Better Late Than Never: Art Bergmann gets the recognition he deserves

Art Bergmann is a Canadian music legend with a forty year career starting with the Young Canadians in 1979 and his many singles and albums from the 1980s until today.  It was announced this week he along with sixty others would receive the Order of Canada, the second highest award given to civilians.

CBC: Trailblazing women, rock singer, former chief among new Order of Canada appointments

Robert Steadward is a now-retired sports scientist who was instrumental in the creation of the modern Paralympic Games and served for 12 years as the founding president of the International Paralympic Committee. [. . .] In the early 1980s, he helped develop a proposal to centralize the governance of disability sport at the international level. When the International Paralympic Committee was created, he was elected its first president.

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Louise Mailhot, a former lawyer and judge who sat on the Superior Court of Quebec and became the first female judge to serve on Quebec’s Court of Appeal in Montreal, is one of several women pioneers being appointed as members of the order — the order’s entry level. [. . .] In addition to practicing employment and public law and serving as a judge, Mailhot was co-editor of multiple legal reviews, authored a book on the appellate process and helped develop a training program for drafting Canadian judges.

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Legal scholar John Borrows, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria’s law school, said it was a “jaw-dropping moment” when he found out he was being appointed an officer of the order [. . .] Borrows is being recognized for his scholarly work on Indigenous rights and legal traditions.

Hailing from the Chippewas of the Nawash First Nation in Ontario, Borrows is one of several people of Indigenous heritage on this year’s list.

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Celebrated singer-songwriter Art Bergmann is being recognized for what the Governor General’s office calls his “indelible contributions to the Canadian punk music scene, and for his thought-provoking discourse on social, gender and racial inequalities.”

“It’s humbling. And I want to know who did this to me,” said Bergmann.

Bergmann made his mark on Vancouver’s punk scene in the 1970s and 1980s as a member of multiple bands, including the K-Tels, which was subsequently renamed the Young Canadians. He has since written songs and published albums as a solo artist and won a Juno Award for Best Alternative Album in 1996.

Bergman, who now lives with his wife in Rocky View County, Alta., is known for his sharply political, anti-establishment lyrics. He said he wants to divert any publicity generated by his appointment toward pressuring the federal government over its failure to provide adequate housing and clean water to First Nations. 

“There’s a few things that have gone wrong in Canada … [and] me not having an award for my work is not one of them,” said Bergmann. “Honour the treaties, give the First Nations water and housing and thank you very much, Canada — a work in progress.”

Several of Bergmann’s songs are below the fold.

The Young Canadians released “Hawaii” in 1979.

From 1988’s Crawl with Me:  “The Junkie Don’t Care”“Final Cliché”

1990’s Sexual Roulette: “Bound for Vegas”, “Dirge No. 1”

1991’s self titled album: “Faithlessly Yours”, “Message From Paul”

1995’s What Fresh Hell Is This?: “Contract”“Guns and Heroin”

“Atheist Prayer” appeared on his 2016 album, “The Apostate”:

“Christo Fascists” is his latest single, from October 2020.  As you might guess, it’s about events of recent years, especially 2020.

Additional notes on Canadian music:

October marked forty years since the debut EP of The Payola$.  The band never achieved much success abroad, but were immensely popular in Canada, with song such as “China Boys”, “Soldier”, “Eyes Of A Stranger”, “Where Is This Love?”, “Never Said I Loved You” and many others.  The Payola$’s guitarist was Bob Rock, who went on to be one of the world’s most successful producers (The Cult, Cher, Metallica, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Michael Bublé, etc.).

October 1980 was also the release of Rough Trade’s debut album Avoid Freud.  For LGBTQIA people in Canada, this album wasn’t just a landmark, it was a landslide.  Lesbianism, explicit sexual lyrics, politics and social commentary like we’d never heard before.  Best songs: “It’s a Jungle”, “High School Confidential”, “What’s the Furor About the Führer?”, “Fashion Victim”, “Grade B Movie”.