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The Song That Changed Your Life: Picks

By John Hansen

In the early days of 1990, I was newly returned to Canada from youth exchange stint to Senegal with Canada World Youth. After a number of debriefings and reunions with the programme’s personnel and host families I was dropped off in Moncton where I would require a ride home to my home town of Saint John.

My brother picked me up for that final leg. We went for lunch in a trendy new Cajun restaurant where I ate jambalaya for the first time, a sudden cacophony of flavour after three months of boiled rice and fish in the African forest. 

We made our way home, bypassing the highway in favour of a route winding along the Fundy Coast. My brother put Daniel Lanois’ Acadie in the tape deck and it provided the soundtrack for the ride home.

Things grew quiet as “The Maker,” the album’s second track began. This album was recorded in New Orleans far from what we know in Canada as Acadie but it was about my home in a very specific way. It blended English and French in a way I had never really heard before. Even though it was recorded by musicians from all around the world, this music was very much of Canada. 

As a teenager, you can be embarrassed by your origins. Canada, you were told, was a backwater, less advanced and developed than the superior cultures to the south or across the ocean. Who would make music about Canada? It’s a pleasant enough place but you need to get away to see something real.

Returning home, the place I came from revealed itself in a new way. It revealed itself when I found myself standing in the snow on Ile Perrot, overlooking Lac St. Louis.  It revealed itself when the ferry to Prince Edward Island broke through the icy Northhumberland Straight. And it revealed itself as our car wound its way along the Bay of Fundy as we drove home. This is Canada. This is home. Now I see what artists see where their origins inspire them to make something great.

As that song played, all of those thoughts began and they would shape forever how I experience my own land and I would carry them with through to today. I know that when I leave this life, this is the song I want with me. 

John Hansen is from Pointe-Claire, QC

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