With every second story in the news today seeming to be about Justin Bieber peeing in a bucket or Chad Kroeger and Avril Lavigne getting married I have to remind myself that Canada is a country that has despite its rather small population turned out some very talented musical acts. So many that it hard to keep track of them all.  What is even more difficult is making a top 10 list of the best Canadian musicians of all time. I challenge you. I’m sure you’ll start off by thinking it will be easy as there aren’t that many then once you start you’ll begin to realize that it is hard to cut the talent down to the top 10. Of course any list of this nature is subjective. You like the type of music you like. I have constructed mine trying to remove all my personal biases and just basing it on talent and the overall effect they’ve had on the music world.

10) Sarah McLachlan: She has often been labeled, especially early in her career, Canada’s next Joni Mitchell. I think that comparison does both artists a disservice. Their voices are somewhat similar but that is where it ends. Sarah McLachlan with the release of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy in 1993 became a big pop star. So big that she had the power to initiate the first (and only) all-women music festival. Lilith Fair. Strip away all that stardom and record sales Sarah McLachlan is at her best when it is just her and her piano. Despite the fact that she is only 42 years old Sarah McLachlan’s career has already been over two decades long.

9) The Tragically Hip: These guys are 100% Canadian and maybe you have to be Canadian in order to fully appreciate their songs. Thought of as this country’s REM, The Hip are probably Canada’s favourite band. This is despite the fact that they have never achieved huge worldwide success over their 30 year career. In Canada they sell out stadiums. Hailing from Kingston, they always bring it live led by quirky lead singer Gord Downey.

top 10 canadian musicians of all time8) Anne Murray: She is a guilty pleasure to many even today as she seems like she should be your mother’s or grandmother’s favourite. Thought of as a national treasure, she is the lady with the classic, effortless voice. There is a certain timelessnesss in the way she sings and her phrasing. Many think of her as very middle of the road and vanilla but over the course of her career she did not play it safe and took several musical risks. Was the first Canadian solo artist to have a number one hit on the U.S. singles chart. As an artist she is closely linked with Canada. She paved the way for future Canadian songstresses like Shania Twain and Jann Arden.

7) k.d. Lang: If you have any doubts of her talent and voice then listen to her sing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. It will give you shivers. So good that no one else should touch it as it cannot be done any better. Her voice is close to unparalleled in its ability to simply sing a song and convey the emotionality of it. Though she probably could she does not indulge in any of the vocal gymnastics that most female singers with strong voices tend to. Canada’s best singer? If not she is very close to holding that title.

6) Celine Dion: An artist who seeks to communicate with the largest number of people possible (that is why she decided to start singing in English) and wears her heart on her sleeve, Celine Dion has been mocked by many though there is no debating that voice and its beauty. With an incredible range and supreme control she can make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. She regularly hits notes that others just dream of. There is not a power ballad that has been written that she could not do more than justice to.

5) Gordon Lightfoot: Another artist completely identified with Canada. He hit the big time in the 1970s with songs like “If You Could Read My Mind” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. He became one of the leading folk pop artists of the 1970s. Over his career he has won several Grammys, 17 Junos and a Governor General’s Award.  Gordon Lightfoot has influenced the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Jim Croce.

4) Leonard Cohen: A poet, songwriter, singer, novelist…in other words a true artist. Born into a wealthy Westmount family Leonard Cohen has been performing for over five decades. One of the best living songwriters the world wide. Started off as a member of a country-western trio. Went on to forge a career in which he has been inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, was awarded the Companion of the Order of Canada, and was awarded the Prince of Asturius Award for literature. Despite the darkness of his lyrics his wit and charm manage to shine through. As for his influence I think it is most telling that his songs have become some of the most covered by other artists in music history.

3) Glenn Gould: Though he died at a young age the mark he left on the Canadian music picture is unrivaled. A child prodigy he was supposedly composing works at the age of five. His piano playing was mesmerizing, innovative and Gould was incredibly technically proficient. Very eccentric on stage, he was not your average musician in any way. While performing he would conduct with one hand and also hum along.  Glenn Gould continues to inspire performers today even though it has been over thirty years since his death.

2) Neil Young: Neil Young warrants being on this list solely for his solo stuff then when you add in his work with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Buffalo Springfield he is as close to a sure thing as there is. The guy has such a huge catalogue that it is hard to make a greatest hits album for him. A dozen of his albums have gone platinum or multi-platinum. The man is a great live performer and a blazing guitar player. Mesmerizing live whether he is rocking out with his band Crazy Horse or is just him and an acoustic guitar.

1) Joni Mitchell: The female counterpart to Neil Young. Her voice has been described as dreamy. That is one way to label her distinctive voice. It is not the strongest or the most classic of voices but it meshes perfectly with the poetic lyrics she writes. Besides her musical talent her writing is so strong that it cannot be overlooked. Her song “A Case of You” might be the best love song ever written. One of the very rare truly original artists, Joni Mitchell has influenced a ton of musicians in this country and a number of others. Throughout her career she has demonstrated herself adept at many a musical genre from folk to blues to jazz to torch song.