Words & Music is pleased to continue extending its helpful “how-to” series for our members, “The Breakdown,” into the realm of short, question-and-answer videos.

In this episode, SOCAN A&R Representative Houtan Houdania asks Cheryl Link, the Senior Creative Director of peermusic Canada – winner of SOCAN’s Publisher of the Year Award in 2021 – “When does a songwriter need a music publisher?”

Music fans have spoken! “Western Skies,” written and performed by Billy Raffoul of Leamington, Ontario, is the winner of the 16th annual SOCAN Songwriting Prize.

Music fans from across Canada voted from June 17 to July 1, 2021, for the 10 exceptional finalist songs written by emerging songwriters. The nominees were selected by a panel of 15 music industry experts for each of the prizes.

An emotional call to action, “Western Skies” delivers a timely message about the importance of fighting for common good in difficult times.

In addition to the prestige of winning, Billy Raffoul receives $5,000, a Yamaha Keyboard, and a $500 gift card from Long & McQuade.

“Songwriting has been a part of my life since the very beginning, and I’m so fortunate to have grown up in a family full of artistic expression,” said Raffoul. “‘Western Skies’ is a song about the imminent threat of climate change and our responsibility to future generations. To be recognized for a song that means so much to me is an incredible honour. Thank you to SOCAN, thank you to the nominating panel, and thank you to everyone who voted for ‘Western Skies’ amongst an exceptional group of songs.”

As music creators continue to be particularly hard hit by the effects of the pandemic, for a second straight year, SOCAN presented cash prizes of $500 to the writers of each of the remaining nine nominated songs, providing timely relief for several of Canada’s most talented emerging songwriters.

“‘Western Skies’ is such an important song as we all come to terms with our past, our present, and our collective desire to create a better future for generations to come,” said Jennifer Brown, CEO of SOCAN. “The invaluable power of music to tell stories, to teach, to evoke heartfelt emotion, is never more evident than in the 2021 SOCAN Songwriting Prize winner.”

Karen Bliss, eminent music and arts journalist, and a SOCAN Songwriting Prize panelist, said this about the song: “I chose Billy Raffoul’s ‘Western Skies’ because it’s a powerful message delivered in an understated, logical manner. While I can’t guess at what inspired Billy, my interpretation – and of course I could be way off – is that we’re passing on the world to the next generation, so no matter on what side your politics lie, think about the kind of world they’ll be inheriting.”

The SOCAN Songwriting Prize is the only major songwriting award in Canada where fans vote to determine the winner. Ten outstanding songs created by Canadian songwriters over the past year are nominated by a panel of 15 esteemed music industry experts. The public is then invited to vote once a day for their favourite song, for two weeks, to determine the winner.

SOCAN plays no role in determining the nominees or winners, apart from ensuring that they meet eligibility criteria.

The winner of the Prix de la chanson SOCAN, the competition conducted separately for songs in French, was “Les amants de pompéi,” written and performed by Thierry Larose, and published by Les éditions Bravo musique inc.

The English category also included the following extraordinary songs:

  • “Black Woman” – written by Emanuel Assefa, Ryan Bakalarczyk, John Fellner, Kardinal Offishall; performed by Emanuel; Kardinal Offishall published by BMG Rights Management Canada.
  • “Dancing In My Room” – written by Carter Britz, Aidan Fuller; performed by 347aidan; published by Kobalt Music Publishing Canada.
  • “delicate” – written by Jonah Yano, Schott Zhang; performed by Jonah Yano.
  • “Dream” – written by Clairmont Humphrey II; performed by Clairmont The Second.
  • “Frontin’ Like Pharrell” – written by Kahdijah Payne; performed by DijahSB.
  • “homebody” – written by Michael Brandolino, Alexander DiMauro, Karah McGillivray, Tom Peyton, Robert Sowinski; performed by Valley.
  • “No Smoke” – written by Vanessa Kalala, David Charles Fischer, Christopher Larocca, Hrag Sanbalian; performed by LU KALA.
  • “Purple Carousel” – written by Sydanie Nichol, Casey Manierka; performed by Sydanie.
  • “Solid” – written by Savannah Ré Simpson, Johann Deterville, Akeel Henry; performed by Savannah Ré; Savannah Ré published by Sony Music Publishing.

The 2020 winner of the SOCAN Songwriting Prize was “The Spark,” written and performed by William Prince. Previous winners are available to view here.

SOCAN member Dolores Claman, the woman who wrote the Hockey Night in Canada theme has passed away at the age of 94. She died in Spain, about two years after being diagnosed with dementia.

Her long-running Hockey Night theme has often been called Canada’s second national anthem, and was honoured with the Cultural Impact Award at the 2016 SOCAN Awards Gala in Toronto. It’s a piece of music that has invaded homes and hearts for more than 40 years.

The song was composed by Dolores Claman for what was then called the MacLaren advertising agency. Interestingly, the assignment to write a theme for hockey was given to a woman – almost unheard of in 1968. MacLaren had just had a hit with “A Place to Stand, A Place to Grow” [the unofficial anthem of Ontario, composed by Claman, with lyrics by Richard Morris and French lyrics by Larry Trudel, for a short film of the same name for Expo 67]. Claman had never really watched hockey before and used an image of gladiators to visualize the game.

The Hockey Night theme was written under a jingle contract, because there originally were little gaps in the intro for the announcer. A couple of years later, they changed it into a theme. In 2008, it became the most hotly discussed song in the land when CBC decided not to renew its licence for the beloved theme, and the rights to use the song were sold to CTV. It had never been licensed properly by the CBC, and they initially wouldn’t give Claman a credit either. She eventually negotiated the credit before licensing in 2008. CTV ended up purchasing the song, and it’s still attached to hockey, and was used in the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Born in Vancouver, Claman received a graduate scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music in New York. She enjoyed a prolific career in composing for advertising, television, film  and theatre.  Her company, Quartet Productions, wrote and produced TV and radio jingles and background music for GM, Ford, Chrysler, Molson, Air Canada, Lever Brothers, Air France, Imperial Oil, Kentucky Fried Chicken, 7-UP, Canada Life, CN, and virtually hundreds more. She won many advertising awards in New York, Venice, Cannes, etc.

Claman is survived by her daughter Madeleine Morris and her son Michael Claman.