Canada Strong singer strings message of hope, togetherness

Donny Gladue had never been on YouTube. 

The COVID-19 pandemic changes things.

“I’m not on YouTube or Facebook or any of that,” said Gladue, who is Métis and originally from Fort Chipewyan, “but I decided it was the right thing to do. It was the right time to write the song and share the song. So people would hear the message to come together.”

The original song is called Canada Strong. It runs 3 minutes and 10 seconds. Gladue used nature imagery to capture the threat of and the arrival of the coronavirus, and lyrics to encourage Canadians to stay strong and united. 

But better to watch and listen to the song than read about the song. 🙂 

Musical elements

Gladue said he followed news of the virus on his phone. 

“I read about it when it was in Asia and I kept paying attention and then I read that it had reached Vancouver,” Gladue said. “An idea hit me. It was like a wind coming. The news was like the wind. So, I wrote down those words wind blowing.”

As the news blew nearer, and as his phone lit up with stories of panic and grief and death, Gladue used the lightning and thunder as symbols for what he was reading and feeling.

Canada Strong, handwritten lyrics, supplied

“Some of the lines have some aboriginal poetry in them to connect things to the here and now of the digital age,” Gladue said. 

A note of Johnny Cash

Gladue is a newcomer to YouTube, but not to the guitar. He’s been playing the instrument since he was 6 years old. He used to play in a band. And sing at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton. 

“My teacher and mentor was my uncle George Cardinal. George Noel Cardinal,” he said. “He’s still with us.”

Gladue said he tries for a dynamic sound—not just strumming, but picking with his right hand and hammering notes with his left. 

Gladue’s black Fender guitar cost him “550 bucks, and I got it in Edmonton.” The colour reminds him of Johnny Cash, who was known as The Man in Black, the colour representing the pain and suffering in the world.

Good reviews

The reviews, said Gladue, have been positive. 

“A lot of people have told me they like the song and the video and that it talks to their heart,” he said. 

“It reminds them that we all have to come together, all of us, from the medics to the other frontline workers to all of us.’

Gladue, Sacred Heart Church, Edmonton, 2005