Singer / Songwriter / Author, If Dreams Had Wings Music Ltd. & I Am My Father’s Son Records Inc. Born: Oakville, ON.
Dan Hill is a Juno and Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter. Over the span of his 35-year career, he was won numerous awards and written hit songs for Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Jully Black, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, 98 Degrees, The Backstreet Boys, Joe Sealy and George Benson, to name a few. Combined units of Dan’s songs, between his own recordings and his multitude of covers, have soared well beyond $100 million. This versatile musician is also a published author.
Born in Toronto to a social scientist and civil servant, Dan’s parents were an American interracial couple who fled the intolerant social climate of the United States to raise their family in Canada.
At a very young age, Dan realized that he was endowed with two gifts. His first gift was musical: He had an unusually advanced ear for music, and a very good singing voice. His second gift was literary: He had a way with words. He struggled with what his teachers coined “reading comprehension”, but when it came to writing stories, essay and articles, his work was singled out as the most well-written, and the most interesting. But he was placed in the “slow learners” section of the class, so by age 7, he decided to ignore whatever he was struggling with and concentrate on and develop his talents. He began studying classical guitar at the age of 11 and by the time he was 14, was writing his own songs. In his late teens, Dan was playing small professional gigs in coffee houses and upon completing Grade 12, he was signed to RCA as a recording artist.
In 1975, just four years after leaving high school, Dan released his first album – the self-titled, Dan Hill. The album produced a string of firsts for him: The first release from the album, “You Make Me Want to Be (A Father)” was his first Canadian hit single; earning him his first Juno award for ‘Most Promising Male Singer’ in 1976.
His second LP, Hold On was released in 1976, and in 1977 his third album, Longer Fuse galvanized Dan’s reputation as a sought-after singer and songwriter. “McCarthy’s Day” chronicled his racial background, while the romantic second single, “Sometimes When We Touch”, shot to #1 on Canadian charts, peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and went on to sell over 10 million copies worldwide. Longer Fuse went triple-platinum in Canada and achieved platinum status in the U.S. As a result, in 1978, Dan won three Juno Awards: Best Composer, Best Male Singer, and Best-Selling Album. He received yet another Best Composer Juno in 1979 for “Sometimes When We Touch”. (The song has since been covered by many artists like, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Barry Manilow, Tammy Wynette, Lynne Anderson, Donny Osmond, Rodney Crowell and Roseanne Cash, to name a few.)
In 1987, Dan’s eighth album, Dan Hill, produced the hit single “Can’t We Try”. The duet featured Vonda Shepard, reaching #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Song of the Year. Then in 1989, a female singer named Céline Dion, then largely unknown in English Canada, released her first successful radio single in Canada: “Can’t Live With You,” a duet with Billy Newton Davis, which Dan had co-written. Dan later won a Grammy for his songwriting and production work on Céline’s English language breakthrough album, Falling Into You. Despite his recent accolades, Columbia Records dropped him from their roster after his ninth studio album, Real Love, failed to generate enough sales. Ironically, his “best of” album, The Dan Hill Collection – released the same year – went platinum upon release.
By the late 90s, Dan had lost some of his passion for recording. When he was diagnosed with diabetes in 1996, the need to pay more attention to his health and a desire to spend more time with family cemented his decision to pursue songwriting.
Dan wrote music steadily until his father’s death in 2003. Mired in pain and loss, Dan tapped into the hurt. Thousands of hours and pages later, his first novel, I Am My Father’s Son (A Memoir of Love and Forgiveness) was born. The critically-acclaimed memoir chronicled the difficult and poignant relationship Dan had had with his father.
While dealing with the loss of his father, Dan also endured a tumultuous period with his only son, David, who had naïvely wandered into a dangerous world, which almost destroyed the whole family. The terrifying ordeal was the subject of Maclean’s magazine’s captivating cover story, “Every Parent’s Nightmare” in 2008.
After nearly a decade of hiatus from recording music, Dan returned to the spotlight once again in 2009 to record Intimate. Comprised of a blend of familiar hits he penned for other artists, as well as some never before heard tracks, the album is his first to feature new material since 1996. His impetus for recording again was to prove to himself that while he’s proud of his past work, he still had the ability to evolve as an artist. Dan is currently working with Joe Sealy on Africville, for which the songs will be expanded into an educational series for the school district.
In his spare time, Dan is an avid runner. He is also a supporter of the Canadian Diabetes Association and World Vision.
Family: Dan’s father, Daniel G. Hill, III, was a World War II veteran, social scientist, civil servant and author. He would later become the first director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission; he also served as the province’s ombudsman, and was granted the Order of Canada. Dan’s sister, Karen, is an admired poet, and his brother, Lawrence, is an esteemed author, whose credits include the best-selling memoir, Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada and the Giller-nominated 2007 novel, The Book of Negroes.
Works: Articles: More than a dozen including articles featured in The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Canadian Musician and Canadian Running magazines. Albums: Dan Hill (1975); Hold On (1976); Longer Fuse (1977); Frozen in the Night (1978); If Dreams Had Wings (1980); Partial Surrender (1981); Love in the Shadows (1983); Dan Hill (1987); Real Love (1989); The Dan Hill Collection (1989); Dance of Love (1991); Let Me Show You (Greatest Hits and More, 1994); I’m Doing Fine (1996); Love of My Life (The Best of Dan Hill, 1999); Intimate (2010). Cover singles: Country: “Sometimes When We Touch” – Tammy Wynette and Mark Gray (1986); “Love of My Life” – Sammy Kershaw (1997); “I Do (Cherish You)” – Mark Wills (1998); “She’s in Love” – Mark Wills (1998); “Maybe Not Tonight” – Sammy Kershaw and Lorrie Morgan (1999); “When You Love Someone” – Sammy Kershaw (1999); “Back Before the War” – Reba McEntire (1999); “There Ya Go” – Alan Jackson (2004); “To Be With You” – Jamie O’Neal (2000); “I Have Always Loved You” – Kathy Mattea (2000). Pop Covers: Including “In Your Eyes” – George Benson, and Jeffrey Osborne (1983); “Can’t Live with You” – Celine Dion and Billy-Newton-Davis (1989); “Wishful Thinking” – Celine Dion and Dan Hill (1989); “Seduces Me” – Celine Dion (1996); “I Do (Cherish You)” – 98 Degrees (2000); “I Promise You” – Backstreet Boys (2000); “Slowly” – Michael Bolton (2002); “When I Found You” – Britney Spears (released internationally, 2002); “The Human Spark” – Michael W. Smith (2005); “Open Your Eyes” – Nick Lachey (2003); “Waiting Just for You” – Ginette Rineau (2001); “Sometimes When We Touch” – covered by too many artists to name.
Honours: Including, 5 Juno Awards; One Grammy; 6 ASCAP Awards for; 1 “Outstanding Radio Airplay in America”; 5 SOCAN Awards for “Outstanding Airplay in Canada”; The Harold Moon Award (Canada’s most prestigious music award, handed out annually to a songwriter who has made an exceptional contribution to international songwriting); inclusion in Who’s Who in Black Canada (1st & 2nd editions, 2002 & 2006).
Favourite book? Too many books to have a favourite; that’s like trying to name my favourite Stevie Wonder song. However, I loved David Remnick’s recent biography of President Obama. I believe it’s titled, The Promise.
Favourite quote? “A man has as many selves as he has situations.”
Given the chance, what would you love to do that you haven’t done yet? Write a best selling novel or non-fiction piece that would dazzle the world.
Who inspires you? My father (who died in 2003) and my younger brother, Larry.
Why do you do what you do? I believe we all suffer from a lack of connection. That we find our selves sometimes seeking out self-destructive things to fill the void due to our lack of connection with 1) ourselves 2) other people. I feel my job as a songwriter/singer and author is to connect with people, and to help them re-connect with themselves and the people they love.