Gordon V. Thompson | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Gordon V. Thompson

Gordon V. (Vincent) Thompson. Songwriter, music publisher, b Humberstone (now part of Port Colborne, Ont, on Lake Erie) 9 Aug 1888, d Toronto 12 May 1965.

Thompson, Gordon V.

Gordon V. (Vincent) Thompson. Songwriter, music publisher, b Humberstone (now part of Port Colborne, Ont, on Lake Erie) 9 Aug 1888, d Toronto 12 May 1965. BA (Toronto), 1932 Several factors contributed to Thompson's gravitation towards songwriting in his teens: the singing at the missionary meetings of which his mother was an ardent supporter; a song publisher's advertisement soliciting compositions; and the convenience of a printshop owned by his brother. His 10 Life Songs (Revival Publishing Bureau 1909) were sold door-to-door by Thompson and his University of Toronto classmates as a means to finance their studies. Since the songs appealed strongly to the religious sentiments of Ontarians, some eventually sold over 100,000 copies. Cover photos show that singers like Arthur Blight, Harold Jarvis, H. Ruthven McDonald, and John M. Whyte featured them in their recitals. Five Heart Songs ('Sacred solos with bright piano settings') followed in 1911, introducing the Thompson Publishing Co of Toronto.

With his March National and Song National ('O Canada, Dear Canada!' with words by Martha Pugh), both issued in 1912, Thompson turned from religion to patriotism. This proved to be another financially rewarding field when, during the first years of World War I, the Canadian demand for wartime songs could be filled without US competition. In 1914 Thompson acquired the rights to 'For King and Country' by the Australian Robert Harkness, and sold about 100,000 copies. He later acknowledged Harkness as an inspiration for his own war songs. Their titles reflect the progress of the war: 'Where Is My Boy Tonight?' (1915), 'Red Cross Nell and Khaki Jim' (1916), 'When We Wind Up the Watch on the Rhine' (1917), 'For the Glory of the Grand Old Flag' (1918), and 'You Are Welcome Back at Home, Sweet Home' (1919). With the series of eight Songs of the Homeland (1915-16) Thompson added such songwriters as Jules Brazil and Lewis Owen to his catalogue.

In 1918 Thompson founded the Authors and Composers Association of Canada to protect the rights of songwriters and to lobby for changes in copyright legislation. This campaign was taken over later and broadened by the Canadian Authors Association founded in 1921 by J.M. Gibbon, B.K. Sandwell, and others. Thompson's work 1919-32 as manager of the Canadian branch of Leo Feist, a US music publisher, and as president of Gordon V. Thompson Ltd (founded in 1932) curtailed his songwriting. His last success, written for the Dionne sisters, the 'Quintuplets' Lullaby' of 1935, was followed by only a few songs, including 'In an Eastern Canadian Port' (1944) and 'Jesus is Lord' (1956), ending his production where it had begun, on a religious theme.

Thompson's ca 60 songs were written for the day and owed their success to their unabashed 'corniness' and guaranteed promotion. A list of those recorded up to 1930 may be found in Roll Back the Years. Thompson may be regarded as Canada's prime example of the songwriter-publisher.


'Recollections,' CME, vol 5, Mar - Apr 1964

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