Both Canada and the US threw parties in the first week of July. National anthems were a big part of those patriotic celebrations. The anthems were written and chosen purposefully to tell a story, so here’s my little blog about the anthems and the story they tell.
July 1 – Canada Day
July 1 marks marks Canadian confederation – the creation of the nascent dominion of Canada. It’s like a birthday, or maybe a wedding. It marks a becoming, and a coming together.
Interestingly, it was not called Canada Day until 1982. Until then it was called Dominion Day.
The Canadian national anthem – O Canada – was written by Calixa Lavallée. It wasn’t officially our anthem until 1980 but it had been performed and sung as an anthem for decades. It had some early competition in the songs The Maple Leaf Forever by Alexander Muir, and God Save the Queen.
July 4 – Independence Day
Americans celebrate their independence day on July 4th. It is a celebration of becoming autonomous from the British Crown. It’s a coming of age party. It marks a becoming, and a breaking of old ties.
The American national anthem is The Star-SpangledBanner, which uses the tune of a popular British song called To Anacreon inHeaven written by John Stafford Smith (is that ironic? maybe? declaring independence from Britain but always celebrating it by singing a British song?)
Sometimes I have felt that, as a Canadian, I am contractually obligated to like Leonard Cohen and so omit him as a refusal to appear too obedient.
If you’ve asked me what great songwriting poets I love, I’ve said Tom Waits for his dystopian, sober, shadow world hidden in a song. Or Bob Dylan for the way he lays plain the path behind us and the path before.
But I should list Leonard Cohen. For the sweet melancholy of his lyrics. For the unremorseful introspection. For the inward facing mirror on the human condition that he spun out in simple melody.
It has usually been when other artists cover his songs that I have realized their beauty. And they are beautiful. Beautiful enough to list.