Skip to main content

Canadian Songwriters

Canadian songwriters and artists being covered

Leading up to Canada’s 151st Birthday this July 1, I will be talking about Canadian music and of course artists who have had their songs covered. I already posted some from the most covered Canadian, that being Neil Young at 132 times. 

Other’s on the most covered list for the most individual songs covered (I admit I may have made some omissions and focused on english language ‘pop music'). Also, these are not necessarily written by the artist.

2. Joni Mitchell covered 97 times

3. Gordon Lightfoot covered 94 times

4. Leonard Cohen – 73

5. Paul Anka - 52

6. Howard Shore -46 (an original member of the Canadian band ‘Lighthouse’, I mention him here not for his work with them but the outstanding career, Academy, Golden Globe and Grammy wins he has had scoring films, in particular my favorite LOTR!!!!)

7. Celine Dion - 45

8. The Band - 42 (written in whole or in part by a Canadian) and add solo efforts by Robbie Robertson+6 Rick Danko+2, however the actual covers of  'The Band' as a whole is 57.

9. Justin Bieber- 38

10. Bruce Cockburn – 35

11. Rush-34

12. Ron Sexsmith – 34

13. Tegan and Sara -22

14. Bryan Adams – 21

15. Anne Murray – 21

16. Buffy Sainte-Marie -20 ("Until It's Time for You to Go"- 109 times)

17. Arcade Fire - 19

18. Sarah McLachlan -19 (“Angel” 80 times)

19. Shania Twain -19

20. Alanis Morissette -18

21. Drake - 18

22. Barenaked Ladies -18

23. Ian and Sylvia – 15

24. Rufus Wainwright-15

25. The Guess Who -15

26. Steppenwolf-12

27. Nickelback -11

28. Avril Lavigne -11

29. Daniel Lanois -10

30. Feist - 10

31. k.d. lang -9

32. The Weeknd – 9

33. Carly Rae Jepsen – 7 (“Call Me Maybe” 32 times)

34. Oscar Peterson -7

35. Blue Rodeo - 6

Honourable mention, Men without Hats -4 (“Safety Dance” 26 times)

Nazareth, a Scottish hard rock band formed in 1968 clearly had a thing for Canadian artists. Out of 27 cover songs they recorded, five were written by Canadians. I heard them play this first song when they performed here in London in 1978 (remember that Shayne!). In fact, I still have this Album released in 1973, which features this song!

Nazareth (1973) “This Flight Tonightwritten by Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell (1971) “This Flight Tonight”

They covered Rick Danko (The Band)
Java Blues” in 1981, the original Rick Danko in 1977

Morning Dew” by Nazareth (1971) was written and performed by Canadian folk singer, Bonnie Dobson originally from 1962 (covered 47 times and most famously perhaps by The Grateful Dead in 1967).  A lovely duet with Robert Plant honouring her song. Nazareth also covered this Dobson penned song in German “Morgentau”. 

Nazareth (1989) doing “Helpless, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young written by Neil Young

Bessie Smithby the Band written by Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson
Not a particularly well know song from the Basement Tapes Album recorded in 1968 and released in 1975. This is a song written from the perspective of a fictitious lover of Bessie Smith, yes that Bessie Smith known as the ‘Empress of the Blues’ from the 1920-1930’s as previously blogged.

Bessie Smith, a lovely version by Norah Jones, official cover date is 2003.

American Woman”-1970 - The Guess Who, written by Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Garry Peterson and Jim Kale. Cover from Lenny Kravitz-1999

Coming back to Joni Mitchell who I have to say along with Leonard Cohen are likely the two most influential artists, followed closely by Gordon Lightfoot. Sorry Bieber fans!

A Case of You” -Covered 89 times
Written by Joni Mitchell – 1971 (Blue)

A cover from Addison Agen from the Voice 2017, Heike Kraske & Uwe Arenz (from Germany ). Gabriela Díaz -from Argentina 2018. 

Some other interesting covers; Frank Stallone (Sylvester Stallone’s brother)-1984, James Blake-2011, k.d. lang – 2004, Diana Krall – 2002 and Dr. James Coane an American folk singer from the sixties who became a Psychiatrist and started recording again in the 2000’s.

River by Joni Mitchell also from the Album “Blue” 1971 covered 171 times. This has become a Holiday favorite and shows up on a lot of Christmas Albums as linked below, however I don’t believe this was the intention of Joni at all when she originally released this song, despite the holiday references it's a break-up song about wanting to escape the Christmas season.

