Rock music has always been a platform for artists to express themselves. But beyond the iconic guitar solos, flamboyant stage presence, and anthems of defiance, the genre is a treasure trove of stories and cultural diversity.
Today, we’re going to take a look at musicians we play on Rock 95 who have a special connection to Indigenous cultures.
The Band – Robbie Robertson
Robbie Robertson is Canadian and First Nations. His mother grew up on the Six Nations of the Grand River, near Brantford. Robertson spent many summers there as a youth. During that time, he learned about the ancient wonders and enduring responsibilities of his heritage.
Jimi Hendrix’s grandmother was part Cherokee, which Hendrix’s family continues to celebrate to this day. Throughout his prolific career, Hendrix’s background inspired both his music and his clothing.
The Tragically Hip – Gord Downie
The Tragically Hip‘s Gord Downie was heavily involved in Indigenous history. He and his brother Mike, along with the Wenjack family, founded the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund. The organization supports reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
The fund is a large part of Downie’s legacy and commitment to Canada’s First Peoples.
Chanie Wenjack was a young indigenous boy who tried to escape a residential school but died trying. Downie’s ‘Secret Path Project’ is based on this story.
In 2016, National Chief Perry Bellegarde honoured Downie with an eagle feather, a symbol of the creator above, for all of his support of the Indigenous peoples of Canada. He also received an honorary aboriginal name, Wicapi Omani, which is Lakota for “man who walks among the stars”.
Jackson Browne – Jesse Edwin Davis
Jesse Edwin Davis, the guitarist for Jackson Browne, was a Native American. His dad’s ancestry was a blend of Comanche, Seminole, and Muscogee (Creek), and his mother was a Kiowa.
In 2018, Jesse was inducted into the Native American Music Hall Of Fame.
Ozzy Osbourne – Randy Castillo
Ozzy Osbourne’s drummer, Randy Castillo, had native ancestry. Randy Castillo, who passed away in 2002 was a mixed-race Apache Native American. He was also a drummer for Moltey Crue.
These are just some of the artists who remind us that rock ‘n’ roll is not confined to a single narrative. It thrives on the diversity of human experiences. Their connection to Indigenous roots adds depth and dimension to the genre, serving as a testament to the power of music to bridge cultural divides and unite people through the universal language of melody and rhythm.
As we continue to celebrate the music that has shaped generations, let us also honor these rock musicians, whose Indigenous backgrounds have contributed to the vibrant mosaic of rock ‘n’ roll, reminding us that the world of music is as diverse and inspiring as the stories of those who create it.