Songs for a pandemic: Music that has gotten Canadians through

From Mary J. Blige to Joni Mitchell, here’s a playlist of healing tracks recommended by people across the country.

Canadians share songs that have helped ease these difficult times

Musicians Mary J. Blige, Jessie Reyez and Stan Rogers. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images, Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images, CBC Still Photo Collection)

Music has always been a form of therapy. Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked listeners to write in with the songs that have gotten them through lockdown. Here's a selection of stories and music suggested by Canadians.

Work That by Mary J. Blige 

"I've always been a Mary J. fan but wasn't familiar with this song until I heard it played as the entrance music when Kamala Harris gave her victory speech on U.S. election night. And, as a middle-aged woman who has often felt overworked and underappreciated in my work life (and sometimes home life too, if I'm honest) the lyrics really resonate for me." — Karen St. Pierre

3 Foot Tall by Classified

"This song lets me know that I am not alone. There are other songs that express this, but I like Classified. I live in Manitoba and I turned 65 during lockdown. I was all alone. Listened to this song and felt better." — Daisy Dee

Head Up High by Fitz

"I'm a frontline health-care worker and I often play this banger on repeat on my way to work. It's short, catchy and fun to sing along to. I relate to the line 'I'm under pressure, underpaid, and working overtime,' of course. But I also get inspiration from 'Plug in that power system, light up that optimism'!" — Leah Seibert

Red-Winged Blackbird by David Francey

"Iconic song of spring, iconic Canadian folk singer. Really got me during the lockdown last year when we were all suddenly looking at the nature around us so differently, and I was hearing blackbirds and seeing them as if for the first time. I've since learned that hearing those blackbirds is like seeing your first spring crocus: a sign of hope and regeneration. Makes me cry every time now. Good tears." — Kathryn Downton

Ever New by Beverly Glenn-Copeland

"I've been reaching for the music of Beverly Glenn-Copeland a lot this past year. It takes the edge off whatever news is coming through because it reminds me of first being introduced to his music while hosting a 'bring your own vinyl' night in Meaford, [Ont.], and being treated to a great story of seeing Glenn perform at Guelph's Bullring in the 1970s.  

"I reach for Glenn's music because it reminds me of how connected we all are, and remain, despite everything that's happening. For these reasons and many more, I'd love for everyone to get the chance to have Glenn's song Ever New sink down deep, not only to soothe but to give a little hope too." — Tom Thwaits

Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell

"The song Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell has always hit the most inner part of me, all those years ago and since, but when I heard her more recent version, it just tore me up. The emotion and life experience gathered through those years drip it into a whole new level. I cry every time I hear it and when I need to, I play it as many times as it takes to keep me home." — Susan Tait

No One's In The Room by Jessie Reyez

"Aside from her beautiful and haunting voice, when the chorus kicks in, it really reflects how I'm feeling. I've spent more time alone during this pandemic than ever before in my life (I'm a full-time student, and UBC has been online all year) and I find myself doing a lot of self-reflecting." — Rosie Trudel

The Mary Ellen Carter by Stan Rogers

"The song that nearly always comes to my mind in tough times is The Mary Ellen Carter by the late and hugely missed Stan Rogers. Of all his songs, I think it's arguably his greatest. The chorus and final verse are an anthem to all of us who have faced difficult and tragic circumstances, encouraging us to 'Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain. And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.' Hang tight and take care. We'll get through this."

Good Morning Hunter by Odario

"Channelling a What's Going On Marvin Gaye vibe from half a century before — in itself a time of political and environmental protest — Odario delivered a master stroke with this COVID/late-Trump gem. Capturing both the post-apocalypse dread and the wry optimism necessary to get us all through it, I found myself returning to this track time and time again to lift my mood." — Ian Smith

Strength Of A Woman by Shaggy

"Whenever I think about the pandemic, I think about the many ways this has reflected the strength of women. From the large number of health-care workers who are women, police officers, firefighters, caregivers, grocery and retail clerks, women are everywhere in this pandemic. And not to mention the number who have had to leave the workplace to take care of family and to home-school their children.

"The song celebrates the strength of women everywhere in the world and the space that men are finding themselves creating to believe, respect and honour women." — Joan Hopkins

You Got To Run (Spirit Of The Wind) by Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq

"I have on repeat You Got To Run (Spirit Of The Wind) by Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq. It tells the story of Alaskan dogsled racer George Attla. It's a song of endurance and incredible determination to overcome all odds to come out victorious. It's very inspiring during a time where one day drags into the next. And it's also a rockin' good track that has me dancing all over the living room." — Denise Macharacek

Ain't Got No, I Got Life by Nina Simone

"My song of hope and power is Nina Simone's Ain't Got No, I Got Life. It is so powerful and hopeful and is my favourite song to dance to. And it also is extra relevant these days.

"That is the song that for me is like a polar plunge: empowering!" — Tanya Luszcz

Plus tôt by Alexandra Stréliski

"Like everyone, I was super stressed out during the early days of COVID. Music has always been a place of escape and solace for me, and I went looking for music to calm me. I don't listen to a lot of classical music, and to be honest, I can't even remember how I discovered this album. But it quickly turned into the soundtrack for almost everything I did: work, walking, cooking, art-making, brushing the cat ...

"It's such a peaceful and ethereal album." — Alli Johnston