When you first think of Canada there are probably a few things that come to mind. Ice hockey, maple syrup, Moose, and being polite. But one thing that might not be the first thing is famous Canadian singers.
But, across all genres– pop, rock, folk, hip hop, jazz, and everything in between– Canada has produced some of the most talented male singers in the world. Not until one sits down to compile a list of them all does it hit you just how extensive that list is.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at the lives and careers of 13 of the greatest and most famous Canadian male singers to hail from the Great White North.
1. Neil Young
Singer/songwriter Neil Percival Young was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1945 and grew up in Winnipeg from the age of twelve.
There he started his first band, The Squires, and by his early twenties, Young was playing as a solo artist along the folk circuit.
In 1966, Young infamously drove a hearse to Los Angeles to meet up with his friend Stephen Stills where they formed Buffalo Springfield. Tensions between band members spurred Young to focus on his solo career, releasing his self-titled debut in 1968.
He would later regroup with Stills, David Crosby, and Graham Nash to great success as CSNY.
In 1970, upon hearing the news of the National Guard firing live rounds into a crowd of peaceful student protests at Kent University, Young immediately penned the song, Ohio. It was quickly recorded by CSNY and became an anthem for the anti-war movement.
2. Justin Bieber
Next, we have Justin Bieber who grew up in Stratford, Ontario. At the age of 13, he was discovered from a Youtube video and was signed to a record label by Usher.
His style would evolve from teen pop to dance-pop, influenced by Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown.
It did not take long for Bieber to become a teen heartthrob. Bieber released several hit singles before ever releasing his debut album, My World. The first single, One Time, would go on to be certified platinum.
Fast forward a few years and now, Bieber is one of the best-selling recording artists of all time, having sold over 150 million records worldwide. He also boasts the second most Twitter followers at over 114 million.
3. Michael Bublé
Born in 1975, Bublé grew up in Burnaby, British Columbia. He got his love for jazz from his grandfather, who paid for his grandson’s vocal lessons while always believing he would one day be a star.
Bublé released his self-titled debut album in 2003 and won the Juno for New Artist of the Year in 2004. At the time of writing, he’s sold over 75 million records worldwide.
Bublé is known to a new generation on television as a pitchman for the carbonated beverage Bubly, which Bublé comically suggests should be pronounced like his name.
Born in Toronto in 1986, Aubrey Drake Graham better known as Drake started his career not as a hip-hop artist, but as an actor. He played Jimmy Brooks in the hugely popular teen-drama franchise, Degrassi Street: The New Generation.
In 2009, Drake signed his first record deal with L’il Wayne’s label, Young Money Entertainment. Also known as Drizzy or Champagne Papi, Drake has sold close to 150 million digital singles making him one of the highest-selling artists ever.
He has won four Grammy Awards and holds the record for most Billboard Music Awards.
Drake’s love for NBA basketball landed him the position of global ambassador for the Toronto Raptors, where you can often see him sitting courtside.
5. The Weeknd
Born in Toronto, Ontario in 1990, Abel Makkonen Tesfaye is better known by his stage name, The Weeknd. Tesfaye’s parents were Ethiopian immigrants, and he was raised by his mother and grandmother in the suburb of Scarborough.
Tesfaye started out by releasing his style of music with YouTube videos. It did not take long for it to get recognized.
Drake took an interest in the young artist and eventually The Weeknd was opening shows for him. Tesfaye would go on to become of of the best-selling Canadian artists of all time.
The Weeknd headlined the halftime show at Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida in 2021 becoming the first Canadian solo artist ever to do so.
6. Leonard Cohen
Canadian folk singer Leonard Cohen was born in Westmount, Quebec into an Orthodox Jewish family.
He was a poet and novelist in the ‘50s and ‘60s and did not turn his attention to music until he was in his early thirties. Cohen’s poetry was very much infused into his lyrics.
In 1966, Judy Collins recorded Suzanne, giving Cohen his first success as a songwriter. But, perhaps his most recognized song, Hallelujah, came off the 1984 release of his album, Various Positions. More than 200 artists have gone on to perform the song in several languages.
Cohen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.
7. Bryan Adams
Singer and guitarist Bryan Adams was born in Kingston, Ontario starting to learn music in his early teens. He bought his first guitar, an imitation Les Paul, at the age of eleven.
