Kids of Canadian Immigrants Who’ve Rocked Like Freddie Mercury
Immigration rocks! And rolls too.
Bet you didn’t know Queen’s late frontman's real name is Farrokh Bulsara, and where would Queen have been without its genre shattering lead? Who knows, had Mr. Bulsara and parents not schlepped from Zanzibar to Britain.
Canada too boasts music celebrities whose forebears come from away. There’s Able Tesfaye, slightly better known as The Weeknd. Nelly Furtado is of Portuguese descent. And who can forget worldwide rap star, Aubrey Graham? (He’s sometimes called Drake, btw.)
B.C.’s Carly Rae Jepson has Danish, English and Scottish lineages. The irreplaceable Gord Downie - from the iconic Tragically Hip – had Belfastian grand-parentage. Winnipeg songbird Chantal Kreviazuk’s part Ukrainian, Scottish, and First Nations. Many Canadian singers and bands have similar stories.
To celebrate ‘em all, along with brave immigrants worldwide, let’s warble a rousing round of Bohemian Rhapsody. Just open your eyes look up to the skies and see.
Here are three famous Canadian crooners born of newcomers that had to overcome big career hurdles as Freddie did.
The Weeknd (née Abel Makkonen Tesfaye)
This sensation was Toronto-born in 1990. His parents came here from Ethiopia. Kid’s been to a school of hard knocks. Early on dad said Goodbye everybody, I've got to go. Mom was intrepidly working multiple jobs to keep a roof overhead.
Young master Tesfaye never finished high school, admitting to being dangerously a little high, little low. Then in 2010, at age 20, he put up some songs on YouTube as The Weeknd. A year later came mixtapes. 2012 saw them rereleased as Trilogy after signing with Republic Records.
Now he’s a breakout singer, songwriter and record producer. Like Farrokh (Freddie) of Queen, Abel’s talent and grit conquered enormous odds. Sends shivers down your spine, eh?
Whoa, Nelly! (Nelly Furtado)
“Paint my face in your magazines/ Make it look whiter than it seems/ Paint me over with your dreams/ Shove away my ethnicity.”
Those f*** you lyrics are from this Victoria B.C. native’s global hits, Powerless (Say What You Want). About says it all for conformity pressures ethnic immigrants endure. Parents moved here from the Azores, an island chain of Portugal. Papa was a (rolling?) stonemason and landscaper, momma a hotel maid.
After high school, Nelly worked at an alarm company. Moonlighted as half a hip-hop duo. Her first solo album sold 2,000,000 copies! That year she snatched a Grammy for her song “I'm Like A Bird.” Managed to turn cultural heritage into an advantage. Is this the real life, is this just fantasy?
Drake (née Aubrey Drake Graham)
Bi-racial. One of the only minorities in his Forest Hills high school. Raised mainly by his Canadian white Jewish mom. Dad’s American, black and Catholic.
Aubrey’s got musical genes: Pops played drums for Jerry Lee Lewis (who got hitched to a 13-year-old cousin; mamma mia mamma mia AND oy vey). An uncle strummed a guitar for Sly and the Family Stone.
Seems adversity helped forge Aubrey and Mr. Mercury alike. Drake’s famously said "Nobody understood what it was like to be black and Jewish," adding "being different from everyone else just made me a lot stronger."
What’s left to say but congrats immigrants and your fabulous offspring! Galileo Figaro - Magnifico!