Posted by: alexhickey | August 17, 2013

A Proud Canadian ©

 A Proud Canadian (lyrics)

I’ve travelled across this country from the east coast to the west,

I’ve met up with a lot of people, some I would like to forget;

Most of them were friendly and made me feel at home,

But some were not so easy, they said I just didn’t belong.

 

If you see me in Ontario or on Prince Edward Isle,

In Manitoba or Québec, greet me with a smile;

In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Alberta or B.C.,

Or Saskatchewan, I’m from Newfoundland, a Canadian I’m proud to be;

A Canadian I’m proud to be.

 

I may not speak the way you do, but God loves me just the same,

He made us one big family, so let’s be a happy one;

And though we have our troubles, we must not be overrun,

‘Cause if we work together, we shall overcome.

 

If you see me in Ontario or on Prince Edward Isle,

In Manitoba or Québec, greet me with a smile;

In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Alberta or B.C.,

Or Saskatchewan, I’m from Newfoundland, a Canadian I’m proud to be;

A Canadian I’m proud to be.

 

If you see me in Ontario or on Prince Edward Isle,

In Manitoba or Québec, greet me with a smile;

In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Alberta or B.C.,

Or Saskatchewan, I’m from Newfoundland, a Canadian I’m proud to be;

A Canadian I’m proud to be.

The Fortune Bay Sons released this song on their first self-titled album, The Fortune Bay Sons, in 1980.  It is credited to the band with no reference to the actual songwriter.  The group, formed in 1974 actively played throughout Newfoundland until it disbanded twenty years later.  Originally the group consisted of five members – Tom Keeping on vocals; Jim Vallis on lead guitar; Cyril Brown on bass guitar and vocals; Gerald Stoodley on accordion; and Winston Keeping on drums and vocals.  Upon Tom Keeping’s departure the group carried on as a foursome.  A few years later Gerald Stoodley left the group and was replaced by another accordion player, Harry Keeping.

The band re-grouped for special events such as the annual South Coast Arts Festival where they were perennial favourites. In 2008, on the opening day of the twenty-third Festival, lead guitarist Jim Vallis, who had spent his entire married life in St. Jacques, died after a brief pancreatic illness.  His death sent a shockwave through local communities.  Suddenly, questions of one`s mortality lurked around the corner.  Though Jim was a quiet band member, his stage presence was always front row centre with someone invariably asking, “Would Jim Vallis please come to the stage!”

jim_valis_seated_playing_acoustic_guitar

Jim Vallis 2007

The next night when the Fortune Bay Sons took the stage at the Festival they dedicated their set to their missing band mate and performed a crowd favourite, one of the songs Jim had written, A Proud Canadian.  They were joined on stage by his daughter Jillian who contributed to the vocals.  Several days later he left the church to the concluding chorus line, A Canadian I’m proud to be.

 Listen to A Proud Canadian in this YouTube video.

What inspired Jim to write this song? In post-confederate Newfoundland where many songwriters have lamented Newfoundland’s voluntary loss of independence by becoming Canada’s tenth province, this song stands out.  It sings the praises of being Canadian while maintaining one’s identity as a Newfoundlander.  Jim wrote this song from the heart.  He was born in July of 1949, one of the first born Canadians on the island of Newfoundland; a distinction and event that was not lost on him.

Though a fierce Newfoundlander he loved his new country; so much so that he enlisted for a period of time in the Canadian Army. That experience gave him exposure to other recruits from across the country at a time when Newfoundland had been a Canadian province for less than twenty years.  Jim didn’t remain with a military career.  Upon his return to Newfoundland he chose other career paths and carried on with playing guitar, an instrument he was passionate about.

The first song he learned to play on that guitar was Mendicino by Sir Douglas Quintet.  After hearing the song played at a teenage dance in the Royal Canadian Legion in his birth town of Belleoram, he returned home and worked on that song until he had mastered it, sometime after daylight the next day.  Music threaded its way throughout Jim’s life.  He played in numerous bands prior to joining the Fortune Bay Sons.

As a songwriter he didn’t share his compositions until he was absolutely certain the writing process had been completed.  A Proud Canadian first saw the light of day when planning was underway for the first album of the group.  Winston Keeping provided vocals for the song.  On their second album, Stay at Home Lad, Jim contributed the song, The Happiest Day of My Life, with vocals by Cyril Brown.

A Proud Canadian does not speak rapturously about being a Canadian.  It reflects the harsh realities of being a relative newcomer in the country where not everyone welcomed Newfoundland into Confederation.  It speaks to meeting people who were not friendly, whose interactions he would like to forget.  That has been a common occurrence for many Newfoundlanders living and working in parts of Canada for generations.  Fortunately the vast majority of Canadians do not carry ill-well or misgivings about their fellow countrymen; however, when it does occur, it affects one profoundly, as stated in the song: “But some were not so easy, they said I just didn’t belong.” He harbours no ill-feeling towards those he encountered and speaks kindly of the majority when he says, “Most of them were friendly and made me feel at home.”

Is it a protest song?  In a way, yes, in that it raises an issue which has dogged Newfoundlanders whenever they travel and work throughout Canada.  At the same time as it raises these issues the song offers an olive branch to people who feel that way, emphasizing “I may not speak the way you do, but God loves me just the same,” thereby appealing to a greater universal brotherhood that stands above pettiness and individual differences.

Is it a song of nationalism? Yes. His pride of Newfoundland heritage is evident as is his pride in being a Canadian. After listing the Canadian provinces he has travelled and asking fellow Canadians to greet him with a smile, he states, “I’m from Newfoundland, a Canadian I’m proud to be.”  He then ends the chorus with a repetition of “A Canadian I’m proud to be.” How much more emphatic can one be than that!

Few of us get the opportunity to offer our views on such great issues outside of close friends and family.  Then there are many of us who never share such observations despite having passionate views.  Do you know how the folks around you feel about being Canadian? The songwriter has an advantage over most of us if the song is recorded for it can echo our own thoughts and feelings without us ever having to risk making them known.  This song spoke for the quiet Jim Vallis and now speaks across time for him still.

We may forget the exact words you said, but we will never forget how your music made us feel.

There has been a great deal written about Newfoundland song writing around this and similar topics.  A few of the documents listed below may be of interest.

Glenn Colton, Imagining Nation: Music and Identity in Pre-Confederation Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, Volume 22, Number 1 (2007).

E. David Gregory,  Vernacular Song, Cultural Identity, and Nationalism in Newfoundland, 1920-1955, History of Intellectual Culture, Volume 4, No. 1, 2004.

Terry McDonald, Proud To Be An Islander: Newfoundland Identity as Revealed through Newfoundland Song, University of Southampton.

Sara Beth Keough, Promoting and Preserving Cultural Identity Through Newfoundland Radio Music Broadcasts, Aether: The Journal of media Geography, Winter 2011.

Pollara Poll, Newfoundland’s Place in Canada,  Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada, Government of newfoundland and Labrador, 2003.

 Newfoundland Referendums

 Letter of Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent to Newfoundland

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: