Chris Hadfield is a true Canadian hero, and it’s terrific that he’s going to be the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station.
Commander Hadfield’s accomplishments are literally astronomical. A genuine space cowboy, he’s exactly the kind of person we want young Canadians to emulate: resolute, brave, disciplined and adventurous – and a proud representative of our country whether he’s serving in Houston, Russia, or in orbit.
Did I mention creative? Commander Hadfield has creativity in abundance – but it’s a quality too seldom mentioned. Few know, for example, that Chris Hadfield can lay claim to being Canada’s first folk singer in space.
It’s true: When he gets a rare break from his duties, Hadfield likes nothing better than to play music, sitting in a kitchen, strumming guitars and singing songs. His brother Dave Hadfield is a well-known tunesmith and performer on the Ontario folk scene, and the brothers strum together whenever they can. There’s a photo on Dave’s website of his band – including Chris – playing the International Celtic Festival in Brittany, France.
In fact, Chris brought a song he co-wrote with Dave – a comical number about shopping at Canadian Tire – into space! It was debuted on one of Hadfield’s early flights to the International Space Station. He had brought a folding guitar for a German astronaut already aboard on an extended mission. Naturally, he got to play it as well. That’s how “Canadian Tire” joined songs by Canadian folk icons Stan Rogers and Gordon Lightfoot on Chris Hadfield’s extraterrestrial set-list.
I’ve met Dave Hadfield a bunch of times and like his work a lot. He’s a great guy. I’ve only met his brother, Commander Chris Hadfield once, but he left a telling impression.
It was in the parking lot of Discovery Channel Canada, where I used to work. I was arriving by car and saw Commander Hadfield walking out of the building, presumably after an interview.
I had my door open and was scrambling out practically before I’d brought the car to a screeching halt. “Commander Hadfield!” I said, and ran up to him with my hand extended. He seemed a little taken aback, maybe thinking “Oh, man, these Discovery Channel nerds are too much sometimes.”
“I’m a folk singer,” I said. “I just wanted to tell you how much it means to me that you’re Canada’s first folk singer in space!”
He grinned from ear to ear. I don’t think I could have given him a bigger compliment. His love for making music the old-fashioned way was evident as we chatted about Dave’s tunes, kitchen parties, and Lightfoot’s lyrics.
The line See the silver wing on high in Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain”, which Hadfield covered in space, has reminded me of his lofty missions ever since.
I’ll bet they’re going to have some great jams up there on the ISS, during the six months when Commander Hadfield will be in charge.
Please, give a warm round of applause for another great gig for Canada’s folk singer in space!
Photo credit: NASA with modifications by Kerrin McNamara