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Canada’s Top 10 Rock Artists

Kevin Winter / Gareth Cattermole / Robert Mola / Donald Weber / Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Canada: The land of endless snow, igloos and Bob & Doug McKenzie. At least that’s how some rather judgmental, close-minded people see this great country. Others might be inclined to point a finger of blame at the Great White North for giving the world the likes of Nickelback and Justin Bieber. But let’s be fair, Canada has contributed a lot of good to the music world as well. Need proof? Well then, let’s take a look at Canada’s Top 10 Rock Artists.


April Wine


We kick off our list of Canadian rock acts with April Wine. The group formed in Nova Scotia in 1969 before relocating to the more urban metropolis of Montreal approximately one year later. In 1977, they shared a bill with the Rolling Stones (who were being billed as The Cockroaches) at the legendary Toronto club The El Mocmabo. April Wine found much success in Canada, but also managed to put a dent in the American market thanks to songs like ‘I Like To Rock‘ and ‘Roller.’ They also landed tours with the likes of Rush, Journey and Styx. Their latest studio record is 2006’s ‘Roughly Speaking.’




Although they shared the same guitar-bass-drums configuration and hometown as Rush, Triumph were a power trio in a league of their own. They eschewed their more famous neighbor’s progressive tendencies for more of a hard rock and heavy metal sound. The earned a reputation for their live show and found considerable success in both Canada and the United States, even landing a slot on the prestigious 1983 US Festival. Triumph’s original lineup dissolved five short years later. But after being inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2007, they reunited to perform at the Sweden Rock Festival and Oklahoma’s Rocklahoma Music Festival in 2008.




If you grew up in the early ’80s, chances are you can’t utter the words ‘Working for the Weekend’ without Canadian rock band Loverboy coming to mind. Formed in 1980, Loverboy found tremendous success on both sides of the Canada / United States border. In the time between their double-platinum self-titled debut record and 1981’s four million-selling ‘Get Lucky’, Loverboy toured with Cheap Trick and ZZ Top. Subsequent albums ‘Keep It Up’, ‘Lovin’ Every Minute Of It’ and ‘Wildside’ sold well for Loverboy. After a three year breakup they reunited in 1992 and have continued touring and recording ever since — most recently releasing ‘Unfinished Business‘ in 2014. ‘Working For The Weekend’ was included in a Radio Shack Super Bowl ad earlier this year, showing the song’s popularity continues to endure more than 30 years after its release.


Bryan Adams


Before Bryan Adams professed that ‘Everything I Do (I Do It For You)’ or that he did it ‘All For Love’ with Sting and Rod Stewart, he earned a reputation for writing catchy, hard-hitting rock songs. He broke through big time with 1984’s multi-platinum selling ‘Reckless,’ after finding some success in the United States with his first three albums. Adams remains an active touring musician whose most recent studio effort is 2010’s ‘Bare Bones.’ Not one to rest on his past accomplishments, Adams is also an active photographer with three books to his credit. In 2006, he launched the Bryan Adams Foundation to help improve the quality of life for people all over the world.


Bachman-Turner Overdrive


Next up on our countdown of the Canada’s best rockers is Bachman Turner Overdrive. Formed by Randy Bachman after he left the Guess Who in 1970, BTO embraced a more hard-edged sound than his former outfit. Their list of massive hits includes 1973’s ‘Takin’ Care Of Business’ and 1974’s ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet’ — but if you ask us, the whole of ‘Not Fragile‘ is required listening for any true rock fan. in 2014, Bachman Turner Overdrive were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.


Joni Mitchell


Arguably the least “rock” of any of the artists included on this Canadian list, the impact of Joni Mitchell‘s work isn’t up for debate. Considered by some to be one of the most influential female recording artists of the last century, Mitchell has steadfastly pursued her own musical agenda, exploring folk, pop, jazz and more. One of the few female artists to appear in the Band‘s iconic ‘The Last Waltz’ film, Mitchell is notoriously private and has effectively retired from performing live. Her most recent studio effort is 2007’s ‘Shine.’


The Guess Who


So let’s get this straight — a band from Canada strikes gold with a song called ‘American Woman?’ That is indeed the story of the legendary Guess Who. Of course, the band was no one-hit wonders: ‘These Eyes’, ‘Share The Land’ and ‘Undun’ are just the tip of the hit iceberg for this highly underrated band. Key members Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman both departed in the mid ’70s (see No. 6 on our list of Canada’s Top 10 Artists). By the turn of the century, both were back with fellow original members Jim Kale and Garry Peterson, successfully touring Canada and the United States. They went their separate ways once again, however, in 2004.


The Band


They were originally the backing group for Ronnie Hawkins as well as Bob Dylan, but the Band would go on to become a musical phenomenon all their own. Comprised of four Canadians and one American (the incomparable Levon Helm), the group is considered to be the one of the most influential rock bands of the last 50 years, with hits including ‘Up On Cripple Creek’ and ‘The Weight.’ Their 1976 “farewell” show was documented as ‘The Last Waltz‘, filmed by Martin Scorsese and featuring a bevy of guest stars including Dylan, Hawkins, Joni Mitchell and more. The original lineup of the Band was never to perform live again, although the group did soldier on without Robbie Robertson for a number of years. Sadly, only Robertson and eclectic keyboardist Garth Hudson are still with us from the original lineup.




There are only a handful of groups out there that can match the musicality, depth and popularity of Canadian progressive rock heroes Rush. They have never exactly been radio darlings, nor a group that is loved by critics, but their devoted fans have kept them among rock’s most popular bands for decades now. With almost 20 studio albums to their credit, Rush’s 2012 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Foo Fighters‘ Dave Grohl proved, once and for all, that it wasn’t the least bit uncool to be a fan of these musically pioneering Canucks.


Neil Young


Was there any doubt over who would hold the top spot in our list of Canada’s Top 10 Rock Artists? Neil Young is deserving of this honor for so many reasons: from his time with Buffalo Springfield through his solo career and work with Crosby, Stills & Nash, Young is a musical chameleon like no other. He’s capable of writing tender-hearted songs like ‘Old Man’ and ‘Heart Of Gold’ as well as stomping rockers like ‘Rockin’ In The Free World.’ Never satisfied with the status quo, Young has famously challenged his listeners, been an outspoken political activist, and worn the hat of technological pioneer. We tip our hats to you, Mr. Young.


Next: Top 100 Classic Rock Songs

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