Songwriter Mike Ford
by Tanja Hütter
The Globe & Mail describes him as “rabble-rousing and Pythonesque” and “essential listening.” For his ability to put the [hi]story of Canada into an enjoyable medium that transcends age groups, we call him a History Hero.
Mike Ford is a Juno-nominated solo artist, and has released four acclaimed albums of Canadian history-inspired songs. Depending on your age, you may be better acquainted with his work as one-fourth of Moxy Früvous, the folk/rock/vaudeville group he headlined from 1989-2000. For the past ten years though, he has been crossing the country to emcee and perform his songs, including at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa for the 1914-1918 Vigil Project in 2008.
Below is a 12-minute interview with his former band mate Jian Ghomeshi, now a host and co-creator of Q on CBC Radio and TV. In this clip, they discuss Mike's inspiration and passion for his Canada Needs You High School tours. As a recipient of an education grant from the Ontario Arts Council, Mike visits schools to perform his compositions which fit with history curricula.
Mike Ford's success and popularity with his school program illustrates that history + music is a winning combination to grab students' attention and bring to life the personality and impact of figures in Canadian history. Figures like Joey Smallwood — for example — the controversial force behind bringing Newfoundland into Confederation.
He studied what would happen if they joined with Canada
Came back and told the people of the island what he saw
Flew a float-plane to each harbour with a microphone in hand
He had eyes on the back of his head - Joey Smallwood
It’s a good thing they invented radio
So he’d have something to talk on
A good thing they invented water
So he’d have something to walk on
— excerpt from Joey Smallwood, words & music by Mike Ford
A commenter on the YouTube site for the QTV clip observed last December that it was disappointing that all Mike's (school) shows are in Toronto, but great for those who live there.
We agree! It's been a couple of years since Mike passed through our Winnipeg offices while on tour promoting his (then) recently released CD Canada Needs You, Volume Two. We're thrilled that he accepted our invitation to launch our lecture series this October and bring his history-lovin' music to a Winnipeg crowd.
There are plenty of Moxy Früvous videos on YouTube you can find, but for a more intimate display of Mike's unscripted style, check him out performing Good old hockey game.