Please Advise! Burgess Advocates for a 'Friendlier' Anthem

Canada's song too gendered? Steve's got a waaaaay better version in mind.

By Steve Burgess 3 Oct 2013 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Read his previous articles here.

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Is that a clean-shaven Tom Mulcair on lute?

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

Restore Our Anthem is a group of prominent Canadian women who seek to change the words of the national anthem. In 1913 the original English lyrics of "O Canada," penned by Judge Robert Stanley Weir, were changed from "thou dost in us command" to "in all thy sons command." We wish to change the line to "in all of us command," thus restoring the inclusive nature of "O Canada," and making it once again a song that includes all Canadians.

Will you join our campaign?



Dear ROA,

Well, I'm not so sure. Once you start messing with the lyrics where does it stop?

When Quebec Premier Pauline Marois finds out we're tinkering with "O Canada," she'll want to change the French lyrics for sure. And when I think about all the time I spent in grade six memorizing the French version so perfectly:

Donny swatted two, laid Pompei, hey you! You say par-tay Dex, wha!

Chokes me up with multilingual patriotism every time.

Knowing Marois she'd probably want to make some additions to the English version too:

We have not signed le Charter yet; So take that turban off your tete.

And if we are going to change All thy sons command, what's wrong with reverting to the original: Thou dost in us command? "Dost" is a great and now-underused word. Words like "dost" and "durst" make everything sound deeper and more poetic. Witness my recent composition:

O Cruel Seasons! Why Dost Thou Torment Me So?

Good salesclerk, listen if thou durst;
This brand of underwear is worst;
A new pair bringeth, wouldst thou dost;
My buttocks feel like permafrost.

But I offer another proposal. Rather than mess around with the imperfect "O Canada," why not just replace it? We could start over with a different song entirely. I have the perfect candidate -- an anthem that will bring a tear to every eye and a warm patriotic glow to every heart. Our national anthem should be The Friendly Giant theme.

It's us, Canada

Airing on CBC from 1958 to 1985, The Friendly Giant starred Bob Homme as Friendly and Rod Coneybeare as the voice of Jerome the Giraffe and Rusty the Rooster. The gentle opening and closing theme played on harp and recorder (with Homme on recorder) was the old English folk melody Early One Morning. It's a song that was burned into the psyche of a generation. As an anthem it would be an ideal representation of Canadian values.

The Friendly Giant: that's us, Canada. One little chair for one of you, a bigger chair for two more (of any gender) to curl up in, and even a rocking chair for Trooper fans, who love to rock.

It's true that Friendly lived in a bygone era, less fractured than our own. Today there are those who would look at his castle and declare the giant to be a one percenter. Marxist theory would say the giant loomed above the poor residents of the town who might at any moment be crushed under the economic weight of his huge metaphorical boot. But people understood that Friendly wasn't a capitalist robber baron, nor an ivory tower kind of guy. He was just large. The castle was all about leg room.

Various old lyrics for the folk song "Early One Morning" have racy connotations about poor dishonoured maids seduced and abandoned: Oh, don't deceive me / Oh, never leave me / How could you use / A poor maiden so? Read another way, it sounds like a plea for political parties to live up to their campaign promises -- and refrain from either proroguing Parliament or triggering some disastrous government shutdown.

But we don't really need those old folk song lyrics. Most Canadians have never heard them anyway. At sporting events we would simply stand and hum along, bilingually. And although the giant's familiar welcome to his guests is not technically part of the theme song, we would nonetheless turn to our neighbours and offer to let the drawbridge down. We'd welcome them into our homes with a nice chair for one, a bigger chair for two more to curl up in, and a rocking chair in the middle. We'd look up -- waaaaay up -- to the red-and-white Maple Leaf. Then the puck would drop and the hockey game begin. Aside from the other benefits of our new anthem, I'm willing to bet fighting during NHL games would be way down.

Think it over. It's either that or "Running Back to Saskatoon" by the Guess Who. You'd have to love an anthem that plugs Moose Jaw, Moosomin, and Medicine Hat.  [Tyee]

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