The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) is a non-profit organization that honours Canadian songs and songwriters. Music publisher Frank Davies founded the bilingual organization in 1998; its inaugural induction ceremony took place in 2003. Winners are inducted in one of three categories: songwriters; songs; and special achievement, for those who have made a significant contribution to the development and recognition of Canadian songs and songwriters. The CSHF has inducted over 50 songwriters and more than 150 songs since its inception.
In the 1980s, Frank Davies served on the board of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS), which administers the Juno Awards and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. During a meeting, Tom Sandler, the son of Ruth Lowe — who wrote Frank Sinatra’s first hit, “I’ll Never Smile Again” — proposed that the board posthumously induct his mother, who had recently died, into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. The board declined, stating that its mandate was to honour recording artists, not songwriters. Davies was inspired to start a new hall of fame to honour Canadian songwriters, many of whom were largely unknown even if their work was widely recognized.
The CSHF was founded in 1998 with funding from Davies’s music publishing company, TMP, as well as the Canadian Music Publishers Association and its member organizations. In 1999, an interim committee was appointed to create a business plan, draft by-laws, and approach the Songwriters Association of Canada, which agreed to become a partner in the new venture. Board appointees were nominated the following year; Davies was elected chairman and songwriter Sylvia Tyson president.
Davies spent the next couple of years making presentations to Canada’s major record labels, the federal government, SOCAN and FACTOR to secure funding. In 2002, the Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec (SPACQ) joined the organization to provide guidance in selecting francophone songwriters for induction.
In late 2011, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame was acquired by SOCAN. The CSHF continues to be administered as a separate organization.
The CSHF has two induction committees: anglophone and francophone. The committees determine the induction guidelines and nominate artists for each of the three categories. The number of artists inducted each year is determined by the board of directors.
For the songwriter category, inductees must be Canadian citizens or have landed immigrant status. They may be living or dead. Eligible songwriters must have written or co-written the music and/or lyrics to a song or body of songs. They must have made a significant contribution to Canadian music through a song or catalogue of songs that have been available to the public for at least 25 years. Induction into the songwriting category signifies recognition of that artist’s entire body of work.
An eligible song must be comprised of music and lyrics — or music without lyrics — written by a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant, who is alive or dead. For both the songwriter and song categories, eligible songs must meet one or more of the following criteria:
- Having entered into popular culture and been sustained through oral tradition for a significant period of time;
- Having achieved substantial regional, national, and/or international status whether culturally, commercially and/or socially;
- Having recorded a historical event, or helped to define an era of popular culture;
- Having created, or helped to create, a genre of music.
Special achievement awards are granted at the discretion of the board of directors. They recognize individuals who have significantly contributed to the development and recognition of Canadian songs and songwriters. Winners may be music publishers, broadcasters or other members of the media, performers or collectors, among others. The CSHF also presents the Frank Davies Founder’s Award “to those who have contributed significantly to the development, promotion and preservation of Canadian songs and songwriters.”
The Slaight Music Emerging Songwriter Award was introduced in 2017. It recognizes up-and-coming songwriting talent in both French and English. The inaugural inductees were Jessie Reyez (anglophone) and Charlotte Cardin (francophone).
Events and Award Ceremonies
The first CSHF awards ceremony took place on 3 December 2003, at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto. The concert was broadcast on CBC Radio the following Sunday. The night’s inductees included Gordon Lightfoot and country artist Hank Snow, as well as the song that inspired the organization, Ruth Lowe’s “I’ll Never Smile Again.” The event featured performances by Blue Rodeo, Ron Sexsmith, Sarah Slean and Molly Johnson, among others.
Artists and songs have been inducted into the CSHF on a near-annual basis (there were no inductees in 2004, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014, and no award ceremony between 2011 and 2017). Ceremonies have been held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s John Bassett Theatre, the Toronto Centre for the Arts and Massey Hall. Performers have included Buffy Sainte-Marie, Jackie Richardson, Willie Nelson, k.d. lang, Rufus Wainwright, Jim Cuddy, Chaka Khan, Branford Marsalis, Paul Anka, Serena Ryder, Arkells, Don Ross and many more.
In 2015, the CSHF announced a partnership with the National Music Centre in Calgary. The following year, the CSHF opened a permanent exhibition space when the Centre’s newly constructed Studio Bell opened in downtown Calgary.
