“If I could read your mind, love
What a tale your thoughts could tell
Just like a paperback novel
The kind the drugstores sell
When you reach the part where the heartaches come
The hero would be me
But heroes often fail
And you won’t read that book again
Because the ending’s just too hard to take”
To get you in the mood for Canada Day, I’m celebrating two things Canadians love (no, not beer and hockey): books and music. Canadian musicians are a literary bunch, so I had lots to choose from. Here is my “top 12” list of literary songs in Canada:
#12. AroarA – “#10” and “#14”, from the album In the Pines
Mesmerizing and minimalist songs by AroarA, the husband and wife team of Andrew Whiteman and Ariel Engle, from Montreal, Quebec. The album is based on the 2007 book In the Pines by American poet Alice Notley. One song for every poem: 14 poems, 14 songs.
Listen to “14” here on soundcloud…
#11. Arkells – “Book Club”
A great song by this Hamilton band. Lead singer Max Kerman is a book lover, and this song is about his friend Matty who shares his passion for books: “I’m always borrowing books and never giving them back.” (source)
#10. Moxy Früvous – “My baby loves a bunch of authors”
Full of references to great Canadian writers like Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, this song was a huge hit in Canada in the 1990s. And that’s Jian Ghomeshi, host of CBC radio’s Q, reading GenX by Douglas Coupland.
#9. Crash Test Dummies – “Afternoons and Coffeespoons”
#8. Rufus Wainwright – “Out of the game”
The song has nothing to do with books, but the video is set in a library. And I can’t have a song list without the amazing Rufus Wainwright, can I? Oh, and that’s Helena Bonham Carter as the librarian.
#7. Joni Mitchell, “If”
Canadian icon, loved by the world, here is Joni Mitchell’s gorgeous rendering of Kipling’s famous poem.
#6. Gordon Lightfoot – “If you could read my mind”
This song got a lot of airplay when I was a kid. Written and sung so beautifully by the great Gordon Lightfoot. To this day, I can’t look at a paperback without feeling a little sad…
#5. Rheostatics – “Rain, Rain, Rain” from the album Whale Music
Inspired by Paul Quarrington‘s novel of the same name. The novel won a Governor General’s Award, and the album is consistently ranked as one of Canada’s top ten greatest albums.
#4. Royal Wood, “Juliet”
Inspired by Shakespeare. Wood said in an interview: “I definitely was a huge fan of Shakespeare in high school, probably one of the few in my class I think.” Wood is the master of the heartbreakingly beautiful ballad.
#3. The Tragically Hip – “Courage”
The Hip is by far my favourite Canadian band. When you listen to the Hip, you are listening to the collective Canadian heart beat. This is their tribute to writer Hugh MacLennan and his novel The Watch That Ends the Night, which is paraphrased in the song’s lyrics. More info here.
#2. City and Colour – “The lonely life” (of a writer)
All of the music is great, but this one hits home.
#1. Jane Siberry – “Writers are a funny breed”
No contest: Jane Siberry tops my list with this perfect song from the 1980s:
Bonus song – Canadian Ron Sexsmith and Brit Elvis Costello sing “Everyday I write the book”:
And last but not least, there’s Library Voices: they have so many songs about books I couldn’t choose one. Check it out: Bookish, If Raymond Carver were born in the 90s, and Kundera on the Dancefloor and more…
Enjoy the music, and have a great Canada Day!