Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians: Steven Page. Co-Founder of the Barenaked Ladies

Singer-Songwriter, Producer, Musician

Steven Page Head and Shoulders

Steven Page


Online Music

Welcome to our weekly Sunday music section called

“Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians.”

By David Eisenstadt

TORONTO, Dec 5, 2021 – As co-founder of the iconic Canadian group Barenaked Ladies, Steven Page’s career soared until he left to pursue a solo career in February 2009. He was the primary songwriter, lead singer and guitarist, with a distinct and powerful voice.

Page was born in Toronto on June 22, 1970 to Jo-Anne (née Simmons) and Vic Page. Though Page’s father converted to Judaism to appease his mother’s parents, his maternal grandparents disowned Jo-Anne because of the mixed marriage.

His father and brother Matthew are drummers. Steven took piano lessons for 10 years, “which he claimed he never learned to play”, wrote Craig Jones in Canadian Musician.  He also sang in Toronto’s Mendelssohn Youth Choir.

Page attended Woburn Collegiate High School, befriending Ed Robertson. Both were Scarborough Schools Music Camp counsellors in the summer of 1988. They played a charity gig that year which led to naming their band, Barenaked Ladies.

Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Steven Page & Ed Robertson | The Junos Pre-Show with Tom Power

 >>> Click HERE to watch this video <<<


On Maroon (2000) and Everything to Everyone in 2003, Page wrote most of the songs.  Of the 113 tunes on the band’s primary studio albums (not including holiday or children’s albums) 97 are Page credited or co-credited with Robertson. In 2002, they shared a SOCAN International Achievement Award for “Pinch Me”.

Band members Kevin Hearn and Jim Creegan also wrote in their own voices.  Robertson often sang lead on his songs. That didn’t include “If I Had a Million Dollars” which highlighted a call and response lead vocal from Robertson and Page. On nine of the 11 tracks on Rock Spectacle, the band’s first album, Page sang lead.  

In 2009, concerned about his BL future, Page reluctantly was involved with the production of the Barenaked for the Holidays and Snacktime! recordings. He told the Ottawa Citizen‘s Heath McCoy that “it was fun to do, it wasn’t my idea.  I was along for the ride.”

Barenaked Ladies 002

Barenaked Ladies Reunion Performance | Juno Awards 2018

>>> Click HERE to watch the video <<<


With the band preparing to record a new album, Page wasn’t on really on board.  The Citizen‘s McCoy reported, “Page believed that his much-publicized drug arrest in Syracuse, NY hastened his already imminent split with the band.”

Page told the Boston Herald‘s Jed Gottlieb, “the band was no longer the joyous place it once was, but it hadn’t been joyous for a long time before that.  It wasn’t that we didn’t put on good shows, we still had a great time on stage. But it became a place where work was about the stress and not the end product.  And (the arrest and band tension) made me gather the strength to do what I always wanted to do.”

After he departed, Page wrote music for the Stratford Festival’s first production of Bartholomew Fair: A Comedy, in the summer of 2009.  His first solo release was A Singer Must Die, a studio recording of performed concert songs. He released Songbook II in 2010 and Songbook 6 in November 2011 with the Art of Time Ensemble. His 2010 release Page One, led to North American tours fronting the Goo Goo Dolls.

Page sang the Canadian national anthem at the National Hockey League’s 2011 Winter Classic and performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at former New Democratic Party (NDP) federal leader Jack Layton’s funeral in 2011.

A confirmed NDP member, Page said, “I grew up in a household where social justice was a fundamental value, and I always believed that it was also a fundamental Canadian as well as a central Jewish value.  I’ve watched how the term has been twisted and perverted by the Right over the past several years in an effort to diminish the voices of reason.  The open displays of racism and antisemitism, and the chants of ‘Jews Will Not Replace Us’, made me grab my guitar and tell them I’d be more than glad to replace them.”

In 2012, Page was nominated for a Genie Award for writing “A Different Sort of Solitude”, for the film French Immersion.  He also composed scores for six Stratford Festival plays and joined the Trans-Canada Highwaymen.  Page hosted The Illegal Eater, became a Chopped Canada Champion and was an Iron Chef Canada judge in 2019-20.

Page reconnected with the band in 2018 when they were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.  He told CBC’s Jesse Kinos-Goodin, “I hadn’t seen the other guys in years, so to be there with them with an audience cheering us on was deeply emotional.  Performing, that part for us is so natural.  To walk on and put my ear monitors in, it’s as if nothing had changed.  Obviously, personally, all kinds of things had changed… but for those moments, it felt just as natural as it did 15 years before that.”

Twice married and with three sons, Page splits his time between homes in Fayetteville, NY and Toronto. 

