Songs that sing volumes about Edmonton

STORY PROFILE TEMPLATE PAGE TEMPLATE

TEXT BLOCK PARAGRAPH TEMPLATE.

One of the most iconic songs to ever come out of Edmonton is now in its fourth decade of filling dancefloors across the world. 

The Emeralds’ Bird Dance, an infectious polka number, was released in 1982 and quickly became a staple at weddings and other family events around the world. Forty years later, the quirky tune still makes the rounds on Tik Tok and YouTube. 

While Bird Dance has its origins in Switzerland, the song still speaks, er, sings volumes about Edmonton and its musicians. They’re eclectic and adventurous. They don’t take themselves too seriously, yet they’re not afraid to get serious. They don’t necessarily follow trends—they create them! (Seriously, who knew a polka tune would become a worldwide phenomenon?) 

Here’s a selection* of songs and albums that are unequivocally Edmonton:

TEXT BLOCK PARAGRAPH TEMPLATE.

Ruth B., Lost Boy (2015)

Singer-songwriter and Juno winner Ruth B. became a viral sensation with this bittersweet piano-pop song, which she initially released as a six-second clip on Vine, a video-sharing app. “I am a lost boy from Neverland/Usually hanging out with Peter Pan,” she sings. Inspired by the TV show, Once Upon A Time, Ruth B.’s lyrics tackle the topic of isolation—a feeling Edmontonians know well, living in Canada’s northernmost major city.

TEXT BLOCK PARAGRAPH TEMPLATE.

Maria Dunn, Piece By Piece (2013)

In 1911, the Great Western Garment Company started manufacturing denim and western wear in Edmonton. Thousands of women, many immigrants, worked at the clothing factory during its 93-year history. Folk singer and Juno winner Maria Dunn explores their lives on this album, Piece By Piece. It features eight songs, which were previously featured in a multimedia show funded by the Edmonton Community Foundation. “Long ago when you went to GWG,” she sings on Immigrant Dreams. “You could write your own book with all that you learned/Put your children through school with the money you earned.” 

TEXT BLOCK PARAGRAPH TEMPLATE.

Zerbin, Bonnie Doon (2020)

Named after one of Edmonton’s oldest neighbourhoods, this jittery electro-pop song is a sombre reflection of love, loss and possible reconnection. “Now you’re stuck in Bonnie Doon,” Zerbin laments. “That boy ain’t coming back again/And I don’t know if it’s too soon/I think we should be closer friends.” 

TEXT BLOCK PARAGRAPH TEMPLATE.

Cadence Weapon, Unity Square (2005)

“I’m just letting y’all know, I’m from Champion City,” Cadence Weapon raps on his very first hip-hop single. Originally recorded as Oliver Square, he now performs it as Unity Square, to reflect the recent real-life name change of the shopping district, located just west of MacEwan University. The glitchy track references several bars and music venues (past and present)—such as New City, Halo, The Strat, Black Dog and Victory—as well as Edmonton’s bus service.

TEXT BLOCK PARAGRAPH TEMPLATE.

Logan Alexis Singers, Connor McDavid (2016)

With five Stanley Cup banners hanging from the rafters of Rogers Place, it’s no surprise local musicians like to sing about the Edmonton Oilers. Tributes run the gamut from Corb Lund’s country stomper, The Oil’s Back In Town, to Cadence Weapon’s hip-hop bop, Connor McDavid, to the Logan Alexis Singers’ song of the same name, featuring Indigenous drums. “Let’s go back to the good old days/Let’s go back to the Gretzky days/Go Oilers go/You’ve got Connor McDavid,” the group’s singers chant. There’s a remix, too. 

TEXT BLOCK PARAGRAPH TEMPLATE.

Don Berner, Love Letters to a Rat Free Capital (2013)

Jazz saxophonist Don Berner pays homage to his hometown on this snappy album of instrumental numbers, released in 2014. Songs include Festival City, an ode to Edmonton’s penchant for festivals of all shapes and sizes; In the Shadows of Churchill, which references the downtown’s central square; and, Commodore, inspired by a beloved restaurant on Jasper Avenue. 

TEXT BLOCK PARAGRAPH TEMPLATE.

Captain Tractor, The Last Saskatchewan Pirate (1995)

Originally written and recorded by the Arrogant Worms, Edmonton’s Captain Tractor turned this parody into a jaunty, beer-raisin’ Celtic-rock celebration of conquest and camaraderie—perfect for parties, pubs and hockey games. (OK, so it’s about a Saskatchewan pirate, but we’ve got the North Saskatchewan River …)  “I’m gonna be a pirate, on the river Saskatchewan,” bellows one of Captain Tractor’s frontmen. The entire band then chimes in for a rousing group chorus: “And it’s heave ho, hi ho, coming down the plains/Stealing wheat and barley and all the other grains.”

TEXT BLOCK PARAGRAPH TEMPLATE.

Jom Comyn, In the Dark on 99 (All the Time, All the Time) (2013)

As a winter city, there’s no shortage of songs about Edmonton’s snowy season. In the Dark on 99 (All the Time, All the Time) is an entire album of warm-hearted, cold-weather tunes, inspired by Jom Comyn’s late-night ruminations on 99 Street, just east of Old Strathcona. “Our footsteps will echo for a thousand blocks away,” he sings on Monotone. O Frozen Sidewalks features tiptoeing rhythms while Wish Upon A Storm is a cinematic swirl of gorgeous strings, cymbals and guitars, twinkling like falling snowflakes on the first day of winter.

TEXT BLOCK PARAGRAPH TEMPLATE.

Jr. Gone Wild, Day of the First Snow  (1986) 

This list wouldn’t be complete without a song or two from Jr. Gone Wild, one of the first purveyors of alt-country in Canada. “I clutch my collar around my neck,” MIke McDonald sings on Day of the First Snow, a jangly cow-punk anthem. “My fingers have no feeling, I run out of cigarettes.” Winter also makes an appearance in one of Jr.’s latest tunes, Warren’s Van (2021), a nostalgic track about hanging out with your pals, cruising up and down Groat Road, and getting sick on Schnapps.

TEXT BLOCK PARAGRAPH TEMPLATE.

*This is not a comprehensive list–there are too many Edmontunes for a single story!

Read more stories