Readers' Poll: The 10 Greatest Canadian Rock Stars - Rolling Stone
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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Greatest Canadian Rock Stars

Your picks include Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Bryan Adams

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Neil Young's 68th birthday and crack-smoking Toronto mayor Rob Ford have us thinking a lot about Canada this week. For a country with a relatively small population (especially compared to its total size), the place sure has given us a huge number of amazing musicians. In the 1960s, we met Canadian legends like Young, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen and it continues to this day with Arcade Fire and many others. We asked our readers to select their 10 favorite Canadian bands/artists. Click through to see the results. 


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10. Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire were born very early in the 21st century when Win Butler and Josh Deu started playing music together at Montreal's Concordia University. They met Régine Chassagne at nearby McGill University and pretty soon, they were writing future classics like "No Cars Go" and "Wake Up." Their rise was meteoric and before they knew it, they were sharing stages with the likes of David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen, and headlining festivals and arenas all over the globe. Butler was born in Texas, but Chassagne and most of the other members were born in Canada and they continue to spend much of their time up there. 

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9. Saga

If you've never heard of Saga, then you clearly haven't delved very deeply into the world of Canadian progressive rock. These guys have been around since 1977, releasing 20 albums and touring like maniacs. You can catch them next April on the Cruise to the Edge alongside Yes, Marillion, Steve Hackett and Queensryche. After that, they're hitting 13 different cities in Germany, but they'll almost certainly return to their native Canada at some point. Prog rock is absolutely huge up there. 

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8. The Tragically Hip

They've been called Canada's R.E.M., but up there, many see R.E.M. as America's Tragically Hip. Over the last 30 years, the Tragically Hip have scored a staggering amount of hit songs and albums in Canada, but in America, they've never been more than a cult act.  None of their albums has cracked the Top 100 in America, but they have eight Number Ones in Canada. It's unlikely that's lost them much sleep; they have a huge audience and can sell out most venues across the country. They released Plan A in October 2012 and it peaked at Number Three in Canada, their worst showing there in over two decades. Strangely, it reached Number 129 in America, their best yet. Maybe things are starting to change, but probably not. 

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7. Bryan Adams

Bryan Adams has had a rather unusual career. Born in Kingston, Ontario, the singer/songwriter had an incredible run of hits in the 1980s and 1990s, including "Cuts Like a Knife," "Summer of '69," "Run to You" and "Heaven." He was the king of the soundtracks in the 1990s, landing on the charts with "All For Love" (The Three Musketeers), "I Finally Found Someone" (The Mirror Has Two Faces) and "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). Things slowed down in the 2000s, but he's devoted much of his time recently to photography. He's also a big draw on the concert circuit. 

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6. The Guess Who

The Guess Who's big hit was "American Woman," but they are most certainly Canadian men. They formed in Winnipeg, Manitoba in the early 1960s and landed on the charts with "These Eyes," "Share the Land" and "No Sugar Tonight." They split in 1975, but two years later, bassist Jim Kale realized that nobody had bothered to trademark the band's name. He promptly did that himself, and continues to tour today as the Guess Who with new members. Randy Bachman had huge success in the 1970s with Bachman-Turner Overdrive, but he lost the rights to use that name, too. Poor guy. He should call his next project "Randy Bachman" and make sure nobody finds a way to steal that. 

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5. The Band

The Band is 80 percent Canadian, and yet they wrote some of the most quintessential American songs every put down on tape. That's largely due to their other 20 percent: drummer Levon Helm. He was born and bred in Arkansas and pure Americana ran through his veins. The debate will forever rage about who exactly wrote what in the Band, but many critics have noted that it took a bunch of Canadians to write the best rock song ever about the American Civil War. "The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down" takes no sides in the horrible conflict, and their performance of the tune at The Last Waltz remains one of the greatest moments in rock history. That was the last time all five original members shared a stage, though they reformed in 1983 and didn't call it quits until Rick Danko passed away in 1999. 

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4. Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell has only released a single album in the past decade and played virtually no concerts, but it doesn't matter. The music she released in 1960s and 1970s will live forever. Everyone from Prince to David Crosby considers her one of the greatest songwriters to ever live, even if most people only know a handful of hits like "Big Yellow Taxi" and "Woodstock." Albums like Blue and Court and Spark only get better with age, and her recent bizarre interviews only serve to grow her legend. 

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3. Corey Hart

Corey Hart offered a stern warning in 1983: "Don't switch the blade on the guy in shades, oh no." The world listened, and his synth-driven classic "Sunglasses at Night" flew up the charts. He had an even bigger hit two years later with "Never Surrender," but his fortune in America soon waned. This was not the case in his native Canada. He had huge songs all through the rest of the 1980s and 1990s, only ending when he stopped releasing albums after 1998's Jade. Just last year, a Canadian DJ remixed his 1980s hit "Truth Will Set You Free" and brought it back onto the radio. He's planning a farewell concert in Montreal next year, but if rock history is any precedent, that should only keep him off the stage for a year or two. 

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2. Rush

Anyone who doesn't know Rush is Canadian can probably figure it out about four seconds into their 1981 video for "Limelight." It begins with a wolf running in front of a hopelessly remote house, practically lost in a mountain of snow. There don't appear to be any neighbors around for at least one hundred miles and inside, the Canadian trio is playing in front of a large window that looks out into the vast Canadian wilderness.

Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson grew up near Toronto and they cut their teeth on the local club circuit. They live there to this day, though drummer Neil Peart now spends much of his time in Los Angeles with his wife and young daughter. 

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1. Neil Young

Neil Young's father, Scott Young, was a highly acclaimed Canadian sportswriter and his mother, Rassy, was a panelist on a Canadian game show (among many other things). He grew up in Omemee (the famed town in North Ontario from "Helpless"), but moved to Los Angeles in 1966 to start Buffalo Springfield. California has been his primary residence ever since, but he never became an American citizen and still has close ties to Canada. In his 2011 movie Neil Young Journeys, he takes filmmaker Jonathan Demme back to Omemee and recounts tales from his early days. 

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