Adams became a household name with Cuts Like a Knife, released in 1983. The following year, Adams exploded with 1984’s Reckless. Three monster songs, Run to You, Heaven, and Summer of ‘69, propelled Adams to the top of the charts.
Adams is also a very accomplished photographer and has had several gallery showings, books published of his photography, as well as shooting advertising campaigns for brands such as Hugo Boss, Guess Jeans, and Jaguar.
8. Burton Cummings (The Guess Who)
Born Burton Lorne Cummings in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1947, he dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to chase the dream of making it as a musician.
In 1966, he formed The Guess Who with guitarist Randy Bachman. The Guess Who would become one of Canada’s first supergroups, attaining success in the US as well. They were the first Canadian band to ever have a number one single on Billboard Hot 100.
The release of American Woman in 1970 gave the band international success. Cummings continued a successful solo career as a singer. In 1976, his self-titled debut with the single Stand Tall sold millions of copies around the world.
9. Randy Bachman (Bachman-Turner Overdrive)
Randolph Charles Bachman, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1943, started singing as a young child and studied the violin until the age of twelve.
Bachman joined forces with Burton Cummings to form The Guess Who in 1966. In 1970, he left the band to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive. BTO enjoyed their own level of international success with their brand of country-rock, as Takin’ Care of Business dominated the airwaves in the early seventies.
Bachman hosted his own show Vinyl Tap on CBC Radio One from 2005 to 2021, delving into the archives of classic rock and roll music.
His son Tal Bachman, a singer-songwriter also born in Winnipeg, achieved his own Top-20 hit in 1999 with She’s So High.
10. Geddy Lee (Rush)
Born Gary Lee Weinrib in North York, Ontario, Geddy Lee gained fame as the lead vocalist for the Canadian rock band, Rush.
Lee played bass and keyboards while his unique vocals propelled the band to international success.
Formed in 1968 with Alex Lifeson on guitar and Neil Peart joining a few years later on drums, Rush started as a hard rock power trio that developed a more progressive rock sound. After forty years together, they disbanded after the tragic passing of Peart from brain cancer in 2020.
Lee still lives in Toronto and is often spotted at baseball games cheering on his beloved Blue Jays. He is also an avid collector of wine.
11. Paul Anka
Paul Albert Anka was born in 1941 in Ottawa, Ontario, where in high school he sang with a vocal trio, The Bobby Soxers.
In 1957, at the age of sixteen Anka had his first hit, Diana. The song went to number one in Canada and the US and made Anka a teen idol. He followed up with classics Put Your Head on My Shoulder and Lonely Boy.
Anka recorded Rock Swings in 2005, giving his signature lounge-jazz style to contemporary rock hits like Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, which he performed on Late Night with David Letterman.
12. Gord Downey (The Tragically Hip)
Gordon Edgar Downie was born in 1964 and grew up in Kingston, Ontario. It was while attending Queen’s University in 1984 that he formed The Tragically Hip.
The band would hit the mainstream in 1989 with the release of their second record, Up To Here, getting airplay with several songs, New Orleans is Sinking, Blow at High Dough, and 38 Years Old.
Downie was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor in 2016. The Tragically Hip embarked on a Farewell Tour that culminated in a final show where it all began, in Kingston. The show was broadcast by the CBC and streamed live, viewed by more than 11 million people.
13. Gordon Lightfoot
Singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot is a Canadian musician who has been performing for over six decades. His acoustic blend of folk, rock, and country has produced many hits landing him an incredible 16 Juno Awards.
Born in 1938 in Orillia, Ontario, Lightfoot started performing at an early age. He released his debut album, Lightfoot! in 1966.
By 1975 he had released a double-album of his greatest hits titled, Gord’s Gold, collecting such classics as Early Morning Rain, Sundown, and Rainy Day People.
He’s had a huge influence on a number of artists with Bob Dylan citing Lightfoot as one of his greatest mentors. A vast array of renowned artists have recorded Lightfoot’s music, including Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Harry Belafonte, and Johnny Cash.
Summing Up Our List of Great Canadian Male Singers
Canada has produced an incredible number of famous male singers, far more than can be included on this list with fresh talent being discovered all the time.
From hip hop to jazz, blues to rock n’ roll, Canadian male singers hold their own among the best vocalists in the world.