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The Musicmakers of Toronto

Toronto is the fourth most populous city in North America – and a prominent center for the arts. Its varied cultural institutions, which include numerous museums and galleries, festivals and public events, entertainment districts, national historic sites, and sports activities, are key attractions to the over 25 million tourists that visit the city each year. One of the city’s most prominent contributions to arts and culture is its music scene, which has brought forth and fostered performers and bands across a variety of genres. Some of the most famous include:

  • Rush – This legendary rock trio is known for its musicianship, complex compositions and eclectic lyrical motifs (drawing heavily on science fiction, fantasy and philosophy). Formed in 1968 and initially performing blues-inspired hard rock, the group evolved into progressive rock, then into a synth-heavy sound in the 1980s. In the early 1990s, they returned to guitar-driven rock. Although the band announced its retirement from touring in 2016, Rush remains a staple of FM rock radio due to such songs as “Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight,” “Closer to the Heart” and “Freewill.” They were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1994 and – after being snubbed for nearly two decades – the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
  • Neil Young – Born in Toronto, the singer-songwriter moved to California in 1966, where he co-founded the band Buffalo Springfield. He later joined Crosby, Stills and Nash, for whom he penned one of the band’s most enduring – and politically conscious – hits, “Ohio,” about the police action at Kent State University in 1970. As a solo artist (and with his backing bands Crazy Horse and the Bluenotes), Young’s music is characterized by his distinctive guitar work, deeply personal lyrics and alto (or high tenor) singing voice. In addition to guitar, he accompanies himself on piano and harmonica. In 1985, Young co-founded the benefit concert Farm Aid. He received an Oscar nomination in 1994 for his song “Philadelphia,” from the movie of the same name. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1982, and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – as a solo artist in 1995, and as a member of Buffalo Springfield in 1997.
  • Tom Cochrane – Known in Canada as the lead singer and songwriter for the rock band Red Rider. The group charted in 1981 with their song “Lunatic Fringe,” but Cochrane achieved greater success in the U.S. (and received a Grammy nomination) with his 1991 song “Life is a Highway” – recorded by Rascal Flatts for the “Cars” movie soundtrack. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2003.
  • Barenaked Ladies – An alt-rock band that grew from having cult status – based on the success of its self-titled 1990 cassette – to immediately popularity from its major label debut. Their quirky lyrics and acoustic flavor – though they have grown to incorporate pop, rock, hip hop and rap into their repertoire – have made them critical and commercial darlings. Their song “If I Had $1000000” was used as the theme for the New York State Lottery’s TV commercials, their song “Shoebox” was included on the first soundtrack from the hit show “Friends” and they hit #1 on the Billboard charts with the single “One Week.” Their distinctive voice can also be heard weekly (and in syndication) in the theme song to “The Big Bang Theory.”
  • Glenn Gould – A brilliant and technically proficient classical pianist who was known as much for his eccentricities as his musical ability. He stopped giving concerts at age 31 to concentrate on studio recording and other projects. He became known as a writer, composer, conductor and broadcaster and won five Grammy Awards – with two of those, including a Lifetime Achievement Award – being presented after Gould’s death in 1982, at the age of 50.
  • Bob Ezrin – A music producer and keyboardist, best known for his work with Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel and Phish. He co-wrote and played piano on Kiss’ ballad “Beth,” and co-wrote the Pink Floyd single “Learning to Fly.” He has been heavily involved in music education – cofounding the Nimbus School of Recording Arts and serving as Vice Chairman of the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation – music preservation and socially conscious organizations. Ezrin was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2004.
  • Leon Redbone – A singer-songwriter who specialized in interpretations of early 20th century music, including jazz and blues standards and Tin Pan Alley classics. His concerts blended performance, comedy and skilled instrumentals – with Redbone playing guitar, harmonica, banjo, piano and throat tromnet. He sang the theme song to the sitcoms “Mr. Belvedere” and “Harry and the Hendersons,” and dueted with Zooey Deschanel on a popular rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from the film “Elf” (for which Redbone also provided the voice of Leon the Snowman). Due to failing health, in 2015, Redbone retired from performing and recording.
  • Deadmau5 – Joel Zimmerman, aka Deadmau5, is a progressive house music producer and performer. His stage name – which is pronounced “dead mouse” – comes from finding an actual rodent inside his computer, which had shorted out. Today, he is one of the highest paid electronic artists. He appears as a playable avatar in the video game DJ Hero 2. To date, he has been nominated for six Grammy Awards and won four DJ Awards.
  • Drake – First rising to fame as an actor on the TV series “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” Drake is one of the most successful rappers working today. In 2009, his debut single hit number two on the Billboard Hot 100. The following year, his first studio album went platinum. His second album produced the single “The Motto,” which is credited with popularizing the acronym YOLO. He has written songs for such artists as Alicia Keys, Rita Ora, Jamie Foxx and Trey Songz, and has more number one singles on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts than any other artist.
  • The Weeknd – Known for his rapping style and his hairstyle, the artist known as The Weeknd was born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, to Ethiopian immigrants. He first gained attention in 2010 with songs he uploaded to YouTube, and released his first mixtape in 2011. Fellow Torontonian Drake was an early supporter. He released “Trilogy,” a remixed and remastered compilation of songs from his mixtapes, in 2012, and it debuted at number four on the Billboard album chart. His debut studio album, “Kiss Land,” released in 2013, reached number two. His next album, 2015’s “Beauty Behind the Madness,” topped the charts and contained the singles “Can’t Feel My Face,” “Earned It” and “The Hills.” The Weeknd picked up two Grammy Awards in 2016.

To learn more about Toronto, visit our website at www.takeagetaway.com. For help planning a musical journey to this symphonic city, drop us a line at info@takeagetaway.com.

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