June 2nd marks the anniversary of the death of Stan Rogers, a legendary folk singer whose ballads and sea shanties celebrated the culture and Celtic legacy of Atlantic Canada. Though he died at the tender age of 33 in a plane fire in 1983, he left a lasting legacy on Canadian East Coast music and Canadian folk music in general. 

The Maritimes have a rich musical tradition thanks to its unique blend of Scottish, Irish, and Acadian influences and many great East Coast musicians from Canada have achieved international acclaim, such as Anne Murray and Sarah MacLachlan. 

Here are just some great Canadian East Coast artists whose songs capture the spirit, resiliency, and culture of Atlantic Canada. 

Stan Rogers

Though born in Ontario, Rogers came from a long line of Maritimers, and from a young age he was inspired by the stories of Atlantic Canadian fishermen and sailors who braved storms and harsh conditions simply to provide for their families. 

his unique brand of country-influenced folk songs reflected a yearning many Easterners had for those simpler times, even as their traditional way of life was fading away and economic hardships forced them to relocate to other parts of the country. 

Though Rogers only released four albums before his death in 1983, he’s had a number of albums published posthumously. In particular, 1977’s Fogarty’s Cove and 1981’s Northwest Passage are considered Canadian folk classics containing hits like The Mary Ellen Carter and Barrett’s Privateers.

A modern sea shanty inspired by tales of Canadian privateers during the Revolutionary War, Barrett’s Privateers remains a popular drinking song that recounts the exploits of the Antelopes ramshackle crew as they’d cruise the seas for American gold” as told by the lone survivor, a broken man on a Halifax pier, the last of Barrett’s Privateers.” 

Anne Murray

Truly one of the greatest Canadian East Coast artists to have ever graced the international stage, Anne Murray’s four-decade long career is a testament to her talent and timeless music. The first Canadian woman to go Gold with her all-time classic Snowbird, Murray has sold 55 million albums and won countless awards ranging from Junos to Grammys. 

Such accolades are a far cry from her humble origins, growing up in the small town of Springhill in Nova Scotia. After modest success in the late 60s singing on Halifax radio and several CBC programs, Murray’s first big hit as a solo artist was 1968’s What About Me which garnered her national attention. 

However, it was her follow-up album This Way Is My Way in 1969 that would solidify her as a Canadian sensation with the hit single Snowbird. With a unique blend of country, folk and adult contemporary influences, Murray became Canada’s girl next door, with a wholesome image and a wide collection or inspirational ballads. 

Despite exploding fame in the States, she has been based in Toronto since the late 60s. Murray officially retired in 2008, following the release of her final Christmas album. 

Sarah McLachlan

I will remember you, will you remember me?” 

One of the seminal voices of the 90s, Sarah McLachlan is an icon of the alternative music movement and dedicated humanitarian who has raised millions for charities like the ASPCA, whose commercials she appears in frequently. 

Originally hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, McLachlan’s first album Touch made waves in the Canadian alt rock scene when it landed in 1988 when McLachlan was just 19 years old. Her subsequent albums Solace (1991) and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (1993) would go on to scale the charts, with Fumbling marking her ascent to international acclaim. 

However, she wouldn’t reach true superstardom until the release of her fourth album Surfacing in 1997. Winner of two Grammy Awards, four Junos, and selling 16 million copies, Surfacing was a massive success that cemented McLachlan as one of the great indie singer-songwriters of the decade. 

Since her hey-day at the turn of the millennium, McLachlan has become well-known for her philanthropy and commitment to charitable projects. In 2003, she donated almost the entire music video budget for her single World on Fire to charity and instead recorded a PSA set to the song about various humanitarian issues around the world. 

She’s also the founder of Lilith Fair, a music festival that celebrated female artists and raised millions of dollars for charity in the 1990s. 

Denny Doherty

A founding member of seminal 60s American folk group The Mamas and Papas, Doherty himself hailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Born in 1940, Denny Doherty formed a folk group with his friends called The Colonials when he was 19. Later changing their name to The Halifax III, the band released two albums and three singles as they toured across Canada. 

In 1963, they toured with another band in New York called The Big 3, featuring Cass Elliot or Mama Cass” as she would later be known. Together, she and Doherty formed The Mamas and Papas in 1965 alongside John and Michelle Phillips. 

The group would go on to be one of the defining voices of the 60s counterculture movement, with hits like Monday, Monday and California Dreamin’ on which Doherty sang lead. 

After the group broke up in 1968 due to interpersonal conflicts, Doherty embarked on an unsuccessful solo career before returning to Halifax in 1977 where he became a fixture on local television with appearances on Theodore Tugboat and The Trailer Park Boys. He was inducted in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1996

The Rankin Family 

Performing was in the blood for the 12 siblings of the Rankin Family, who from childhood performed Celtic folk songs at weddings and Scottish gatherings called cèilidhs in their hometown of Mabou, Nova Scotia, a small community on the western side of Cape Breton. 

As the group grew older and began to go their separate ways, five of the siblings, Jimmy, John Morris, Cookie, Raylene and Heather, decided to turn their family’s long-time side hustle into a career and started recording their first album independently. 

They released their eponymous first album The Rankin Family in 1989 and got the word out by selling cassettes to local businesses across Nova Scotia. Local buzz grew strong enough that they were invited to perform on CBC television later that year. They signed on with British label EMI in 1992 who re-released their second album Fare Thee Well Love, which went on to go quadruple platinum and hit single Orangedale Whistle received significant radio play in Canada. 

They rode high throughout the 90s, receiving four Juno Awards and bringing their uniquely Nova Scotian folk talents to the international stage, performing as far afield as New Zealand and Australia. 

However, the group broke up in 1999 and several embarked on solo careers. Several members came together in 2007 to release a new album aptly entitled Reunion, followed by These Are the Moments in 2009.

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