Top 10 Canadian Bands

A countdown of the top ten musicians or bands to come out of Canada.

Ultimate Guitar

With the Canadian Thanksgiving (yes, we have our own) this weekend, what better time to reflect on some of the great musicianship that Canada has produced over the years?

The following ten bands are of various genres and are groups that I feel have made a large and positive (sorry Avril Lavigne) impact on their genre through helping define what it is and represents. That being said, the list was made in my opinion and was designed to:

1) Bring some light to often overlooked bands and artists 2) Demonstrate through example that Canada has produced some amazing talent 3) Give the community of UG a chance to complain about their favourite band not making the list

10. The Tragically Hip

This Canadian group from Kingston, Ontario was formed in 1983 and is still continuing to write and perform to this day. With over 10 albums full of great material and more than 10 Juno awards, this truly unique band has experienced a successful career and has had a large affect on the world of music both through their own music and the music they inspired others to make.

Great works of The Tragically Hip include New Orleans Is Sinking, Bobcaygeon and Wheat Kings.

09. April Wine

This classic rock group, whose name was simply derived from what the members thought were two words that sounded good together, are straight out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Forming as a local band in 1969, the group's success grew rapidly and led to frequent radio playtime and the release of over 15 studio albums. After seeing them play at a local venue, it was obvious that their music helped both influence and inspire artists all around the world.

Some of their most famous hits are Oowatanite, Drop Your Guns, and Sign Of The Gypsy Queen.

08. Anvil

Originally formed as a high school band in Toronto, Ontario, Anvil became a successful metal act releasing a total of 16 great studio albums (with a new one coming out next spring). On top of releasing a large amount of great metal, Anvil are known to have been a big influence to some of the largest and most famous metal groups out there: Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer being just a few. Through influencing some of the greats and releasing their own great music, Anvil have truly helped pave the path for metal.

You may know the band for songs like 666, March Of The Crabs or Tag Team.

07. Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Bachman-Turner Overdrive, straight from Winnipeg, Manitoba, was the product of the break-up of The Guess Who. Guitarist/vocalist Randy Bachman formed the group with bassist/vocalist Fred Turner and really took care of business (heh). Receiving four Juno awards (among other honours) and producing a ton of classic rock hits, these guys really helped shape the rock world.

Songs that they are known for include Takin' Care Of Business, Let It Ride, and You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet.

06. Joni Mitchell

Known as one of the best songwriters of all time, Joni Mitchell from Fort Macleod, Alberta not only continually shaped her own music but helped shape the music of the world around her. Initially starting off as a folk singer, guitarist, and piano player, over the years Joni Mitchell became more jazz inspired and ended up working with greats like Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, and Jaco Pastorius. Producing a ton of excellent music has earned Joni several awards (including 9 Grammy awards) and honours, and her affect on the music of the era is incredibly evident.

Joni is best known for songs like Big Yellow Taxi, Both Sides Now, and River.

05. Triumph

Hailing from Mississauga, Ontario, Triumph are one of the worlds must underrated hard rock trios. With the band releasing several albums worth of great rock that's comparable to other legends, they have certainly proved their technical proficiency as well as their great song writing and heartfelt playing skills. Guitarist Rik Emmett, widely considered one of the most skilled and versatile players to the few who know him, has influenced many great players with his incorporation of crazy rock solos, jazzy lines, and neo-classical technique into his playing style.

If you want to check out their stuff, listen to Fight The Good Fight, Blinding Light Show / Moonchild, and for a classical touch Petite Etude.

04. Oscar Peterson

Next to no jazz pianist can go through his or her life without at least hearing about Oscar Peterson. This Quebec-born man, referred to as the Maharaja of the keyboard by Duke Ellington, has truly left a mark on the history of jazz music. Releasing over 200 recordings and winning numerous awards and distinctions (including 8 Grammy awards), this jazz pianist accomplished what very few ever have for the jazz world.

A few of my personal favourite Oscar Peterson recordings include Cakewalk, You Look Good To Me, and There Will Never Be Another You.

