Happy Canada Day and Happy Independence Day!
To celebrate these birthdays, I will be listing some of the well-known groups with both American and Canadian members.
As good a place to start as any, The Band is known for classics like “The Weight“. Levon Helm, who played drums and sang lead on many songs, was the only American born member. The others were Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson. They produced many great songs such as “Up On Cripple Creek” and “Stage Fright“. They also have a song about the Civil War that has gone under the radar of recent protests and bans, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down“.
As we know, the American rocker Ronnie Hawkins with his Hawks were the genesis of The Band. Post The Band, he hired Canadian Domenic Troiano, who played guitar with Ronnie as part of Robbie Lane & The Disciples. Troiano later worked with The Guess Who. Domenic wrote “We All Need Love” with lead vocals by Canadian Roy Kenner who, with Troiano, were in the Joe Walsh led band ‘The James Gang‘ from 1971-73.
Arcade Fire was founded while American Win Butler was attending McGill University in Montreal. With his younger brother, William Butler, the other core members are his wife, Régine Chassagne (a Montreal native) and Canadians Richard Reed Parry, Tim Kingsbury and Jeremy Gara. This Indie band scored three #1 albums in Canada, two in the US and topped many charts around the world. They are consistently rated as one of the top Rock Bands by all major sources such as Rolling Stone Magazine, Billboard, and Q from the UK. Their song “Black Mirror” from the album Neon Bible is said to have inspired the TV series of the same name. David Bowie, a fan of Arcade Fire, worked on an EP with the band in 2005.
The bandleader John Kay (Joachim Fritz Krauledat) was born in Germany in 1944 during the Second World War. His father was killed before his birth and his mother fled with John to live in Canada and later Buffalo, NY. He formed Steppenwolf in Los Angeles after his Canadian-based group, The Sparrows, broke up in 1967. Steppenwolf included Canadians Goldy McJohn and Mars Bonfire (Jerry Edmonton), both from The Sparrows, as well as LA-based Michael Monarch and Rushton Moreve. They sold over 25 million records in their short career, producing classic songs such as “Magic Carpet Ride” and “Born to be Wild” in 1968 and “Rock Me” in 1969.
Blood Sweat and Tears
Initially, Blood Sweat and Tears (BS&T) was an all-American and almost all-New York City outfit, but after Al Kooper and a couple others left, they recruited Canadian David Clayton Thomas on a tip from Judy Collins. It turned out pretty well for the band as Thomas’ dynamic lead vocals propelled their next album to win a Grammy Award (beating out the Beatles Abbey Road). The three released singles from the album Blood Sweat and Tears all reached #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100. “Spinning Wheel” was written by Clayton Thomas and the other two were cover songs. “When I Die” was written and recorded by Laura Nyro and “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” was written by Berry Gordy, Jr., Brenda Holloway, Patrice Holloway and Frank Wilson (first recorded by Brenda Holloway in 1967). While the next album, Blood Sweat and Tears 3,had some great songs, it did not match the success of their previous work and the band would undergo many departures and reunions over the years with none of the original members remaining.
The Mamas and the Papas
This band is not characterized as an American/Canadian outfit but one of the four is indeed Canadian. Denny Doherty was from Halifax, Nova Scotia and had struck up a friendship with Cass Elliot. When they met John Phillips and his wife Michelle, the four formed one of the most successful Folk-Rock bands ever, selling over 40 million records. Almost everyone knows many of their hit songs like “California Dreamin’“, “Monday Monday” and their cover of The Shirelles hit song “Dedicated to the One I Love” .
The Lovin’ Spoonful
The Spoonful were John Sebastian, Zal Yanovsky, Jan Carl and Steve Boone. This is another band who aren’t considered to be American/Canadian, but original member Zal Yanovsky (who had played in the Halifax III with the above mentioned Denny Doherty) was from Toronto. As lead guitarist, Yanovsky was a self-taught wizard. Sebastian said, “He could play like Elmore James, he could play like Floyd Cramer, he could play like Chuck Berry”. Yanovsky was key in producing their unique sound that would influence the Grateful Dead, the Beach Boys and – believe it or not – they were the initial pick of the producers from ‘The Monkees’. Their hits included “Do You Believe in Magic“, “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” and “Summer in the City“.
This band includes Americans Daryl Johnson and Brian Blade, Belgian Trixie Whitley and Canadian Daniel Lanois. “I Believe In You“, like all their songs, was written by Lanois. While they did not reach major commercial success, Black Dub created high quality music. If you have not heard of Daniel Lanois, he is an amazing talent and an 11-time Grammy winner. He produced U2’s The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby as well as works for Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, The Spoons and Neil Young among others.
Young is, of course, not a band but being Canadian, he has made every group he has been in an international one. He was in Buffalo Springfield with Americans Stephen Stills and Richie Furay who had the hit song “For What It’s Worth“. He teamed up with Stephen Stills in the band Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young which produced the songs “Teach Your Children” and “Ohio“. Prior to this, he was in the Canadian-based group The Mynah Birds, which included American Funk pioneer Rick James. He also spent time in Crazy Horse with Americans Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina and later used them while recording several albums, including the now Bruce Springsteen E Street Band guitarist and keyboard player Nils Lofgren.
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Edited by Richelle Dafoe