A Highway Full of Memories

Artist: Tom Cochrane
Published: 2005-04-20

Who sells their toy train set at the mere age of eleven? A little boy that really wants to raise money for his first guitar of course.

That little boy definitely made the right choice because eventually when he grew into a man, he made use of his early developed guitar skills to shake the world with his emotionally-driven rock songs. And that man is Manitoba native Tom Cochrane.

Tom was interested in music at a young age and was influenced by artists like The Beatles, Robert Johnson, Van Morrison, Neil Young, The Byrds, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, The Band, Bruce Cockburn, Bach, Debussy, and Joni Mitchell. He started out playing in coffee shops in the 70's until he secured a record deal in '73 with Daffodil Records.

While Tom kept working on his musical career he worked normal day jobs like a delivery man and dishwasher. However, things were about to change one fateful night at the Toronto club, El Mocambo.

Tom ran into a bunch of local musicians that called themselves Red Rider. They agreed to let Tom audition to sing for their band and soon he was their lead singer and songwriter.

Tom and Red Rider concocted a cluster of hits while being signed to Capitol Records. Their debut disc, Don't Fight It, spawned the hit singles "White Hot" and the title track.

Tom and Red Rider went on to score more hits with the songs "Lunatic Fringe", "As Far As Siam" and "Power (Strength in Numbers)." Still, Tom wasn't well-known internationally but that was about to change with one song.

Tom soon became a household name in Canada (and beyond) thanks to his hit "Life Is A Highway." The song is about living life to the fullest which Tom says he tries to do. "It's about what you aspire to be, what you remind yourself to be, and who you really are," he says.

The track was off the album Mad Mad World. "Life Is A Highway" was nominated Song of the Year by SOCAN in 1991 and Mad Mad World generated several more hits. The album eventually sold 1,000,000 copies in Canada and in turn ended up earning Tom a bunch of Juno Awards.

It's no shock that Mad Mad World was successful because Tom enjoys writing music so much.

He finds it cleansing. "Making music is a form of therapy and through that it becomes therapeutic for the listener," he says. "And when I make music it must be somewhat honest to have the necessary impact."

Tom says music is all very symbolic. "The phrase 'physician heal thyself' is a phrase that comes to mind. Making music is not only cheaper than seeing a therapist, but indeed I have been lucky enough to make a very good living off of it."

Tom says the song that is closest to his heart is "Big League." The song is about an aspiring young hockey player that ends up losing his life in a tragic car accident. "It's a true story and it is distinctly a Canadian story," he says.

It is no shock that such an honest and heartfelt song was written by Tom, because despite his successful career he stay's homegrown and down-to-earth. He isn't your typical pretentious rock star. He doesn't mind getting his hands dirty and getting to the heart of the matter. And despite his good fortune he is still trying to make this world a better place for everyone else.
This is apparent when you read about Tom's adamant involvement with World Vision.

World Vision is an international Christian relief and development organization that works to promote the well being of all people, especially children. World Vision offers material, emotional, social, and spiritual support to the community.

Tom has visited some of the most troubled places in the world on behalf of World Vision and he speaks openly of his charity work. "I got involved sometime back in 1988 or 89 when my friend Skip Prokop asked me to co-host a radio show for the 24 hour famine," said Tom.

"My involvement with them kind of grew from there and through my increasing participation and I came to appreciate their diligent, humble and extremely effective approach to world relief. Particularly in Africa where I have made five life altering trips with them. I feel extremely privileged to in some small way help World Vision save lives." Tom says World Vision is one of the most omnipresent and effective organizations when it comes to helping people and is currently planning a trip this spring to Africa for World Vision.

In terms of other plans Tom has many, big and small. "Aside from various charity concerns and committee commitments, I [went] to Ottawa at the end of November [2004] to lobby for the ratification of the WIPO and WPPT (World Intellectual Properties Organization and the World Publishers and Performers treaty)." Tom says he would like to help some other younger artists realize their potential through production and management. "I am also currently working on a new record that will hopefully be released in the spring or summer."

Tom says although recording a new album can be grueling there are many rewards to reap from making music. "Bringing joy through my music to people and seeing, feeling and hearing them respond to that and making people feel less alone in the world through music really. That is what it's all about," Tom says.

Besides helping others feel good through his music, Tom has other endeavors to be proud of. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame on April 5, 2003, which Tom said was "awesome." "It was a vindication of sorts," he says. "I think what surprised me the most is that even though I have not been at the Juno's for a couple of years, how much respect I had from younger artists such as Sam Roberts , Nickelback , Remy Shand, and Alanis Morissette. Both Sam and Nickelback told me that the first songs they learnt were Red Rider songs. Man, that's humbling."

Writer: Sabrina Albis

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