(RIP Oscar Peterson: 1925-2007)

03. Neil Young

From Toronto, Ontario, Neil Young is known as one of the greatest songwriters and most influential musicians of his time. Before being one of the most successful solo acts out there, Neil was a co-founder of Buffalo Springfield and a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Between being inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, receiving countless awards, and releasing over 30 successful albums, Neil's talent and impression on the music world is undeniable.

Some of Neil Young's best works include Heart Of Gold, Rockin' In The Free World, and Needle And The Damage Done.

02. The Band

Always being the backup band for various artists like Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan, the group decided to adopt the name The Band officially. This group, from Toronto, Ontario, has been known to be an influence to numerous acts, inspiring artists such as Eric Clapton, The Beatles, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The Band have truly helped define the musical world with their unique blend of old country and rock and roll.

Up On Cripple Creek, It Makes No Difference, and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down are all some of The Band's greatest works.

01. Justin Beiber

With a completely original and amaz Ahaha, just kidding.

01. Rush

This hard rock / progressive rock trio who's origin lies in Toronto, Ontario consists of bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart. Rush have proved themselves some of the world's best with their amazing musicianship and the unique style that they are renowned for. The band is still writing material and touring, and I can honestly say that the concert I went to was probably the best of my life. The guys have inspired countless bands in all sorts of genres, and in my opinion have proven themselves to be the best band to ever come out of Canada.

It was hard to narrow it down to three songs, but I would suggest listening to 2112, Spirit Of The Radio and YYZ.

Honourable mention goes to: The Guess Who, Burton Cummings, Loverboy, The Tragically Hip, Steppenwolf, Trooper, Protest The Hero, Today I Caught The Plague, Maynard Ferguson, Annihilator, and more.

Dishounourable mention goes to: Nickelback.

If you've got anything to say or a band that YOU think should have made the list, just leave a comment, eh?

By Ryan B.

