As we prepare for Canada Day on Monday (hooray, long weekend!), I was struck by something somewhat ironic. One of the songs about Canada I love the most isn’t sung by a Canadian. It’s sung by a Kenyan almost as well-known for his whistling as for his singing.
Roger Whittaker never had a Number 1 hit on the charts in the United States or United Kingdom. His highest-charting single was The Last Farewell, which reached Number 2 in the United Kingdom.
Canada Is was released as a single in 1974, but didn’t chart in Canada or elsewhere, which is a shame. The song was written by Eric Robertson and Steve Hyde, and yes, the lyrics do sound somewhat hokey, but when Whittaker sings them is that accent of his, something always happens inside me.
“Canada is the Rocky Mountains, Canada is Prince Edward Island, Canada is a country made for love.”
As he sings about the virtues of our country, from its geography to its people, he sings it with a spirit and a conviction that I think a lot of Canadians would find difficult to match.
Whittaker has always been one of my favourite singers. A lot of his hits were ballads, and generally sadder songs, like The Last Farewell or Durham Town. But my Mom had a couple of his live albums, one of them recorded in Canada, and they paint a different picture of the man.
You listen to him singing Whiskey in the Jar or one of his African whistling songs and you know this is a man who loves life and everything about it.
I know, from reading and watching interviews with Whittaker, that he loved coming to Canada and I think the feeling was mutual.
It was only natural, I guess, that the singer with a love for this country would record a song about the country of Canada – and its dreams for the future.
“We have a voice that is calling, Telling us to keep on hoping, For time will make this wild land great, And that’s what Canada is.”
Happy Canada Day, everyone, and keep on hoping.