Tom Cochrane & Red Rider

Tom Cochrane & Red Rider. Toronto rock band, active 1976-90. Formed by the guitarist Ken Greer and others, it was initially active in local clubs such as the El Mocambo. Tom Cochrane (singer, songwriter, guitarist, b Lynn Lake, Man, 14 May 1953; D MUS (Brandon) 2005) joined in 1977.

Tom Cochrane & Red Rider

Tom Cochrane & Red Rider. Toronto rock band, active 1976-90. Formed by the guitarist Ken Greer and others, it was initially active in local clubs such as the El Mocambo. Tom Cochrane (singer, songwriter, guitarist, b Lynn Lake, Man, 14 May 1953; D MUS (Brandon) 2005) joined in 1977. Cochrane, who had previously recorded Hang on to Your Resistance (1974, Daffodil Records-10043), soon emerged as the Red Rider's frontman. The observant social commentary and strong craftsmanship of Cochrane's songs, respected the contemporary folk tradition that was central to the band's identity and highlighted his earnestly expressive singing.

Recording for Capitol, the band released four albums 1980-84: Don't Fight It (ST-12028), As Far As Siam (ST-12145), Neruda (ST-12226), and Breaking Curfew (ST-12317). Tom Cochrane & Red Rider (ST-12484) followed in 1986, and Victory Day (C1-26570) in 1988. The latter, its most successful album, included the Canadian hits "Big League" (No. 8 on the US Billboard top 100) and "Good Times" and sold more than 150,000 copies. Other popular Red Rider titles included "White Hot" (1980, No. 16, Billboard), "Lunatic Fringe" (1981), "Human Race" (1983) and "Boy Inside The Man" (1986), all reprised on the band's album The Symphony Sessions (C1-26574), recorded in concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in 1989.

In Canada, Red Rider's tours took it to clubs and small concert halls. The popularity of "Lunatic Fringe" in the US brought the band appearances there in the early 1980s as an opening act for the Kinks, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, and others. In 1989 it toured in Germany. Cochrane and Greer (b Toronto, 25 Jul 1954) were constant to Red Rider and worked with a succession of other musicians, among them the keyboard players Peter Boynton, Steve Sexton, and John Webster, the bass guitarists Jeff Jones and Ken "Spider" Sinnaeve, and the drummers Rob Baker, Graham Broad, and Randall Coryell. During these personnel changes the group changed their name to Tom Cochrane & Red Rider (1986).

Tom Cochrane & Red Rider received a Juno Award for group of the year in 1987 and Cochrane, as a solo artist, won the 1989 Juno award for composer of the year.

The group disbanded in 1990. Tom Cochrane resumed his solo recording career in 1991 with Mad Mad World (Capitol 97723), which was partly influenced by his trip to Africa with World Vision (covered on a MuchMusic TV special). The album included the major hit "Life is a Highway" and sales of the album exceeded 600,000 in Canada within its first nine months. With this album Cochrane became, at that time, one of only 13 Canadians to reach Canadian diamond certification (1 million copies). Red Rider album sales have averaged 60,000- 70,000 copies in the US (far below the US gold certification level of 500,000), but Mad Mad World and the single "Life is a Highway" were both certified gold in the US in 1992. The song was the No. 1 hit in Canada for six weeks, and peaked at No. 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The album's "No Regrets" peaked at No. 12 in Canada. Cochrane won four Juno awards in 1992, including album of the year, song of the year, male vocalist of the year, and songwriter of the year, as well as two SOCAN awards and an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) award.

The albums Ragged Ass Road (1995, included "Dreamer's Dream" and "Crawl"), the live acoustic Songs of a Circling Spirit (1997, included "Good Man Feeling Bad"), and X-Ray Sierra (1998, included "I Wonder") followed. Cochrane briefly reunited with Red Rider and released a collection of earlier Red Rider and solo Cochrane songs; Trapeze (2002) included two new songs "Pictures from the Edge" and "Just Like Ali." In 2003, Cochrane was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and participated in CBC TV Christmas special for the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. In 2005 he was recognized by the Canadian Music Industry Awards for his humanitarian efforts which included (with his wife Kathleen) a CBC-TV benefit concert for the victims of the 2004 tsunami. Cochrane's No Stranger (2006, included "Didn't Mean" and the Afghanistan-inspired "Rough and Tumble") featured several of his former bandmates, including Greer and Jones. In 2007, Cochrane was named an honorary colonel of the Canadian Air Force's "Nighthawks" Tactical Fighter Squadron, and in 2008 he received the Order of Canada.


Hang on to Your Resistance. Cochrane. 1974

Don't Fight It. Red Rider. 1979

As Far as Siam. Red Rider. 1981

Neruda. Red Rider. 1983

Breaking Curfew. Red Rider. 1984

Tom Cochrane & Red Rider. Cochrane with Red Rider. 1986

Over 60 Minutes with Red Rider. Red Rider anthology. 1987

Victory Day. Cochrane with Red Rider. 1988

The Symphony Sessions. Cochrane with Red Rider. 1989

Mad Mad World. Cochrane. 1991

Ashes to Diamonds. Red Rider and Cochrane. 1993

Ragged Ass Road. Cochrane. 1995

Songs of a Circling Spirit. Cochrane. 1997

X-Ray Sierra. Cochrane. 1998

Trapeze. Red Rider and Cochrane. 2002

No Stranger. Cochrane. 2006

Further Reading

  • Niester, Alan. "I'm just snapping a musical picture," Toronto Globe and Mail, 11 Apr 1983

    Reynolds, Bill. "Victory Day for Tom Cochrane," Canadian Musician, vol 10, Oct 1988

    Potter, Mitch. "Cochrane staying true to Everyman," Toronto Star, 17 Feb 1989

    Howell, Peter. "Life is a highway for rock 'n' roll hobo," Toronto Star, 22 Nov 1991

    LeBlanc, Larry. "Cochrane rides 'Highway' into States," Billboard, vol 104 no 26, 27 June 1992

    Bliss, Karen. "Tom Cochrane's sacred trust: Canadian vet returns with 'No Stranger' after eight years," Canadian Musician, vol 28 no 6, Nov-Dec. 2006

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