TORONTO — Party anthem “Let Your Backbone Slide” helped usher in Canada’s early hip-hop movement, and now the influential track by Maestro Fresh Wes will become the first rap song inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
The music organization revealed a roster of compositions by Toronto artists spanning the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s that will be recognized in celebration of the city’s global impact. The list also includes inspiring pop hit “Rise Up” sung by Parachute Club, which itself became a rousing track for the LGBTQ community.
But it’s the song performed by Maestro, born Wesley Williams, that marks a historic first.
“Backbone,” released in 1989 and co-written by Williams alongside Anthony and Peter Davis, is credited with helping put Toronto hip-hop music on the map. It broke out on the Billboard rap charts shortly after its release, selling the most copies of any Canadian rap single for roughly 18 years.
Among the other inductees is 1983’s “Rise Up,” with lyrics written by poet Lynne Fernie. The track had its beginnings at a Pride event in Toronto before it was recorded for Parachute Club’s debut album. It won them single of the year at the 1984 Juno Awards.
Classic rock ballad “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” will also join the hall of fame. The 1972 song, written by Paul Naumann and Danny Gordon Taylor, was a chart success for A Foot in Coldwater before it found another life 13 years later with heavy metal band Helix.
Other honourees include “Opportunity,” a 1967 song written by guitarist Domenic Troiano and performed by R&B/soul act Mandala, and “I Would Be the One,” a 1968 rock track penned by Keith McKie for his band Kensington Market.
And the dreamy 1976 sci-fi epic “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” by Klaatu rounds out the list of inductees. Written by John Woloschuk and Terry Draper, a 1977 cover of the song by the Carpenters received a Grammy nod for best instrumental arrangement accompanying vocalists.
The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame will hold an evening of performances to celebrate the songs on Nov. 21. The event, dubbed Decades: The Toronto Sound of the ’60s, ’70s & ’80s, will include Maestro Fresh Wes, Lorraine Segato of Parachute Club and several others.