#1294: Canada by The Young Canada Singers
Robert Stead Gimby was born in Cabri, Saskatchewan, in 1918. After a fire burned down his father’s hardware store, the family moved to Chilliwack, British Columbia. While in Chilliwack he learned to play the trumpet and joined the Town Band, which was a hit at local dances. In 1941, he became a member of Canadian band leader Mart Kenny’s touring orchestra. The Winnipeg Free Press referred to Gimby as “The Wizard of the Trumpet.” Gimby also was a member of Mart Kenney’s Western Gentlemen which was based in Vancouver and toured western Canada. In 1944 Bobby Gimby moved to Toronto where he formed his own band. Simpsons was the sponsor of his band and he became very popular at teen dances in “Hogtown.” He made some recordings and in 1945 became a member of the Happy Gang, a popular CBC radio show with over two million listeners daily. During its run, the population of Canada between 1937 and 1959 increased from 11 million to 15 million.
Into the 1960’s Gimby became a sought-after composer of ads to TV and radio. In 1962 Gimby wrote “Malaysia Forever” which became the unofficial anthem of the new nation in 1963. The Brandon Sun reported in 1967 that Bobby Gimby was nicknamed “The Pied Piper of Canada,” and he performed dressed as the Pied Piper of Hamelin, wearing a cape.
In 1967 Bobby Gimby wrote a song for the Canadian 100th Centennial Anniversary. The song, “Canada”, was written for a documentary about the Canadian Centennial. Over 250 school bands performed the song and Bobby Gimby would perform the song inviting children to come on stage to sing the song. Teachers, loving the message of “Canada” and led the demand to release it as a single.
“Canada” was a bilingual song and also had a French language version titled “Une chanson du centenaire”.The song’s recording was performed by the Young Canada Singers composed of two groups of children. One group of children sang the French lyrics, led by Montreal conductor Raymond Berthiaume. The second group of children sang in English, led by Toronto conductor Laurie Bower. The 45 rpm release was manufactured for the Centennial Commission by Quality Records.
The song’s lyrics celebrated being 20 million strong in 1967 and having ten provinces, and territories too. As a show of elation, church bells across the nation were said to ring. Meanwhile, Canadians everywhere were singing “Frère Jacques”. The song, “Frère Jacques”, is about a friar who has overslept. and is urged to wake up and sound the bell for the matins, the midnight or very early morning prayers for which a monk would be expected to wake. The English version of “Frère Jacques” was titled “Brother John”. It was often sung in a round with both the French and English verses. “Canada” promised “there’ll be happy times” and the Young Canada Singers sang “three cheers, hip, hip hooray.” “Canada”, and the Expo 67 centennial celebrations, evoke a time in the nations history of high optimism and possibility.
In 1967 “Canada” sold over 270,000 copies. The song climbed to #4 on CHUM in Toronto, #5 on CFGP in Grande Prairie, Alberta, #7 on CJCA in Edmonton, and #30 in Vancouver. It also was listed on the CFUN ALL CANADIAN TOP TEN and peaked at #3.
In 1968 Bobby Gimby was awarded the Order of Canada presented by Governor General Roland Mitchener. Gimby wrote many songs over the years including for Ray Bolger, Georgia Gibbs and Peggy Lee.
July 6, 2019
“Kinsman Brings Kenney Here for Fund Dances.” Winnipeg Tribune, March 29, 1941.
Liam Lacey. “Catchy Song Still Echoes for Ca-na-da- Pied Piper Gimby.” Toronto Globe & Mail, July 24, 1987.
“Keen-Teens Have Keen Time at Teen Turnouts.” Toronto Globe & Mail, March 23, 1946.
Lotta Dempsey. “New Songs, New Singer, Solid Senders.” Toronto Globe & Mail, March 24, 1949.
F.A. Rosser. “Sun Beams.” Brandon (Manitoba) Sun, April 22, 1967.
“Musician Led Canada in Song in Centennial Year,” Toronto Globe & Mail, June 22, 1998.
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