Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Stéphane Venne, Beau Dommage inducted into Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame

Neil Young at the podium after being inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF), during the 2017 CSHF Gala at Massey Hall in Toronto, on Sept. 23, 2017.
September 25, 2017

Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Stéphane Venne and Beau Dommage were inducted into Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF), on Sept. 23, 2017, at Massey Hall in Toronto. These were the first inductions in five years, after the organization was acquired by SOCAN, which has rebuilt its operations.

In his acceptance speech, Neil Young jokingly compared songs to rabbits, suggesting that “you really have to be careful with them and sneak up on them, not scare ’em… You’re not going to stand there with a gun. The rabbit will see you and go back down the hole. So you put the gun down, sit over there behind a rock, and wait for [them] to come out of the hole, start sniffin’ around.” More seriously, he said, “The songs keep coming, they don’t care about awards and accolades… It’s such a gift, such a great gift.”

Bruce Cockburn thanked SOCAN in his acceptance speech, and brilliantly described the meaning of songs. “The art of songwriting is about sharing the human experience. . . A song can offer inspiration, distraction, solace, solidarity, a sense that we are not alone in our feelings. The human ability to create songs is precious and vital… To be able to do this and make a living at it is truly a great gift.”

CSHF 2017 inductee Bruce Cockburn (right) with his induction presenter, Buffy Sainte-Marie (left).

Stéphane Venne—whose career was launched when he wrote the theme song for Expo 67, “Hey Friend, Say Friend”—said, “I’m obviously moved and deeply touched by what’s happening to me tonight… If you have no voice, no charisma, no nothing, except this [a knack for songwriting], you can have fun. You can make a living, you can leave a mark.”

Michel Rivard of Beau Dommage, the hugely popular 1970s Montréal septet, said, “Thanks to SOCAN for the huge honour they’re paying us tonight, and for the work they accomplish daily for music-makers in our great country.” He also thanked their award presenter—former astronaut and future Canadian governor general Julie Payette—for taking the band’s music to the international space station.

Each of the four inductees were honoured with live performances of several of their hit songs, a short video tribute, and a presentation speech by someone close to them. Randy Bachman performed a medley of singalong song snippets by his friend and fellow Winnipeg teen native Young, and delighted in telling the story of how Young’s mother made a habit of calling a local radio station to boast about his live shows. Buffy Sainte-Marie lauded Bruce Cockburn as “a wise man who asks tough questions, and someone who wants us to be better people.” Francophone star and veteran singer-songwriter Daniel Lavoie introduced Stéphane Venne as one of the key muisic industry people who gave him his start.

The evening also featured the inaugural presentation of the Slaight Music Emerging Songwriter Awards, which were given to Jessie Reyez and Charlotte Cardin, both of whom accepted via video.

kd lang earned a standing ovation for her performance of Neil Young’s “Helpless” at the 2017 CSHF Gala.

Musical highlights among the many live performances included an intense, powerful reading of Neil Young’s “Ohio” by Whitehorse; kd lang’s stunning rendition of Young’s “Helpless,” which earned a standing ovation; a moving version of Bruce Cockburn’s “Stolen Land” by First Nations artists Elisapie Isaac and William Prince; Lisa LeBlanc’s high-energy take on Stéphane Venne’s “Et c’est pas fini”; and Damien Robitaille’s faithfully bittersweet rendition of “La Complainte du Phoque en Alaska” (“The Lament of the Seal in Alaska”) by Beau Dommage. Arkells closed the night with Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson, playing “Cinnamon Girl,” with an all-hands-on-deck encore of “Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World.”

Other performers and presenters included Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Don Ross, Eh440, Élage Diouf, France D’Amour, Florence K, Hawksley Workman, Jessica Mitchell, Ruth B, Tom Power, and Yann Perreau. Previous songwriters who’ve been inducted into the CSHF include Leonard Cohen, Robbie Robertson, Joni Mitchell and Gilles Vigneault. SOCAN warmly  congratulates all of the inductees!