Men Without Hats, Rankin Family Hits Enter The CSHF
Two international synth-pop hits and a beloved Canadian Celtic ballad are now inducted into The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Their writers, Ivan Doroschuk (pictured) and Jimmy Rankin, recall the creation of these classic tunes.
By FYI Staff
The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) has announced the induction of three songs, two written by Montreal synth-pop band, Men Without Hats' leader Ivan Doroschuk, and one written by Jimmy Rankin for The Rankin Family. The CSHF will add all three records to its permanent and interactive exhibition at the National Music Centre in Calgary, one that features a celebrated catalogue of inducted songs that fans can listen to, as well as displays, exclusive artifacts, and one-of-a-kind memorabilia celebrating Canada’s greatest songwriters and Inductees. A virtual induction presentation is planned for a later date.
Two smash hits, Safety Dance and Pop Goes the World, catapulted Men Without Hats to international fame in the 1980s, garnering commercial success and countless awards. “No ‘80s playlist would be complete without Safety Dance and Pop Goes the World,” says Vanessa Thomas, CSHF Executive Director, in a press release. “You can’t help but dance to the synthesizer beats or have a smile on your face from the playful nature of their videos. And although the aesthetic and sounds are emblematic of the ‘80s, the lyrics and messages are timeless, and continue to take on new meaning to new audiences.”
Lead vocalist Ivan Doroschuk penned both songs, and he still stands by the do-your-own-thing principle behind Safety Dance, which was written after he was kicked out of a nightclub for pogo dancing, which as judged as being too unruly and unsafe. The lyric “we can dance if we want to” is a rebellious anthem for being free-spirited, independent, and standing up for your rights - even if it’s to dance.
The track skyrocketed to No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1983, propelling the album Rhythm of Youth to sell more than 2 million copies worldwide. Not only was it a commercial success, but industry accolades came rolling in, garnering three Félix Awards for Best-Selling Single, Group of the Year, and Rock Album of the Year, a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, Juno nominations, and a 2008 SOCAN Award.
This past April, Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon performed Safety Dance with health care workers and The Roots with the added lyric, “Everybody’s washing their hands” as part of the One World: Together At Home benefit concert for Covid-19 relief. The song has also been covered by Weird Al Yankovic, Big Daddy, and others, and has been featured on such TV shows as “Glee,” The Simpsons, and Family Guy.
Doroschuk originally wrote Pop Goes the World as an electronic instrumental, aiming for a sound similar to their 1972 hit Popcorn from the album Hot Butter. He then added his two-minute riff to the end of a demo recording which he submitted to Polygram’s A&R rep, Derek Shulman, who advised him to build a whole song from the riff. “So that’s what I did,” said Doroschuk. “I went back into the studio and spent quite a while building a song. It was one of the first songs that I actually sat down and worked on."
Doroschuk, brother Stefan and bandmate Lenny Pinkas recorded Pop Goes the World for the Mercury label at England’s Eden Studio, the result being a gold single and a Juno nomination for Single of the Year. The song reached the No. 2 spot on RPM’s Top 100 singles chart in 1988 and was Billboard’s No. 20. The album went platinum in Canada and won a Félix Award and a PROCAN Award for the most-played English-language Canadian single on Canadian radio in 1988.
The video for Pop Goes the World contributed to the song’s popularity and heavy rotation on radio. Directed by Tim Pope (who also directed the Safety Dance video), the band incorporated comic references to their Quebec roots, such as Big Bonhomme (Quebec City’s winter carnival mascot).
Men Without Hats released seven studio albums before splitting up in 1992. Twenty years later, the re-formed band re-recorded Pop Goes the World in 2012 with the release of Love in the Age of War.
Penned by Jimmy Rankin, Fare Thee Well Love is one of Canada’s most enduring Celtic ballads of all time, and it has now entered The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. The song was a career-launching hit for The Rankin Family, the multi-platinum Celtic-folk-pop band from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia who led pop music’s “Celtic wave” of the 1990s. Singer/songwriter Jimmy Rankin will accept the song's induction honour during a virtual presentation from the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on Friday, September 4, airing nationally on Global’s The Morning Show beginning at 9 a.m. EST/ 10 a.m. ADT.
“Fare Thee Well Love is an exquisite example of songwriting,” said Vanessa Thomas, CSHF Executive Director. “The song’s haunting beauty and emotion transcends genre, time and space – and takes your breath away.”
Fare Thee Well Love, which was voted CBC listeners’ No. 1 East Coast Song of All Time, was the final cut recorded for The Rankin Family’s 1990 indie album of the same name. Jimmy had originally written the song as a solo, but quickly rewrote the lyrics as a duet for himself and his sister Cookie, which they sang live in front of a single microphone. Supporting their lead vocals were brother John Morris on piano and sisters Heather and Raylene on backing vocals. So impressive was the result that the song became the album’s title track that went gold before the end of 1992, crossed over to No. 1 on both RPM’s Canadian country and adult contemporary album charts; and by 1996 it reached quintuple platinum sales.
About his first big hit as a songwriter, Jimmy Rankin remembered, “For me personally, that’s the most special song on that record. At the time it really opened a lot of doors for the band because we were on commercial pop radio across the country.”
The Rankin Family sold 100,000 units as indie artists prior to signing with Capitol Records EMI Canada which re-released the album in 1992, choosing Fare Thee Well Love as a single for the radio market. Both the album and the single exploded onto Canada’s music scene mid-year, becoming cross-over hits on the country singles and country albums charts, as well as the adult contemporary singles, top singles, and top albums charts.
Fare Thee Well Love was a #1 hit on adult contemporary radio for two weeks - the first Canadian single to reach the top of the charts since Gino Vanelli's Wild Horses in 1978. It also won the Juno Award for Single of the Year in 1994 in addition to sweeping that year’s categories for Group of the Year, Country Group, and Canadian Entertainer of the Year. Fare Thee Well Love also won at the 1994 East Coast Music Awards for Video of the Year, along with four other awards for The Rankin Family.
Over his 30-year strong career, Jimmy Rankin has collaborated and recorded with such artists as John Prine, Keith Urban, The Chieftains and Alison Krauss. To date, the song has appeared on the group’s greatest hits album, The Rankin Family Collection (1996), and then was re-recorded for 2009’s These Are The Moments. Fare Thee Well Love has been covered by Ireland’s The Celtic Tenors and by countless international choirs, was featured on the soundtrack of the Disney film Into The West, and was performed by The Rankins during the 2015 regimental funeral of RCMP Constable David Wynn. Says Rankin, “I marvel at how the song has taken on a life of its own through the years.”