TORONTO — Sentimental balladeer Dan Hill is headed into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
The Toronto-born singer-songwriter, whose 1977 solo hit Sometimes When We Touch melted hearts as it climbed the worldwide charts, has been selected as the latest inductee into the illustrious home of influential lyricists.
Hill, 66, is a five-time Juno winner who rose to prominence on a spate of earnest soft-rock hits he penned over his decades-long career, some of them which he also sang.
Another of his best-known songs is his passionate plea Can’t We Try, a 1987 duet with Vonda Shepard that reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.
More recently, he returned to his singer-songwriter roots with the 2020 single What About Black Lives? part of the studio album On the Other Side of Here, slated for release on Feb. 12.
But for as much success as Hill had behind the microphone, his career has been even more fruitful away from the spotlight where he helped music superstars pen songs that tug at the heartstrings.
“Sometimes When We Touch was such an unbelievably huge record that totally opened up the world for me,” he says.
“It’s kind of similar (to) being a professional hockey player and then eventually becoming a hockey coach.”
Hill has written about love, pain, and sometimes racism, as he did with the song McCarthy’s Day, a reflection on the challenges his American parents faced in their inter-racial marriage. That song wouldn’t have been recorded if others had their say.
“My producers at the time were great at producing my love songs… but when I presented them with McCarthy’s Day, they said, ‘Nah, the song’s no good, we won’t use it,’” he remembered.
“And so I had to sneak into another studio behind their backs.”
It ended up on the 1977 album Longer Fuse at his insistence, but Hill said it was a familiar struggle.
“I was discouraged from writing or recording or performing songs that had to do with my background,” he said.
Record executives saw Hill’s gentle voice filling another void in the 1980s, as the demand for power ballads reached new heights.
It’s a Long Road was an uncharacteristically heartfelt song picked for the soundtrack of action movie First Blood, the first Rambo movie released in 1982, a number of years before he returned to the charts with Can’t We Try.
Hill received a Grammy for his work as co-producer on Dion’s 1996 album Falling Into You.
And throughout the 1990s, he focused on penning lyrics for some of the most prominent singers of the era, including Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Reba McEntire.
His song I Do (Cherish You) became a 1998 hit for country singer Mark Wills before it had a second life on the charts in the hands of boyband 98 Degrees a year later.
Hill will be recognized in an induction on CTV’s Your Morning breakfast television program on Feb. 10 where he will perform a medley of his most popular songs. His name will join the Songwriters Hall of Fame at the National Music Centre in Calgary.