many other experimental styles. It is rare to find a band that is so musically creative and commercially successful at the same time.
Best track: ‘Everything Now’ or ‘Wake Up’
Fun fact: Even though they often have 15 or 20 performers on stage, there are only a few permanent members of the band. All the other people on stage are guests or temporary collaborators. This means that every time the band performs, it’s a different experience!
Bio: If you don’t know about this band your parents definitely do, and if you have a friend who plays the drums they will absolutely know about RUSH. Despite never having a major hit single on the charts, they have enjoyed huge success by selling over 40 million albums and touring the world 11 times.
Their music is well known for being complex and musically impressive, and unlike many classic rock bands their music is very challenging to learn, especially the drums!
Best track: ‘Tom Sawyer’ or ‘Closer to the Heart’
Fun fact: Rush are often featured in major TV shows or Hollywood movies. Usually there is a strange or eccentric character who loves the band. They have appeared in episodes of Canada’s most popular comedy ‘Trailer Park Boys’, and their music was an important part of the hilarious comedy ‘I Love You, Man’, which stars Jason Segel and Paul Rudd.
Bio: Some people love him and some people hate him, but he’s undeniably famous and successful, and yes he’s Canadian! He was born in Toronto but now lives in the USA. Discovered and promoted by another Canadian music superstar, Drake, Justin Bieber became an international superstar at a young age by singing romantic dance-pop songs.
Best track: ‘Despacito’ or ‘Love yourself’
Fun fact: Many of his songs are written by English megastar Ed Sheeran.
Bio: Born in Montreal, Celine Dion is probably the most famous musical artist in the history of Quebec (French Canada). She enjoyed early success in Quebec and around Canada singing her songs in French, but was advised to change to English to become successful in other parts of the world. In 1997, she reached a new audience by singing the theme tune to the blockbuster movie Titanic, directed by James Cameron (who is also Canadian). The movie was watched by around 200 million people, and they all heard Celine’s beautiful vocals on the theme song. Since then, she has continued to perform to her adoring fans.
Best track: ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me’ or ‘All by Myself’
Fun fact: ‘My Heart Will Go On’, her most famous song, was recorded in 5 minutes and she only sang it once. If you skip to 1:12 of the song, it sounds like she says ‘the hot dogs go on’ instead of ‘ the heart does go on’. It’s very funny.
Bio: The greatest and most popular poet in modern Canadian history, Leonard Cohen is a true national treasure in Canada and he is loved and appreciated throughout the country. It’s important to know that Cohen is recognized as a poet and a performer, but is not considered to be a great singer in the traditional sense. His performance style is more similar to talking than to singing, but his energy and meaningful lyrics provided him with a huge international audience of adoring fans. He died in 2016 but his memory lives on across Canada and the world. His songs have been covered by a lot of wonderful artists and can be heard around the world. Jeff Buckley’s cover of ‘Hallelujah’ is highly recommended.
Best track: ‘Hallelujah’ or ‘Everybody Knows’
Fun fact: For many years he lived on a Greek island called Hydra and spent less than $1000 dollars per year.
The Tragically Hip
Bio: Known in Canada simply as ‘The Hip’, this band is one of the most popular in Canadian history. For over 20 years they released countless hit singles and toured the country every year until 2019. Their sound is instantly recognizable by singer Gord Downie’s unique vocal style, and he is so popular that some people tried to get his face printed on the new Canadian $5 bill. The band is from Kingston, Ontario, and the town of Kingston has named one of their streets ‘Tragically Hip Way’. Their songs can be heard across Canada and sometimes in other parts of the world too.
Best track: ‘New Orleans in Sinking’ or ‘Bobcaygeon’
Fun fact: Despite their staggering success inside Canada, they never achieved significant fame in other countries. During their tours, all Canadian tickets always sold out very quickly. This caused devoted Canadian fans to drive to the USA, and they could see the band perform at much smaller venues.
Bio: ‘The Band’ might have a boring name, but they are without doubt one of the most versatile and talented groups of musicians in popular music history. They started in Toronto, and added American drummer Levon Helm a few years later. Many artists and writers credit them with creating a new style of music called ‘country-soul’. Similar to many artists on this list, they moved to the USA to become famous after a few years of working in Canada. They recorded some of the best rock albums of all time, and were well respected by all the top rock and pop musicians in the 1970s. In addition to being great instrumentalists, every member of The Band was an outstanding singer, so there was no ‘lead singer’ because they all took turns singing on different songs. They played their last concert in 1978 in San Francisco, but over 40 years later they are still appreciated around the world. Many of their songs are included in Hollywood movies, and their hits are still heard in bars and on the radio across Canada.
Best track: ‘The Weight’ or ‘Up on Cripple Creek’
Fun fact: “Why are they called ‘The Band’? What a boring name!”. Actually, there’s a story behind it. In the beginning of their careers, they didn’t write music. They learned songs by other famous artists (Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Van Morrison etc), and performed on stage with them. They were hired professional musicians, not original artists. Because of this, for many years people simply called them ‘The Band’. For example, ‘Bob is waiting on stage, where’s the band?’ For this reason, when they started writing original music and creating their own concerts, they simply chose ‘The Band’, because that’s what people already called them for many years.
Bio: MIchael Buble was born just outside Vancouver, BC, and gained worldwide popularity in the 2000s. His style is often described as a combination of pop, jazz, swing, and easy listening. So far in his career, he has sold over 75 million records, and has performed for many international world leaders and heads of state. In addition, he has won 4 grammy awards and an unbelievable 14 Juno awards. At 44 years old, he will undoubtedly be one of Canada’s leading musical stars for many years.
Best track: ‘Haven’t Met You Yet’ or ‘Feeling Good’
Fun fact: Like many Canadians, he has more than one nationality. He is a citizen of both Canada and Italy.
Other notable Canadian musicians
Bryan Adams, Avril Lavigne, Joni Mitchell, Shania Twain, Shawn Mendes, The Guess Who, Alanis Morisette, Tom Cochrane, Red Rider
Check out this list for more excellent Canadian music
Canada and music
Canada’s music is a reflection of its culture. The free and expressive nature of Canadian society means that it’s a perfect place for artists and musicians to create new and exciting art. We hope you enjoy listening to Canadian music as much as we do. If you think we forgot someone, or if you want to tell us your favourite, let us know in the comments!