The Musical Triptych of Death

Our American cousins, I thought this morning in the shower, have it good: they’ve got three national songs that everyone knows the words to. The Star Spangled Banner, America The Beautiful and God Bless America. At the Reagan funeral last night, each was used at an appropriate moment.

Here in Canada we’ve got Oh Canada, which has not only changed its words in my lifetime, but is also now more often sung bilingually than not, with the English/French break coming at some random time and taking everyone by surprise.

There’s God Save The Queen, of course. I imagine that most Canadians could at least belt out the first line, and most over 50 could remember the entire thing. It’s not quite about Canada, mind you, but there’s history on its side.

I suppose our third is The Maple Leaf Forever. Except that I know neither the tune nor the words, and I expect I’m not alone in that.

Were I ever to die, I think I’d like to have Speaking With the Angel (by the trio Cry, Cry, Cry), You Don’t Need (Jane Siberry) and, despite the corniness, Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin) played at my funeral.

The thought of the mourners slow dancing on my grave is too good to pass up.


Dan J's picture
Dan J on June 12, 2004 - 16:12 Permalink

I think the third is the Hockey Night in Canada Theme song. Hockey fan or not, every canadian can belt out the tune (often in a distorted guitar impression type voice).

Will Pate's picture
Will Pate on June 12, 2004 - 18:42 Permalink

The song that really sounds like the anthem to Canada for me is the music that plays on the intro and at the end of CBC’s The National.

Ken's picture
Ken on June 13, 2004 - 15:01 Permalink

The lyrics to Woody Guthrie’s song This Land is Your Land are sung differently north and south of our border; mainly the place names are changed.

The verse that includes “Near the relief office — I see my people” is always <font color=”red”>left<font color=”black”> out. Patriotism doesn’t include social benefits.

Trespassing references were also dropped, ths land belonging to you and me? Only when sung around the campfire by the Irving’s.

Imagine American troops and Iraqis, arms draped together, singing this land is your land. That’s the future.

Marcus's picture
Marcus on June 14, 2004 - 13:57 Permalink

I remember elementary school in the 80’s had us memorize both God Save the Queen and O’Canada and they’d play both now and then.

After Trudeau’s idi.. er colleagues made O’Canada the official national anthem in ‘81 (IIRC), the lyrics were changed from the slightly longer version to the current one which has the same number of lines as the French version.

I much prefer the French version since it was composed in this language and the current English translation doesn’t have the same patriotic meaning — they didn’t translate it very well. The French version seems almost a bit martial to me, kind of vaguely reminds me of La Marseillaise.

Jacob's picture
Jacob on June 14, 2004 - 16:37 Permalink

I would think that Stompin’ Tom’s “The Good Ol’ Hockey Game” should be included in a list of truly ‘Canadian’ songs. Possibly “Bud the Spud” as well.

Ann's picture
Ann on June 14, 2004 - 18:58 Permalink

Following the Stairway to Heaven and the nationalist thread…

At Wendell Boyle’s funeral, we sang Prince Edward Island is Heaven to Me which — if you knew Wendell — was the most appropriate choice.

And I very much think that The Good Ol’ Hockey Game would be a great song to shuffle off this mortal coil to. Though I myself would prefer Take Me Out to the Ballgame. (One, two three strikes and you’re out…)

Chris Corrigan's picture
Chris Corrigan on June 15, 2004 - 23:12 Permalink

Slow dancing at the grave is a fun idea. When the Haida artist Bill Reid died, he left instructions that his body be disposed of in the bay in front of his ancestral village and that every in the funeral party had to then hold a crab feast in the village, with the crabs taken from that very same bay.

Dying gives you all the right in the world to be cheeky, especially if you have lived that way…!

Kelly's picture
Kelly on June 16, 2004 - 13:49 Permalink

My Dad half jokingly/half serious said he wants to be cremated and thrown into the wind, over the cliff at his cottage by the sea. Said he is happiest there and would, and I quote, “feel too claustrophobic in a coffin”.

RE: Canadian songs, there is a new “Canada” song being played and sung on the kids CBC morning shows. Very catchy, called “My Home, O Canada” — wonder if this generation’s tots will adopt it as an informal anthem.

Ken's picture
Ken on June 16, 2004 - 16:11 Permalink

This brand is your brand.

Buzz Bruggeman's picture
Buzz Bruggeman on June 21, 2004 - 03:49 Permalink

I was thinking maybe;

a. American Pie, McLean
b. Start me up, Stones
c. River of Dreams, Joel

And I plan on being creamated, and ashes scattered over Rainy Lake on the one lovely day that comes each summer.