The best speech of the night at Canada’s 22nd annual SOCAN Awards in Toronto on November 21 came from Crowbar, best known for “Oh What A Feeling,” a song honoured by the performing rights organization that evening with the SOCAN Classic Award for achieving the 100,000-airplay mark on domestic radio.
“I’ve made hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Started out with nothing and I’ve got most of it left,” quipped Crowbar’s Kelly Jay Fordham, while co-writer Roly Greenway took everybody by surprise by talking about an intimate encounter 31 years ago on the road that resulted in his discovery of a daughter.
Alas, other speeches were more on topic.
SOCAN president Earl Rosen who took the stage at Roy Thomson Hall at the beginning of the awards ceremony told the audience that a recent survey the P.R.O. conducted of its members resulted in member satisfaction at “an all-time high” of 7.99 out of 10.
“This has really been an excellent year for SOCAN and we have a great deal to celebrate,” Rosen said. “Our member’s music is being played around the world. While other parts of the music industry face many challenges, SOCAN distributions to our members and our affiliates continue to grow.”
He cautioned that “This is no reason to be complacement. We face many challenges. The rights of our members are threatened by changes in technology, business and government policy. Our users receive more favourable treatment than the rights of the creators.”
In the coming months, Rosen said that SOCAN will be taking an “even greater role in protecting all the rights of our members. You will see this in a new communications strategy and a greater public visibility for SOCAN.”
Rapper Kardinal Offishall, called “Canada’s hip hop ambassador,” by host Steven Page, formerly of Barenaked Ladies, was given SOCAN’s Urban Music Award for his song, “Body Bounce,” honouring the greatest number of performances on domestic radio during 2010 in said genre.
Thanking SOCAN and Universal Music, and declaring, “we’re gonna have a big year next year,” he addresses the newfound success of Canadian hip hop on a global level and the opportunities it has afforded him. “A lot people didn’t think that the urban music industry would be big in Canada and now we’re the biggest thing in the world,” Kardi said. “I just give thanks to all the blessings that art has bestowed upon me and just be relevant year after year after year. My music, you know, sometimes I write party songs like this, but it allows me to travel the world. I just came back from Kenya, taking a trip with World vision and music really does heal and help a lot of people.”
Producer Bob Ezrin, whose C.V. includes KISS, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed and Pink Floyd, received the Special Achievement Award bestowed on people who have greatly contributed to Canada’s music industry and/or musical heritage over the course of their career – in this case one spanning more than 40 years.
Ezrin began his acceptance speech by pointing out that the charity single, “Wavin’ Flag,” – written by K’Naan and recorded with dozens of Canadian artists, including Drake and Justin Bieber, to benefit the victims of Haiti’s earthquake – was actually organized by Universal Music Canada president Randy Lennox and publishing exec Shawn Marino. “I produced it, but those guys did a huge amount of work,” he said. The video has now achieved more than 16 million views.
Ezrin then addressed why he was called to the stage: “I have to say, every time I come home and every time I go to a gathering like this, I’m just so impressed with how mighty we are,” he said. “I think the Outstanding Achievement Award should go to the country of Canada for producing this much talent out of such a small population spread out over such a huge expanse. To find this many people who do such great work that touches people all around the world, I think that’s just miraculous.” While Ezrin presently lives in Nashville, he added, “What I was doing today was looking at houses. I just wanted you to know that.”
The triumvirate of David Bendeth, Dave Genn and Hedley’s Jacob Hoggard were awarded the Pop/Rock Music Award for “Perfect,” which achieved the greatest number of performances on domestic radio during 2010 in its format. The ballad reached No. 7 on the Canadian Hot 100 for Hedley, the No. 1 video on the MuchMusic Countdown and No. 25 on U.S. radio.
“It truly is an honour to be in a room with such incredible people and quite often I find myself quantifying my success by my peers,” said the 27-year-old Hoggard, who got his big break seven years ago after making it to the top 3 of Canadian Idol and breaking away to dedicate himself to his pop/rock band, which is now one of Canada’s biggest acts with a headlining arena tour scheduled in the new year.
Genn — a member of the band 54.40 who co-writes with many Canadian acts — met Hoggard six years ago and called him “a blazing super nova of talent.”
Randy Bachman, who said he’s known them “for absolutely forever” was given the duty of presenting The Stampeders with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The band received its first Juno Award nominations in 1971 and its enduring hit, “Sweet City Woman,” (a song, Bachman said he wished he’d written) peaked at No. 1 on the Canadian chart, No. 8 on the U.S. (going gold in America), and selling three million copies worldwide.
The band’s Kim Berly spoke first, “I was sitting there and it struck me that it’s 40 years now since Sweet City Woman and I did a little math and it’s 160 quarterly cheques,” he said to laughter.
Ronnie King then recalled the story of how, in 1965, the band got their name and sound. “In 1965, when Mel Shaw came to us with an image and idea of cowboys playing rock, instead of country & western — as it was called in those days — he went on to tell us that a local Calgary business man wanted to invest $10,000 if we named ourselves something to do with Calgary. Guess what name they had come up with? I believe it was my friend Kim, who uttered and I quote, ‘Mel, for fucks sakes! Not the Stampeders!’ unquote. We thought Calgary had too many businesses all over the city associating themselves with the Calgary Stampede.”
When the figured nobody in the rest of the world had heard of Calgary or the stampede, they acquiesced, and soon built a career that continues to this day. “By the way,” King added, before leaving the stage, “the Calgary businessman never did come up with the 10 grand.”