Two of this year’s Walk of Fame inductees reflect Canada’s diverse contribution to the annals of North American music. Jeff Healey and The Band will both be inducted at the ceremony on Oct. 18, along with actors Rachel McAdams and Ryan Reynolds, hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, and former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Louise Arbour.
Healey and The Band have already taken their place in the pantheon of music history, but this latest honour serves as a reminder of their contribution to our country’s rich and varied musical legacy.
Serving as Bob Dylan’s backing band when he went electric in 1964, The Band were present throughout defining moments in rock and roll’s evolution.
A Canadian-American band that became synonymous with the sound of rural America, they penned numerous radio staples like “The Weight” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”
Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson, and Rick Danko started out as the backing band for Ronnie Hawkins until joining Dylan on his famous 1964 tour.
They were simply referred to as “the band” to the various front-men they backed, so when it came time to venture out on their own they kept the moniker and became The Band.
The group was immensely important in the 1960s and ’70s, remaining prolific and instrumental at pivotal moments in the development of American music. They received accolades and praise from some of music’s biggest names and were counted as influences among the likes of George Harrison and Elvis Costello.
Throughout their career, The Band played and recorded with a who’s who of rock and folk’s founding luminaries, from Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell to Neil Young and Muddy Waters.
In 1970 they made the cover of Time Magazine. They were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2008, they received the Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
The original members disbanded in 1978 after a final performance that was immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s documentary “The Last Waltz.”
Born in Toronto in 1966 and raised by adoptive parents, Jeff Healey lost his eyesight before age 1 to a rare form of cancer. In spite of—or perhaps because of—his inability to see, he excelled in music, taking up the guitar when he was just 3.
Healey developed an unusual playing style where he would place the guitar on his lap and go at it as if it were a keyboard. This technique contributed to his indelible and melodic guitar style.
Although his biggest hit was the rock ballad “Angel Eyes,” he was most revered by blues and jazz aficionados who recognized the raw talent of the young guitar player.
Healey played with greats such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, and B.B. King, and took his place among blues legends at an early age.
In addition to music, Healey appeared in a number of films, most notably “Road House” starring Patrick Swayze. The role proved to be a catalyst for his music career.
Healey received numerous Juno and Grammy nominations in the course of his career, winning the Juno for Entertainer of the Year in 1990. In 2009 he was inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame.
Healey remained a fixture on Canada’s music scene until his death in 2008 at age 41.
Established in 1998, Canada’s Walk of Fame aims to celebrate Canadians who have excelled in music, sport, film, television as well as the literary, visual, performing arts, science, and innovation in order to engage and inspire the next generation. This year’s ceremony will take place on Oct. 18 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto.