Humble beginnings beget a humble man. So it is with Tom Cochrane.
Born in Lynn Lake, Manitoba, the son of a bush pilot, Cochrane set the stage for his future at 11 years old when he swapped a toy train set for his first guitar. It was an acquisition that no doubt sparked a number of dreams and visions holding court onstage in front of rapt thousands; driving down the highway as his own song played on the radio. But it's a safe bet he never imagined he'd see his name etched into pavement.
"Kind of humbled and embarrassed at first," says Cochrane about his reaction to being inducted into the Walk of Fame. "Then I thought about how proud my girls Kathy, Cody and Evanne would be, and all my family, friends and supporters. It's quite an honour, hopefully they feel proud."
Cochrane has had a lot of hits, but none is as well known as "Life Is A Highway," a track that pushed his 1991 LP, Mad, Mad World, to very rare diamond status in Canada, with one million copies sold. It's a true everyman hit populist, plain-spoken, working-class rock, delivered with a voice full of grit and passion that you believed. Maybe that's because by that time Cochrane knew all about long roads. In 1991, he had already spent nearly 20 years as an artist.
He began performing folk-oriented material in the early 1900s in the Yorkville neighbourhood of Toronto also the birthing ground for the careers of Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell. A few years of struggle, travel, paying dues (and cab driving) followed, but a turning point came when Toronto band Red Rider took Cochrane on as lead singer/songwriter.
The 1980s began with Red Rider releasing four acclaimed studio albums in succession. This is momentum peaked with the track "Lunatic Fringe," which went on to become one of the most-played songs in history on American Rock radio. After a lineup change, 1986 saw the band resurface as Tom Cochrane & Red Rider. With hits like "Boy Inside The Man" and "Untouchable One," Cochrane's songwriting was on a roll. "I had always approached my work as if it was timeless," says Cochrane, and few songs in his canon better display this than 1988's haunting "Big League." Both tragic and inspirational in the same breath, "Big League" packed all the tear-jerking, fist-pumping drama of a two-hour Hollywood blockbuster into a taut four minutes. That the big league in question was hockey (and not, say, baseball) only added to its significant homeland appeal.
Although Red Rider soon folded, Cochrane's new solo career quickly took him further than ever before. Mad Mad World was only the beginning. In the nearly two decades since that LP was released, Cochrane has reached numerous milestones another four solo albums, greatest hits collections, six JUNOs and 15 more nominations, and a 2003 induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Throughout his career, Cochrane has thrown his considerable support behind a wide range of worthy causes. He has travelled to Africa on behalf of World Vision four times, and has been a key player in both the Make Poverty History campaign and the World Society for the Protection of Animals. But of all of his legacies, perhaps the most significant is the respect he commands from those who have followed in his path.
Whether it's radiorock kings Nickelback, Canuck road warrior Sam Roberts or even underground indie-rocker Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene (who surprised the hipsters by seeking out Cochrane to appear on his solo single and video "Lucky Ones"), many cite him as a transformative force in Canadian music. And now that Cochrane has his own star on our Walk of Fame, this humble prairie-boy-at-heart can truly say he has left his mark.
"Hey, it's gonna be there for a long time, long after I'm gone physically from this place," Cochrane enthuses. "I once drove a cab in this town best education I ever got. Now I can drive by there and say, Look, I left a mark.'
An avid golfer, pilot and hockey buff, Cochrane lives in Oakville, Ontario and spends summers at his cottage/studio on the shores of Georgian Bay in Northern Ontario and winters part time at his home outside of Austin, Texas.
Tom and his wife Kathleene have two daughters, Cody Deane Cochrane and Evanne.
Cochrane continues to tour and perform in Canada where he remains one of the country's most popular live acts.