• The Weeknd performs at this year's Coachella Music & Arts Festival. (AAP)Source: AAP
Yes, they’re often mistakenly assumed to be American.
Gavin Scott

23 Jun 2017 - 4:23 PM  UPDATED 23 Jun 2017 - 4:23 PM

Canada has produced its fair share of music superstars over the decades. Performers like Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Justin Bieber, Shania Twain, Michael Buble, Avril Lavigne and Alanis Morrissette, who have racked up 178 weeks at number 1 on the Australian singles and albums charts among them (at time of writing).

Everyone knows they’re all Canadian, right? Beyond those multiplatinum megastars, that question isn’t so readily answered in the affirmative for many of the nation’s other musical acts. Yes, if you’re a huge Neil Young or Sarah McLachlan fan, you’ll know they’re also Canucks, but for many Canadian acts you’re familiar with but not passionate about, their nationality may come as a surprise. Or maybe not, in which case just go ahead and enjoy the music.


The Weeknd

He’s been breaking chart records and hauling in awards for the past couple of years, but how many of you were aware the singer born Abel Tasfaye hails from Toronto, the city his Ethiopian migrant parents moved to in the 1980s?



So now you know who to blame.


Simple Plan

They might sound like Good Charlotte, Blink 182 or any number of US pop/punk bands, but Simple Plan call Montreal home. See also: Ontario’s Sum 41.


Joni Mitchell

To be fair, by the time the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award recipient started releasing records, she’d been settled in America for some time. But Mitchell cut her teeth on the Saskatoon and Toronto live circuits.


Leonard Cohen

Like Joni Mitchell, the folk music icon didn't commence his recording career until he left Canada (he grew up in Westmount, Quebec) and moved to the States. Initially bound for Nashville, Cohen instead ended up in New York, where his debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, was recorded.


Nelly Furtado

Her genre shifting-sound has made her hard to pin down, so fans might not have guessed that Furtado is from British Columbia - her parents moved there from Portugal in the 1960s.


Men Without Hats

It’s likely you haven’t thought about the ’80s one-hit wonders that much in recent decades, but if you had to guess where the purveyors of “The Safety Dance” came from, chances are you would’ve said the UK. Or medieval times.



One good ’80s act deserves another – and the power pop/rock band behind “Working For The Weekend” and “Turn Me Loose” came not from California but from Calgary.


Wendy Matthews

She’s been part of the local musical landscape for decades, but Wendy Matthews, of course, is originally from Montreal. She became an Australian citizen in 1995, by which time she’d already been crowned Best Female Artist at the ARIA Awards three times.


Arcade Fire

Winning Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammy Awards for The Suburbs probably fuelled the false assumption that this indie rock band were from the States, but Arcade Fire are another product of Montreal.


Crash Test Dummies

They emerged as the grunge scene exploded south of the border in Seattle, but the band behind chart-topping single “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” were based just north of the divide in Winnipeg.



Fans of Canadian teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation will know that series regular Aubrey Graham, who grew up in Toronto, went on to use his middle name for his hip-hop moniker.


William Shatner

First of all, yes, the Star Trek and Boston Legal star has released what you can loosely term music. And like more Hollywood stars than you realise, he’s actually from Canada – that hotbed of creativity, Montreal, in fact. 


Watch the Canada episode of RocKwiz Salutes the Legends on Saturday 24 June at 8:30pm on SBS. Missed the last episode? Watch it at SBS On Demand:

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