Bettie Serveert, from the Netherlands (1998), Robert Downey Jr. (2000), 
Sarah McLachlan (2006), Blue Rodeo (2014)

Other notable covers; James Taylor who sometimes accompanied Joni on her albums (2004), MARIA PIA DE VITO (vocals) DANILO REA, ENZO PIETROPAOLI, ALDO ROMANO in 2005, Sam Smith (2017), Cee Lo Green (2012) and Herbie Hancock featuring Corinne Bailey Rae (2007).

References; Wikipedia,

If you like my blog, please consider filling in the follow by email link at the top right hand of the page. Remember to confirm the subscription when you get the first email. Confidentiality is assured unless you are a close friend or family member then all bets are off. While I can compile data from my blog it's not tracking in terms of anyone's identity. For past blog posts click on the menu at the top right corner. Pass it along to a friend who might enjoy it as well or post it to your timeline on FB or other social media. And many thanks as always for reading my blog!


  1. Yes Randy. I do remember! Here is a link to an article about a Canadian connection to a Nazareth song.

    1. Interesting how a song title can emote such a reaction, certainly in a live setting it's easy to misinterpret the meaning. And, I didnt want to say why you may not remember...

    2. not to imply that you were or could have been under the influence of any substance at the time


Post a Comment

Thanks for any feedback!

Popular posts from this blog

One Hit Wonders (not!)

One Hit Wonders (not!)

Yesterday (Sept. 26) was the 50th Anniversary of Abbey Road, the Beatles last recording session together and the second last album before Let it Be was issued May 8, 1970. And also Happy belated One Hit Wonder Day! (Sept. 25th) so I thought it would make a good blog topic.

The simplest definition I found is from music journalist Wayne Jancik "an act that has won a position on a national, pop, Top 40 record chart just once." This from the 'The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders' (1998). So we aren't talking one #1 hit. It's not a term I like as it implies (and some truth to that) these artists have had just a brief moment in the spotlight, perhaps undeservedly so and then fallen off the music map. I know other and deeper definitions are a bit more broad and go beyond the absolute single hit idea. They also consider many artists that have still maintained a quality career and just not reproduced another 'top 40 hit' song and or ma…

Old Country New Country

Old Country/New Country

What exactly I am about to attempt to demonstrate I confess I'm not 100% certain, but what I do know is that there has been a bit of a downward sliding scale regarding the enduring quality of mainstream Country Music songs. Apologies in advance for rambling and ranting at various points. This is not a history of Country Music but my opinion on the current state of things in general with the genre.

It's murky waters that I'm swimming in here as there is an evolution involved in any music genre so direct comparisons are perhaps inappropriate. I am somewhat aware of the influence the so called Country Music "establishment" has had on this evolution. One need only look at examples like Taylor Swift, Shania Twain and Garth Brooks and others who were criticized and in some cases "shunned" for their unconventional approaches who are now celebrated as part of that same 'establishment'. So there is some hypocrisy at play in my op…

Sweet Soul Music

Sweet Soul Music

Arthur Conley co-wrote this song with Otis Redding and it's a tribute to some of the early greats of Soul Music. The song's melody (and words for that matter) borrowed heavily from the Sam Cooke song "Yeah Man" and a subsequent lawsuit brought by A.W. Alexander who managed Cooke's songs after his untimely death added his name to the song credits. The resulting song however was a huge hit for Conley and it reached #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 and R&B Chart in 1967 and #7 in the UK where Soul Music was gaining popularity particularly amongst a subset of British youth. The lyrics reference the co-writer Otis Redding, James Brown and songs by The Miracles, Lou Rawls, Sam & Dave and Wilson Pickett, some of the key figures in early Soul Music. "Sweet Soul Music" covered 30 times, The Jam (1977).

Soul music is a fusion of R&B, Gospel and Jazz. Known generally for it's more upbeat tempo it's fun to listen to and great for …

Rock artists sing the Blues

Rock artists sing the Blues

I have talked about this frequently throughout my posts but more particularly in the series on the Delta Blues and the History of R&R parts 1-4. Truth be told, most of the greatests 'Rock' artists owe much of their inspiration to the Blues. Rock bands and solo artists have cut many sides early and throughout their careers of blues songs. Thanks to artists like Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley who were obviously very well known and successful, their covers of some of the great blues songs served as a conduit and exposed them to artists and listeners alike. Here are some 'Blues' that inspired Rock artists, a few of these songs are more well known than others.

Confessin' the Blues by The Rolling Stones was recorded  June 11, 1964 and released on a 7" record of five songs on August 14. Written by Walter Brown (vocals) and Jay McShann (piano and bandleader) originally released in June of 1941. Covered about 35 times including Chuck Berr…

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #76-100

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #76-100
Ok here is the last of my list, I could go on and as a matter of fact I will, just not with another set of 25 plus "to infinity and beyond!" I have to say it was easy to come up with more songs to complete the total of 100 as this final list started at 43. But it was very difficult to decide which ones would make the final cut, so these last 25 songs became a list with a number of great ones left for another day.

