Monday, July 6, 2015

F is for Maureen Forrester and for F****d Up

     The Barenaked Ladies are a Canadian band of some renown. They are known for their clever wordplay and their tight yet, fun, pop tunes.  For the most part, there is nothing controversial about the band in anyone's mind today. However, in light of the nature this post, it is instructive to note that The Barenaked Ladies were once banned from performing in Nathan Phillip's Square (the public square at City Hall in Toronto) early in their career simply because "concerned citizens/politicians" thought it inappropriate that a band with "naked" and "ladies" in their name should be permitted to play in a civic space.
     Sometimes, books are judged by their covers and bands are judged by their names. Please allow me to introduce you to a band with an even more imflammatory name, F*ucked Up.
     F*ucked UP is a hard core punk band out of Toronto.  Their members were culled from many other punk/thrash/hard core bands but, their lead singer, the increasingly popular and charismatic Damian Abraham, is the person best known nationally.  The band's name was chosen, mainly, as a political statement regarding the state of the world as the band saw it. But, it was, also, chosen to make the mainstream music business uncomfortable.  Being loud, angry and in-your-face has long been a staple of most punk and hardcore bands but, what makes F*cked Up different is the intelligence with which they write, organize and present their material.  They knew that they had something creative to say and they knew that they has original ways of presenting their work (i.e., they have released a record called Chemistry of Common Life, which won them the 2009 Polaris Music Prize and which was praised universally by almost every major music magazine in North America and Europe.)  Then, they released a "rock opera" called David Comes To Life, which SPIN Magazine hailed as the #1 album of the year in 2011.  Their latest little bit of cleverness comes in the form of releasing a series of records based on the years of the Chinese Zodiac signs.  F*cked Up is prodigious in their output and crackingly-crisp in their content.  Critical acclaim is sweeping over them as they, literally, dare the mainstream music industry to recognize them and simply say their name on air.  Their very existence is a challenge to the forces of censorship and of self-limitation.
     They are loud. They are angry. They are in-your-face. But, truth be told, F*cked Up are, increasingly, becoming one of the most respected bands on the planet.  Question is, can you look past their name and find out why?
     ***Note how the Nation's Broadcaster chose to handle the band's intro.  :)

    When I first decided to create this series of posts about the Canadian music scene, it was always my intention to introduce my readers to excellent musicians who, for one reason or another, were toiling in anonymity or to celebrate those performers who have risen to the tops of their genres and have carried themselves off in as professional and consistently excellent manner as possible or else, to simply showcase someone that has personal meaning to me.
     With that in mind, I present the supremely talented operatic superstar, Maureen Forrester.  I can imagine that if my 84 year old mother was reading this post, she would be as pleased by my selection of Maureen Forrester as she would have been appalled by my choice of F*cked Up to lead things off.
     Maureen Forrester was born in Montreal in 1930.  In her time as a professional contralto, Forrester  sang with such luminaries as Beverly Sills and performed on famous stages around the world such as the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. While best known for her interpretations of Gustav Mahler's work, Forrester was, also, well known for championing the work of Canadian composers and performers all throughout her career.  She has been the recipient of many major awards such as induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, becoming a Companion to the Order of Canada, as well as, receiving a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto.
     Maureen Forrester always conducted herself with dignity and with class.  She represented our great nation confidently, elegantly and with tremendous skill on the stages of the world.  She died in 2010 at the age of 79 years.

     Time to tip the old hat and acknowledge the following terrific performers whose name begins with the letter, "F":

     Alternative star (runner-up to Amy Winehouse for the Grammy Award for Best New Performer) and proud, occasional member of Broken Social Scene, Leslie Feist, Jazz legend, Maynard Ferguson, Modern pop groups, Finger Eleven and Danny Fernandes, Country crooner, George Fox, Alan Frew, lead singer of Glass Tiger, Singing sensation, Nelly Furtado, Ottawa-based, ska-punters, Furnaceface (Way to inform, Johnny-boy!), Polaris Prize winner in 2006, Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett), Vancouver's own, 54-40, Producer/songwriter extraordinaire, David Foster, Blues/folk singer-songwriter, Sue Foley and, finally, one of the most original bands in Canadian musical history, FM (with Cameron Hawkins and Nash the Slash.)

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