CSHF inducts The Guess Who classic “Hand Me Down World”

The Sheepdogs (Photo: Cathy Irving, CBC Music)
February 6, 2017

The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame  (CSHF) today inducted The Guess Who classic “Hand Me Down World,” written by band member Kurt Winter, and published by Shillelagh Music. The induction is celebrated with a tribute performance by The Sheepdogs for the Hall of Fame’s Covered Classics series. Covered Classics honours newly inducted songs by inviting Canada’s brightest musical talents to perform their own renditions of these classics.

“Hand Me Down World” is one of the only rock protest songs ever played at The White House. The Guess Who performed it at a gala for a distinguished audience – including U.S. President Richard Nixon and Prince Charles – on July 17, 1970. Released in Canada as a 45-rpm single, “Hand Me Down World” was produced by Jack Richardson (who went on to become the band’s long-standing producer) as the follow-up to The Guess Who’s massive No. 1 success, “American Woman.” It also appeared on the band’s 1970 album Share The Land, their first after Randy Bachman’s departure. The band offered his place to another Winnipeg native, Kurt Winter, who conveniently brought “Hand Me Down World” with him.

Both album and single went gold. In 1970, “Hand Me Down World” spent two months on Billboard’s singles chart, peaking at No. 17, while “Share the Land” reached No. 14 and charted for a full 25 weeks. In Canada, “Hand Me Down World” hit No. 3 on the CHUM chart, No. 10 on RPM’s Top 100 Singles, and the Top 10 on RPM’s Top 50 Canadian chart for several weeks. The Guess Who won back-to-back JUNO awards for Top Vocal Instrumental Group in 1970 and 1971, and “Hand Me Down World” earned a 1971 BMI Canada Certificate of Honour.

“Hand Me Down World” was a protest song in an age with much to protest about: damage to the environment, the Vietnam war, and restrictive social mores. Burton Cummings told broadcaster Bob Mersereau, “We needed a follow-up to American Woman… The lyrics to ‘Hand Me Down World’ were in the same vein… It was a ‘Hey, wake up, world’ song.” Winter’s lyrics, still relevant decades later, embody the perennial frustrations of socially-conscious youth objecting to the complacency of the middle-aged, who’ve turned a blind eye to society’s problems.

Kurt Winter (1946-1997) played with various bands in the 1960s, before joining The Guess Who as lead guitarist from 1970 to 1974. Winter wrote or co-wrote several songs that have been awarded as SOCAN Classics: “Rain Dance,” “Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon,” “Follow Your Daughter Home,” and “Clap for the Wolfman.” The Guess Who were enshrined into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1987.

“Hand Me Down World”
Written by Kurt Winter
Performed by The Sheepdogs
More about the song