76. "Flip Flop and Fly" is a song by the same collection that brought us the classic "Shake Rattle and Roll" written by Jesse Stone (credited to his pseudonym Charles E. Calhoun) and Lou Willie Turner, sung by Big Joe Turner (1955). The first time I heard this was at a club in my hometown I'll say around 1979 or so, performed by the talented Canadian Blues band Downchild Blues Band, later known as just 'Downchild'. Still the best cover for me although I've heard many fine ones out of some over …

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #51-75

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #51-75
There has been a very positive response to the first two 'Greatest' posts. So the list continues and the songs become no less in their timeless quality compared to numbers one through fifty. I will post a #76-100 edition in the near future and that will be out of my system. But what if I do more lists by genre? Just thinking out loud, sorry but I will keep blogging on various topics as long as people continue to click.

51. "I Put a Spell on You" written and originally recorded by Screamin' Jay Hawkins in 1956. There have been many really good covers of this song but Nina Simone (1965) was just the second person to cover this song. I just can't get over how overlooked this artist was in her time, a high class version that turns the song on it's ear to give it an entirely different sound.

52. "Strange Fruit" was a courageous recording by the legendary Billie Holiday from 1939. A song written as a poem by anot…

Music Myths and other Silly Things

Music Myths and other Silly Things
Who doesn't like a good story? There are many great ones and some not so much about music. I try and put a little story into my blogs and during the course of my research I have run across some that are quite curious. Some of these myths about songs and artists have innocent enough beginnings and have been perpetuated or at least not denied by the artists themselves, others come from malcontents and the misinformed.

Here is one that falls in the category of a silly thing; Bob Dylan and the 'Stealers Wheel' song "Stuck in the Middle with You", released in April, 1973.

1. Bob Dylan did not write this nor did he sing this song, nor is this song about Bob Dylan.

2. If you do a search for 'Dylan and Stuck in the Middle" you will get results like the following:
Home » Artists » Bob Dylan » Stuck In The Middle With YouBob Dylan - "Stuck In The Middle With You" lyricsBob Dylan: CD's Sheet Music Tablature, Stuck in …

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs #1-25

25 of the Greatest Cover Songs

Nothing quite grabs the attention more than a list of the greatest this or that, so at 85 posts about cover songs I thought it about time to get to it. As I advised with my other 'Greatest' posts we all have our favorites so anytime there is a list, something or someone 'great' gets left off. And the debate ensues, why is this and that at #11 not #4 and vise versa. My list therefore, shall be no different for it is not scientific but subjective and it is biased by my own tastes and exposure to music. Having said that it's hard for me to have missed many of the truly great cover songs of all time, indeed I think I've talked about quite a few:

"Respect" from the writer and original recording Otis Redding and a cover she made her own, the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. More about the song and Aretha in these posts. Before I get to some cover's I've not mentioned, here are more songs from my previous issues that are …

Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt

Just recently I watched "Linda Ronstadt, The Sound of My Voice" on CNN and I don't mind saying I was moved to tears more than once. Narrated by Linda herself and including rare footage and photo's in addition to some great interviews, it paints a wonderful picture of a remarkable career. If you get the chance you really should watch it, but for now a mini bio and then to some of her music from that amazing voice.

Linda was born on July 15, 1946 and grew up on a ranch in Tucson Arizona in a prosperous family. Music was a very important part of daily life so her exposure and interest came very naturally. She began her career in the mid sixties joining the growing country/folk rock scene. Ronstadt met Bobby Kimmel at the University of Arizona and later met Kenny Edwards and they formed the band the 'Stone Poneys'. She would release some solo material starting in 1969 and then tour with Jackson Brown, Neil Young and the Doors. She began having hug…



When talking about the band I have to confess I'm out of my depth so I will tread lightly. We should however get right to their beginnings and major influence, that being the 'Talking Heads' and their namesake song "Radio Head". The band had been called 'On a Friday' but their record label requested they change it before signing a contract (with EMI records) in 1991.
Radiohead are one of the most successful and influential Rock bands since their debut album "Pablo Honey' (Jerky Boys) in February of 1993. All their songs are credited to the entire band Colin Greenwood, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, Phil Selway and Thom Yorke. And there's the 'sixth member' producer Nigel Godrich who's done all their albums since 1994. Their song "Creep" charted top 40 across the world and it's depressing tone eventually wore the band down to the point they stopped playing it live for a long period of time. The songs melo…