“We are just minutes away from beginning the show and we’d like to finish before midnight so please take your seats,” said the looped recording, as more than 500 members of the music industry moved from the two-hour reception area to the hall at the Sheridan Centre Toronto Hotel Monday (Oct. 17) for the SOCAN Awards dinner, celebrating achievements in 2021.
Honouring songwriters, composers, beat-makers, and music publishers in a range of genres categories, including rap, pop, rock, film and television, dance, folk/roots, country, classical and R&B, the street sign decor near the red carpet was Life Is A Highway-themed, based on Tom Cochrane's enduring anthem for which he received the SOCAN Cultural Impact Award.
Cochrane wrote the 1991 single after witnessing extreme poverty, violence, and death in Mozambique on a humanitarian trip with World Vision Canada. “So it became cathartic for me because it was like a pep talk to myself in that you can't change the world by yourself all at once,” he said in the tribute video. “All you can do is keep going on the road ahead of you and try to spread some goodwill along that road.”
Onstage, after being presented with the award by his good friend Alex Lifeson of Rush, Cochrane said, near the conclusion of a 10-minute speech, “I’m very honoured to have been blessed to have been able to write that song. It brought a lot of joy and touches on something universal.”
Hosted by award-winner Amanda Parris of the CBC, the three-hour trophy time — which did end well before midnight — included live performances from new Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees Lighthouse; Snotty Nose Rez Kids and rapper Drezus; Nonso Amadi; La Zarra; Alicia Creti; High Valley; DJ TLO, and the nightcap: a performance of Life is a Highway by Bill Bell, Dala, Davide Direnzo, Molly Johnson, Jeff Jones, Alex Lifeson, Sam Roberts, Julian Taylor, and Cochrane himself.
The awards moved swiftly with recipients simply receiving the hardware, posing for photos, and given zero time at the mic for speeches That was reserved for the special achievement awards only:
In addition to Cochrane’s SOCAN Cultural Impact Award, there was OZ, born Ozan Yildirim, (Drake, Travis Scott), who got the SOCAN International Achievement Award; no show Drake, the SOCAN Songwriter of The Year - Performer Award; another absentia recipient Koz, born Stephen Kozmeniuk (Nicki Minaj, Dua Lipa, Lights, Meek Mill), given the SOCAN Songwriter of The Year - Producer Award; Keith Power (scores for more than 700 TV episodes) a record fifth SOCAN Screen Composer of the Year Award; video show bbno$ (edamame with Rich Brian and Lalala with Y2K) the SOCAN Breakout Songwriter Award; La Zarra, who blew everyone away with her live performance, with the SOCAN Breakout Songwriter Award – Francophone; and Evan MacDonald with the SOCAN Breakout Composer Award.
And in a touching segment, jazz-rock legends Lighthouse were inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, then performed a medley that included Sunny Days and One Fine Morning. Ralph Cole and Paul Hoffert were joined by the offspring of the late Bob McBride and Skip Prokop, who died in 1998 and 2017, respectively. Cole, getting emotional, thanked his parents “who gave me my tools and encouragement,” and Hoffert said, “Groucho Marx said, ‘I’d never want to be joined in a club that would have me as a member, but tonight I couldn’t disagree more. Being asked to join the ranks of Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, David Foster, Neil Young, Alanis Morissette, Paul Anka, Gordon Lightfoot, and other great Canadian songwriters will always be one of my most cherished and humbling moments.”
On the business side, Side Door received the SOCAN Licensed To Play Award and the first-ever SOCAN Reproduction Right award went to Editions Studio V.
This year also marked the inaugural Vince Fontaine Indigenous Song Award, named in memory of the singer-songwriter and co-founder of the Juno Award-winning duo Eagle & Hawk, who died in January. The award was bestowed on hip-hop duo Snotty Nose Rez Kids and rapper Drezus, who through their music highlight issues impacting the Indigenous community.
And amidst the music industry crowd were Kevin MacDougall, acting director of music policy and programs director at Canadian Heritage; MPP Jill Andrew, Ontario NDP Culture and Women's Issues Critic for the official opposition; and Sheref Sabawy, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Member, Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy.
SOCAN CEO Jennifer Brown also took the stage in her first address at the English-language SOCAN Awards (she spoke at the 2021 Gala de la SOCAN) since becoming the official head of the PRO last June.
“At SOCAN, we pride ourselves on our hard work and our dedication for our members, but it is your partnership, professionalism and commitment to keeping us accountable that motivates us to do better every day and we deeply appreciate you,” she began.
“We are in this with you and for you, but we also know that you depend on us to go the extra mile. I could not have been prouder of how our teams have come together over these last two challenging years to support each other and deliver for you, our members. We continue our work to build a culture where all voices can contribute, every employee is supported and everyone feels a true sense of belonging.
“It is because of our teams’ elevated collective effort and commitment that SOCAN is in a better position than ever for the future. This year, we’ve made progress to our goals, but we know there are things we still need to achieve next year, and beyond,” Brown adds.
“There always will be because the journey never ends. Our collective strategy remains rooted in our commitment to serving you, helping you navigate this ever-changing landscape and ensuring that you are fairly compensated for your extraordinarily talented work. Your passion for music and for the business of music is what makes our members and everyone here tonight such an incredible collective partner.”
For a complete list of 2022 SOCAN Award winners visit: www.socanawards.com
The annual Gala de la SOCAN, honouring the work of SOCAN's francophone members, will be held on May 7, 2023, in Montréal.