Music notes

Credits: stevenpage.com; q on cbc/YouTube; CBC Music/You Tube


A complete list of David Eisenstadt’s articles can be viewed under Music Online in the Category section.

Do you have comments or questions about this article? Contact David Eisenstadt at cjnonline@protonmail.com

David Eisenstadt

David Eisenstadt is Founding Partner of tcgpr.com the Canadian Partner of IPREX Global Communication and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.

Reader’s Comments

-Thanks for the article on Steven Page.It was sad for me when the Barenaked Ladies broke up. I don’t believe that the band has ever been the same… – SK, Thornhill, Ontario, Canada

-Yes, we remember his tunes and yes we remember him. – A&M B, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

-David, I think you have captured the versatilty of Steven’s musical talent with the Barenaked Ladies and beyond. He does have a strong sense of Jewish identity which is tied to his belief in social justice… – MK, Toronto, Canada


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The Last Sufganiyah. A Chanukah Story.

 
sufganiyot

By Alan L. Simons

TORONTO, December 1, 2021 – It was a miserable snowy November morning in Toronto, Canada. You know, one of those seasonal days that ‘The Old Farmer’s Almanac’ must have jumped up and down with joy in predicting. For it is they, who, in their wisdom, calculated for us robust Canadians a season of being “snowed in, sleeted on, slushed about, soaked, and otherwise generally soggy.” 

“This coming winter won’t be remarkable in terms of temperature, but for our Canadian friends who will end up just wanting to dry out, it will be a long season indeed,” Janice Stillman, the publication’s editor has been quoted as saying.

And if that wasn’t enough, I believe she added, with the utmost absolute rectitude for solemnity and conviction, British Columbia as the only province that will see a dry winter and experience “below-average precipitation and above-average temperatures throughout the season.”

Oh, dear! Tell that to British Columbians!

I must confess, further than wanting to give a pleasant festive touch to the opening lines of my story, other than the first sentence of my narrative all that followed up to now, is completely inconsequential to my tale, which takes place in Toronto’s United Bakers Dairy Restaurant.

Sadly, because of the COVID, I’ve only visited United Bakers, (UB to the initiated), on three occasions during the past two years. The last time, I’m happy to say, was just a few days ago.

It was, I do not mind confessing, a homecoming for me and my friend. No sooner had we dug deep into our pockets for our “Proof of Entry,” AKA “COVID-19 Proof of vaccination,” we were escorted to our booth, (no ordinary table with a wonky leg for us), where I swear, two coffees, one each, appeared out of nowhere.

As I looked around at the number of patrons scanning us – scanning is a major sport at UB, – my eyes were attracted to an elderly gentleman who, while eating his breakfast consisting of a scrambled egg, slices of cucumber and tomato, hash brown potatoes, coleslaw and a bagel, was wearing what seemed to be a very warm Norwegian Fongen Weatherproof Sweater. A sweater that’s advertised as having a “water-repellent wool, a breathable windproof liner made with a technical polyester/polyurethane blend and soft cuffs with thumb holes.” It was, obviously, just the right clothing for a morning’s breakfast at UB. My friend suggested the gentleman might have just arrived from the higher northern altitudes of “Der Hills,” as it is known by those of us living in the southern regions of the city.

Our new-found acquaintance wasn’t alone for very long. He stood up, his knife, in dramatic fashion, fell onto the floor with a clang and he was left with the dilemma of either picking up the knife or presenting himself to a rotund lady friend, her arms already fully extended, demanding from him a huge hug. The knife won!

Shortly afterward the two of them were joined by another lady who, in silence, sat next to the man, playing with her mobile phone, and taking not the slightest interest in the discussion. We wondered if she was a perfect stranger, who simply had the hots for Norwegian Fongen Weatherproof Sweaters.

For my friend and I, it was a difficult decision to make. You see, to be quite honest, we’re not into upscale Fongen-type sweaters. For us, years ago, we decided for the purposes of intercultural dialogue during this festive holiday, the Him and Her adorable red-nose reindeer hoodie ugly Christmas sweater would make much more of an impact, especially wearing it at UB among other members of the tribe. And on that day, earlier this week, we were spot-on!

One UB patron became so enamored with our two sweaters that he willingly offered to drive us to the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus Students’ Union office. As he remarked en route, two red-nose Jewish reindeer hoodie ugly Christmas sweaters might do much to improve the deplorable affairs currently existing there.

We never made it to Scarborough. On leaving UB we had forgotten to buy four huge sufganiyot. By the time we returned to UB, there was only one sufganiyah left. With snowflakes spreading the holiday spirit around us, my friend and I wasted no time in eating the round strawberry jelly doughnut in her car. Utterly delicious! Superbly decadent!

Photo credit: en.wikipedia.org

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