Tom Cochrane to sue composer of new hit 'Existence is a Boulevard'

Cochrane says he won't let this slide. Here are just a few of the more notable incidences of song coincidences in Canadian music history.

Anyone who was in Canada this spring heard the non-stop spinning of the peppy tune Existence Is A Boulevard on rock radio. Catchy, but familiar.

That party may shortly come to an end, however, as Canadian rocker Tom Cochrane has announced plans to sue the writer and performer of that tune, Joe Billingsley, for its similarities to his famed hit Life is a Highway.

Though the result of this suit will not be known for some time, Cochrane says that he is happy to have taken the first step.

"We can't let this kind of thing slide anymore," says the erstwhile frontman of Red Rider. "We've seen so many instances in the past in Canadian music of people co-opting the songs of other artists, and we can't let them get away with it."

What Cochrane says is in many ways true. Here are just a few of the more notable incidences of song coincidences in Canadian music history:

If I Had $984,803 - The Nude Women (1998)

Barenaked Ladies were successful in arguing that just because the title had been adjusted for inflation, it didn't make it technically a different song. Songwriters Steven Page and Ed Robertson, with their trademark cheek, asked for $984,803 in damages, but were rewarded (by an equally sardonic Justice) with $15,197 — the difference between the Nude Women's song title and the original.

Canadian Railroad Quadrilogy - Silverbirds (2012)

It was odd to see Silverbirds, Canadian prog-rock legends in their own right, adapt a song by famed singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, namely his Canadian Railroad Trilogy from 1967.

It was stranger still to see them cover the first three sections of his original trilogy as-is, but then add a fourth about the joys of "taking the GO Train to Ajax," an appendix that some felt diminished the majesty of the original track.

Gordon Lightfoot didn't sue his fellow Canadian Music Hall of Famers, but according to a source, he did call them regularly to ask them to stop singing the silly GO Train part, and continues to do so to this day, and that source is him. Gordon Lightfoot is my source for that information and he has also asked me to beg them to stop in this column as well.

Not Patio Lanterns By Kim Mitchell - Ed's Surprise (1993)

Perhaps Ed's Surprise, a pop-rock outfit out of Chatham, Ontario, thought the title would throw folks off the scent, though this author thinks they doth protest too much.

Perhaps it did fool some, however, until they pressed play and were treated not to an original song, nor even a cover of the Kim Mitchell party favourite, but just his recording of his song. Heaven knows how they thought they would get away with it, and Ed's Surprise has not been heard from since.

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About the Author

Jeremy has been a staff writer for This Hour Has 22 Minutes, performed stand-up comedy at the Just For Laughs and Winnipeg Comedy Festivals, and co-created/stars in the popular video series The Urbane Explorer/Finding Bessarion. A 3x Canadian Comedy Award–winner and published humour columnist, he also wrote your favourite joke, the one about the fish trying to get a job at a bank.