Songs: “Aquarius” (James Rado, Gerome Ragni, Galt MacDermot); “The Blackfly Song” (Wade Hemsworth); “Born to be Wild” (Dennis McCrohan); “Four Strong Winds” (Ian Tyson); “I’m Movin’ On” ( Hank Snow); “I’ll Never Smile Again” (Ruth Lowe); “ If You Could Read My Mind” (Gordon Lightfoot); “Peg O’ My Heart” ( Alfred Bryan, Fred Fisher); “Snowbird” (Gene MacLellan); “ The Red River Valley” (traditional); “The World is Waiting for the Sunrise” (Eugene Lockhart, Ernest Seitz); “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (Joseph M. Scriven, "Erie" Charles C. Converse)
Songs: “American Woman,” “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature,” “No Time” and “These Eyes” (Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings); “Clap Your Hands” (Joey Frechette, Mike Robitaille, Ray Hutchinson, Gilles Tailleur); “Cool Water” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” ( Bob Nolan); “En veillant su'l perron” (Camille Andréa); “Far Away Places” (Alex Kramer, Joan Whitney); “Frédéric” (Claude Léveillée); “I’s the B’y” (traditional); “L’adieu du soldat” (Roland Lebrun); “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” (Ed McCurdy); “Le ciel se marie avec la mer” (Jacques Blanchet); “O Canada” (Calixa Lavallée, Robert Stanley Weir); “Quand les hommes vivront d’amour” (Raymond Lévesque); “ Some of These Days” and “The Darktown Strutters' Ball” (Shelton Brooks); “The Huron Carol” (Jean de Brébeuf); “Universal Soldier” (Buffy Sainte-Marie); “ When You and I Were Young, Maggie” (George Washington Johnson, James A. Butterfield)
Special Achievement: Ernest Gagnon; Frank Davies; Stan Klees; Walt Grealis
Songs: “A Guy is a Guy” (Oscar Brand); “À Québec au clair de lune” (Marius Delisle); “Ain’t No Cure for Love,” “Bird on the Wire,” “Everybody Knows,” “ Hallelujah” and “Suzanne” (Leonard Cohen); “Boo Hoo (You've Got Me Crying For You) (Carmen Lombardo); “Powder Your Face with Sunshine” (Carmen Lombardo, Stanley Rochinski); “Sweethearts on Parade” (Carmen Lombardo, Charles Newman); “Farewell to Nova Scotia” (traditional); “Gens du pay” ( Gilles Vigneault, Gaston Rochon); “Mon Pays,” “Pendant que” and “Si les bateaux” (Gilles Vigneault); “La Manic” (Georges Dor); “La Parenté” (Jean-Paul Filion); “Le réveil de la nature” (Alfred DesRochers, Oscar O’Brien); “Le tour de l'Île” and “Moi, mes souliers” (Félix Leclerc); “Les nuits de Montréal” (Jean Rafa, Émile Prud'homme); “Lest Your Forget” and “S’Nice” (William Eckstein, Sam Howard); “Put Your Hand in the Hand” (Gene MacLellan); “Sugar Sugar” (Andy Kim, Jeff Barry); “Sweet City Woman” (Rich Dodson);
Songs: “Ain’t We Got Fun” (Raymond Egan, Gus Khan); “Sleepy Time Gal” (Raymond Egan, Joseph R. Alden, Ange Lorenzo, Richard A. Whiting); “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Both Sides Now,” “Help Me,” “Woodstock,” and “You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio” (Joni Mitchell); “Comme j’ai toujours envie d’aimer” (Marc Hamilton); “Dans nos vieilles maisons” (Muriel Millard); “Des croissants de soleil” (Jean Robitaille, Lee Gagnon); “How About You?” (Ralph Freed, Burton Lane); “Je ne suis qu’une chanson” (Diane Juster); “Je reviens chez nous,” “T’es mon amour, t’es ma maîtresse,” and “Un peu plus haut, un peu plus loin” ( Jean-Pierre Ferland); “Le petit roi” (Jean-Pierre Ferland, Michel Robidoux); “Ton visage” (Jean-Pierre Ferland, Paul de Margerie); “Le Frigidaire” (Georges Langford); “My Old Canadian Home,” “My Swiss Moonlight Lullaby” and There’s a Love Knot in My Lariat” (Wilf Carter); “Paquetville” (Lise Aubut, Edith Butler); “Spinning Wheel” (David Clayton-Thomas); “Un canadien errant” (Antoine Gérin-Lajoie); “You Were On My Mind” (Sylvia Tyson)
Songs: “Aimes-tu la vie comme moi?” (Georges Thurston, Billy Clements); “Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens” and “My Sister and I” (Alex Kramer, Joan Whitney); “Candy” (Alex Kramer, Joan Whitney, Mack David); “Artistes,” “Comme un million de gens,” “Femme de rêve,” “L’infidèle,” “Le Labrador” (Claude Dubois); “Canadiana Suite” ( Oscar Peterson); “Hymn to Freedom” (Oscar Peterson, Hariette Hamilton); “Diana,” “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” and “She’s a Lady” (Paul Anka); “My Way” (Paul Anka, Claude François); “Heart Like a Wheel” (Anna McGarrigle); “Prétends que tu es heureux” (André Lejeune); “Il suffit de peu de choses” (André Lejeune, Fernand Robidoux); “Une promesse” (André Lejeune, Guy Godin); “La bittt à Tibi” (Raôul Duguay); “Love Child” (R. Dean Taylor, Frank Wilson, Pam Sawyer, Deke Richards); “Signs” (Les Emmerson)