801 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I can't believe so many people wonder about Billy Talent or alexisonfire... I wouldn't be caught dead blaring ther music in my truck. The only people around these parts that are fans of them are under age high school kids who don't know any better lol. Maybe it's different south of the border. Anyways, right on whoever said The Smalls. Corb Lund is the shit, and should be on any country lovers playlist.
    camhussynec wrote: ARCADE FIRE ?!?! BLOC PARTY ?!?! TOKYO POLICE CLUB?!?! WTF!!!!
    lol wut...
    What, no Alanis Morissett?!?! No Celine Dion?!?!? No Nickelback?!?!? This is an outrage, it's a ****ing joke that you can miss 3 such legendary legends off the list. Only joking. I know how much they drag Canadia's reputation down in the musical world. But then again I could name loads more crap from over here in the UK. That's a pretty decent list. I've not heard of a lot of those bands but thanks for bringing them to my attention. I'm gonna have to listen to some more of The Tragically Hip, April Wine and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Kinda disapointed to see no mention of Devin Townsend up there, he's an incredible artist and has been involved in some great projects. Good to see Rush at number 1 though; how could it be any other way?
    russian bear
    pwrmax wrote: russian bear wrote: I saw the headline and i thought Rush!!! Picture might have been a givaway
    I read the article before it was front page news Oh and
    JoeyKazaam wrote: 3 INCHES OF BLOOD!!!
    This isn't a bad list, and its a list of "best" bands, not most popular, but it seems like this is a list of Canadian bands people outside of Canada might have heard of. That isn't a bad thing, since I'm guessing most UG readers are outside of Canada. As a Yank, I've always liked The Hip as well as other Canadian acts like Wide Mouth Mason, The Trews, Sam Roberts, etc.
    yasman88 wrote: Everyone needs to stop publishing their hate for Justin Bieber. So the kid is a business product made for little girls. Who the **** cares. We, as 'metalheads', talk more about him (even though we bash him) than most people that actually listen to him. -- which makes him more relevant to us than he needs to be. Furthermore -- Our Lady Peace should be an honorable mention at least!
    hahhaa, indeed, there is no day in my life without talking about how stupid the little boy is xD let's switch to nickeldick =P
    Matt Chavie wrote: WTB Protest the Hero. Who are half of these bands?!
    Joker-82 wrote: WHERE THE HELL IS BILLY TALENT?!
    dr-g0nz0 wrote: @daniel coogan Damn right. And Cancer Bats, Propagandhi??
    Ghostrelm` wrote: Alexisonfire and The Tea Party should definitely be on this list.
    Skinny91 wrote: Would like to have seen Cancer bats up there.
    Kenneth19 wrote: Where the hell is Three Days Grace?!
    This is why we can't have nice things Also, Annihilator and Devin Townsend/SYL/DTB/DTP are missing.
    Cancer Bats? Alexisonfire? They shoulda been up there! But I agree with Rush
    'DC fan
    No Priestess? No Nickelback? Apart from that then yeah its a good list i guess.
    NO FREAKING ARCADE FIRE? what kind of list is this? Every band on here excluding Rush and The Hip sucks.
    Really, Devin Townsend and Godspeed You! Black Emperor failing to get a mention gives me the sulks. I think the authour is trying to illuminate smaller bands/artists (aside from Rush and Neil Young) hence why there's no Arcade Fire/Nickleback etc.
    I Dont Belong
    \m/-Metallica wrote: I hate to be "That guy", but what about Propagandhi or DOA?
    I was starting to worry that everyone here was a Sum 41 fan. Both those bands deserve to be on this list.
    engineno9 wrote: I can't believe so many people wonder about Billy Talent or alexisonfire... I wouldn't be caught dead blaring ther music in my truck. The only people around these parts that are fans of them are under age high school kids who don't know any better lol. Maybe it's different south of the border. Anyways, right on whoever said The Smalls. Corb Lund is the shit, and should be on any country lovers playlist.
    See, theres your problem, if your the kind of person who has country music blaring from their truck then you shouldn't even be near a debate over what bands are good and not. Billy Talent are an amazing band that have a very original style of music that deserves more recognition than they get most the time. I haven't really heard much of alexisonfire but seeming you gave them a bad review, i guess they are a fairly decent band, will be buying one of their albums for sure.
    Yoyo Of Death wrote: NO SIMPLE PLAN?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!??!??!?!?!??!?!?!?!?! thei ar like th gratest band ever! this lisy is rettrded cos its for 50 yr old retards who only know bands that noone else nows plus oscar peterson doesnt even play guitar so why is he on the list?????
    You need to get off of this site my friend. Simple Plan deserves to be nowhere near Geddy Lee ever.
    I'm Reeaaallllyyy getting tired of seeing "canadian band" lists and NEVER seeing Annihilator on it. I mean srsly this band has been our answer to megadeth and metallica and they have produced great rock and metal music for like 20 years. Rush serioulsy needs to stop being at the top of the list all the time. I know it's just my opinion but seriously Rush is not even good. I can't stand to listen to even one Rush song.
    justin bieber lol but i kinda wonder why there are just old bands id personally choose at least nickelback and sum 41
    Propagandhi needs to be there, easily one of the best Punk/ Metal bands to ever exist, and all of their lyrics are amazing.
    I guess I can understand Rush, simply because of how popular they are. But if there really is anything that needs to be said about Canada, it's Crystal Castles. Though they hav'nt been around long enough to have influenced much yet, I feel like they're a real Velvet Underground. They're pushing the envelope far further than I've seen any band in my lifetime. Though, initially, they failed to garner much attention in their homeland, the plucky Brits were quick to pick them up. Since then they have done nothing but amaze me more and more with everything they do. Agree or disagree, in the next decade or so I'd bet your gonna hear a lot of promising artists start referencing CC as influences.
    I'd swap Neil Young and The Band, but Rush is definitely Number 1, by quite a margin. The other 7 are all okay.
    Any list of Canadian musicians is illegitimate if it does not include Voivod, NoMeansNo, and Devin Townsend.
    too lazy to read all the comments but sam roberts is better than half of this list. someone who's great yet still somewhat unknown in canada.