An audience of over 2000 people crowded into historic Massey Hall in downtown Toronto on Saturday night. They were there to watch four amazing Canadian songwriters be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. After a five-year hiatus, this ceremony was revived with new life and impressive inductees – both English and Francophone.
Stephane Venne, Bruce Cockburn, Beau Dommage and the one and only Neil Young all attended the evening to celebrate. The evening was full of highs (and admittedly, a few lows) with moving inductions, chilling music and more.
The first induction of the evening was Beau Dommage. This Montreal band brought life into the city during the awakening of the 1970s. Julie Payette, Canada’s new governor general, had the pleasure of inducting the band. Julie, an astronaut, brought a Beau Dommage album into space with her so that she could listen to them while exercising and orbiting the earth. This personal story was a great addition to the evening!
French heartthrob Daniel Lavoie was next as he inducted Stephane Venne. Daniel spoke highly of Stephane, acting as an ally and a mentor to him in the French songwriting world. Following that, an induction video of Stephane Venne showed the songwriter’s humour and ingenuity in the business.
Perhaps the most moving induction of the evening was Buffy Sainte-Marie’s induction of Bruce Cockburn. Buffy recounted that Bruce had several accomplishments under his belt – gold records on top of more gold records – but more importantly, he made his listeners want to be better people. She was pointed and emotional.
Randy Bachman ended the evening with his induction of Neil Young. Behind his guitar, Randy told stories about Neil as a teen in Winnipeg, interspersing bits of several of Young’s songs through out his speech. The audience sang along in beautiful harmony.
All four inductees were covered. Played by the likes of Jessica Mitchell, Florence K, Arkells and more, two performances really stood out.
The first, was a cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Stolen Land” performed by Elisapie and William Prince. This emotional rendition of the song tackled Indigenous rights to land in a haunting way. The air in the hall was quiet as the pair’s voices rang true across the hall.
The evening absolutely climaxed with KD Lang’s performance of Young’s “Helpless”. Lang once again proved why she is one of Canada’s most talented musicians. Lang’s stripped down version featured a lot of stand up bass as the backdrop for her gorgeous vocals.
Something’s Missing Here
As I said earlier, the evening was a fantastic display of English and Francophone talent. There were no Indigenous songwriters however. While Sainte-Marie’s induction and Prince’s performance were welcome breaths of fresh air, it would have been nice to acknowledge one (or more) Indigenous songwriters. Perhaps the S.H.O.F. can tackle this next year.
A Memorable Evening
Overall, the evening did justice to four amazing Canadian talents. Other highlights included a reading by Tom Wilson from his new book Beautiful Scars, performances by Canada’s Whitehorse and a performance of Beau Dommage’s “La Complainte du phoque en Alaska” aka “The Alaskan ‘Phoque’ Song’. With an evening like this, we can’t wait until next year.