Special Achievement: Oscar Peterson
Songs: “Bluebird on Your Windowsill” (Elizabeth Clarke); “Limelight,” “Subdivisions,” “The Spirit of Radio” (Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson); “Closer to the Heart” (Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Peter Talbot); “Tom Sawyer” (Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Pye Dubois); “Come Josephine in My Flying Machine” (Alfred Bryan, Fred Fisher); “Demain l’hiver,” “Les ailes d'un ange” (Robert Charlebois); “Fu Man Chu” (Robert Charlebois, Claude Gagnon); “Lindberg” (Robert Charlebois, Claude Péloquin); “Ordinaire” (Robert Charlebois, Pierre Nadeau); “Des mitaines pas de pouces” (Ovila Légaré); “Deux enfants du même âge” (Germaine Dugas); “J'entends Frapper” (Michel Pegliaro); “The Hockey Theme” (Dolores Claman)
Songwriters: Robert Charlebois; Rush
Songs: “Je suis cool” (Gilles Valiquette); “My Heart Cries for You” (Carl Sigman, Percy Faith); “Oh What A Feeling” (Kelly Jay, Roly Greenway); “Pas Besoin De Frapper Pour Entrer” (Jacques Michel); “Squid Jiggin’ Ground” ( Arthur Scammell); “When I Die” (Steve Kennedy, William “Smitty” Smith); “Wildflower” (Dave Richardson, Doug Edwards)
Songs: “As the Years Go By” (Pierre Sénécal); “Câline de blues” (Pierre Harel, Gerry Boulet, Michel “Willie” Lamothe); “I Heard the Bluebirds Sing” (Hod Pharis); “Last Song” (Larry Evoy); Marie-Hélène (Sylvain Lelièvre); “Mommy Daddy” (Marc Gélinas, Gilles Richer); “Play Me a Rock and Roll Song” (Valdy); “Put Your Dreams Away (For Another Day)” (Ruth Lowe, Paul Mann); “To Sir With Love” (Don Black, Mark London); “Vivre en amour” (Roger Magnan, Luc Cousineau); “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” (Gale Garnett); “ When My Baby Smiles at Me” (Ted Lewis, Andrew B. Sterling)
Special Achievement: none
Songs: “Chante-la ta chanson” (Jean Lapointe, Marcel Lefebvre); “Hello, Hooray” (Rolf Peter Kempf); “J’ai la tête en gigue” (Jim Corcoran); “K-K-K-Katy” (Geoffrey O'Hara); “Mille après mille” (Gerry Joly); “Sing High, Sing Low” (Arthur Titcomb); “Swinging Shepherd Blues” (Moe Koffman)
Special Achievement: none
Songs: “Hand Me Down World” (Kurt Winter); “I Just Wanna Stop” (Ross Vannelli); “I Saw Her Again” (Denny Doherty, John Phillips); “Si j’avais un char” (Sylvie Choquette, Stephen Faulkner); “Si jétais un homme” (Diane Tell); “This Wheel’s On Fire” (Bob Dylan, Rick Danko)
Special Achievement: none
Songs: “Bleu et blanc” (Robert Paquette); “Home for a Rest” (John Mann, Geoffrey Kelly); “Morning Dew” (Bonnie Dobson); “Paper Rosie” (Dallas Harms); “Québécois” (Angelo Finaldi, François Guy, Richard Tate); “Song for the Mira” ( Allister MacGillivray); “The Hockey Song” (Stompin’ Tom Connors); “Un coin du ciel” (Marcel Martel)
Special Achievement: none
Songs: “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” (Danny Taylor, Paul Naumann); “Aimons-nous” (Yvon Deschamps, Jacques Perron); “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” (Terry Draper, John Woloschuk); “Hot Child in the City” (Nick Gilder, James McCulloch); “I Would Be The One” (Keith McKie); “I’ve Got Everything I Need (Almost)” (Don Walsh); “L’âme à la tendresse” (Pauline Julien, François Dompierre); “Let Your Backbone Slide” (Maestro Fresh Wes, Anthony Davis); “Opportunity” (Domenic Troiano); “Peter’s Dream” (Lennie Gallant); “Rise Up” (Lorraine Segato, Lynne Fernie, Billy Bryans, Lauri Conger)
Special Achievement: none
Songs: “Fare Thee Well, Love” (Jimmy Rankin); “Highschool Confidential” (Carole Pope, Kevan Staples); “La vie d’factrie” (Clémence DesRochers, Jacques Fortier); “The Safety Dance” and “Pop Goes the World” (Ivan Doroschuk); “Something to Talk About” (Shirley Eikhard); “The Facts of Life,” “Diff'rent Strokes” and “Wheel of Fortune” (Alan Thicke)
Songwriters: Ron Hynes
Special Achievement: none