Friday, March 08, 2013

Best Canadian Songwriters Ever...Why Mr. Robertson Doesn't Make My List.


The following is reader, and frequent commenter, 'scotty on denman's' favourite Stompin' Tom tune....


What am I goin on about this time Alvin Lee by the (passed away) Sea?

Well, actually it was Joe Keithley who got things going origingally on the Twittmachine when he suggested that Mr. Connors was one of the three greatest Canadian songwriters of all time.

And so I brought that issue over here.

And wouldn't you know it....Pretty soon a number of readers soon convinced me that, indeed, Stompin' Tom deserved to be on the list.

A list that includes, in no partcular order....

Neil Young
Joni Mitchell
Gordon Lightfoot
The McGarrigle Sisters
Stan Rogers
Buffy Sainte-Marie
Randy Bachman
Rita McNeil
Joe Hall



You may notice that Robbie Robertson's name is not on the list.


Because reader Don F. and I do not like the way Mr. Robertson treated his mates in the Band.

Here's what the recently departed Levon Helm had to say about all that awhile back in an interview with southern swamp music afficionado, Scott Jordan:

S Jordan: Your ongoing differences with Robbie Robertson are no secret, but one thing that seems to get lost now is that you two were such good friends for a long time.

L Helm: Of course. We were a band of brothers, and like I said, we were all rhythm section guys, and none of us were afflicted with that frontman fever. Guitar-itis, I've heard it called, where it's just you, you're the most important one, and everybody else is in support of you, and ain't you just somethin'? (laughs). I thought we had pretty much beat that damn thing. None of us were goofy enough to want to be that way, I thought. And all of a sudden here's Robertson, goddamn if he ain't joined up with 'em. He's got the smoke and mirrors, and has Capitol Records willing to say, 'Okay, we'll go along with that, you are the one." And shit, he ain't singing or writing, but I'll tell you one thing: he is doing all the publishing. He and Albert [Grossman] are damn sure doing all the publishing.

SJ: The publishing is what your feud ultimately boils down to today.

LH: Exactly. He and Albert get all the money, and the rest of us get all the leftovers, and he was supposed to be one of us, and was.


Are we missing anybody?...And we're looking for more real Westcoast Canuckistanians who should be on the list (either now, or coming down the pike).



Laila said...

Modern times...

Dan Mangan. Love his lyrics.Going to be a Canadian icon one day.

RossK said...


I'm with you.

And I think he'll always have a whole lot of the Lotulandian in his stuff.

Stuff like...



And I can't believe that nobody has commented on how I manage to get fellow eyebrow ridge guy (and a real hero of mine), Mr. Keithley on the Twittmachine line.


Chris said...

Well, kd lang is Westcoast-adjacent...

But she's no Nickelback.

RossK said...

Good points, both Chris.


Just tabbed out the Mangan above.

It's a helluva song.

(Got home late from thesis defense after-after-after party Liz Lemon and there's nobody here on a Sudbury Friday night...So the Whackadoodle and I get to do whatever the heckfire we want)


Don F. said...

Ross, this is not to say that ther wsn't a canadian member of The Band that should be on the list because there was and his name is Rick Danko. The song 'it makes no difference' still to this day is a masterpiece!


RossK said...


'Tis a thing of beauty for sure.

If only the poor bastard hadn't had that car crash.

Small confession...Whenever the geezers and I do 'The Weight', I always step on the last-waltzian Danko 'Crazy Chester' verse as warbly as I can.


Dana said...

Burton Cummings.

Danneau said...

Social issues notwithstanding, Robbie Robertson is a fine player and songwriter. His work as a solo artist speaks volumes, though it sometimes lacks the sense of place that seems to permeate much of the Band's oeuvre. I dislike when people don't share equitably and am not sure whether we can separate the writing and the personal, but there are many of Robertson's tracks that make him worthy of consideration. I also really like Jim Weider, as well as Helm, Danko, Hudson and company. Another thing to consider is the notion that great writers are great writers and, outside of the music business, it needn't be a competition, in addition to which, all of these appreciations are pretty subjective. Finally, I'm a little wary of falling into the trap of lists of greatest anything that tends to smack of the infatuation many of us have with awards shows. Robert Johnson never got an award that I know of, never appeared on any sort of list until well after his death, but remains an icon of both playing and song writing (or borrowing other people's ideas as was frequently practiced in that milieu). Ditto for classical composers.

RossK said...

Fair enough Danneau--

Thanks. And a very fine analysis of the difference in RR's writing with/post Band (which I believe speaks volumes regarding the contributions of the guys in the 'with' era)


Let's pretend this isn't an awards show...Who should we go and listen to that maybe we should?


Dana said...

Well, OK then, if you don't think Burton Cummings is worthy, what about Bruce Cockburn? Leonard Cohen not really Canadian any more? Are Robert Charlebois and Daniel Lanois ineligible?

RossK said...




Was my mistake for missing Bruce Cockburn the first time 'round. I think Chris M. had him on her list.


Ron S. said...

I have to agree with you on RR. His tenure with the Band though is remarkable in that I believe their song writing (The Bands) was better than the Beatles at the time. I never get tired of listening and watching the Last Waltz DVD. What remarkable song writers they were in that era which I believe, will take a long time to match. And what can you say about Bruce Cockburn that hasn't already been said. Musicianship extraordinaire! Also, what about Tom Cochran? His songs tell stories and a lot are about Canada. Songs that tell a story always stay in my mind as real music. It's remarkable to be able to tell a story musically, that resonates with current events and happenings, without the listener losing interest. All mentioned are worthy of being rated number one.

RossK said...

Tom Cochran for sure Ron.

Remember when he used to get on the long wave with Gzowski - sharp guy, real Canadian?

And his most famous song, despite all the Disney/Modern Countryification does have a Lotuslandian geographical reference.

Great add to the list.


And when you write the song, and get all the royalties that follow, well...Life Is (Indeed) A (Never Ending Harmonica) Highway.

(watch it to the end if you do click through)