TORONTO — Dolores Claman, the woman behind the catchy tune that used to introduce “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcasts, has died aged 94.
Claman’s daughter Madeleine Morris said on Saturday her mother died in Spain this week, about two years after she was diagnosed with dementia.
“She was in good, mature age and she had an incredible life,” Morris told The Canadian Press. “I’m in tears at times, but most of all I’m thankful she’s at peace.”
Born in Vancouver, Claman grew up with an opera singer as a mother, and attended the University of Southern California, before being admitted to New York’s Juilliard School to train as a performing concert pianist, Morris said.
By the time she graduated, Claman decided she’d rather be a composer and had developed a love for jazz, Morris recalled.
After graduation and the end of World War II, her mother moved to England and met and married Richard Morris.
They later moved to Toronto and wrote thousands of jingles together, including “A Place To Stand” with the popular lyrics “Ontari-ari-ari-o” for the 1967 Expo.
Claman was working for Maclaren Advertising in 1968 when she was hired to write the theme song that opened the broadcasts of “Hockey Night in Canada”.
She never expected the song, often referred to as Canada’s second national anthem, to become as successful as it did, and said she didn’t realize it was so popular until at least 10 years after the song’s debut.
“Some of my son’s friends at school loved me. They came to the door to see me. And it became more and more popular,” Claman told The Canadian Press in 2016.
“I wanted my name on it because I was watching hockey and at the end they say ‘lighting by’ and ‘best boy’. I called CBC and wrote to someone (there). They wouldn’t give it to me. They didn’t see any reason why.”
She eventually negotiated the credit before the licensing rights to the beloved song were sold to CTV in 2008, when Claman and the music agency representing her were unable to negotiate a deal with CBC’s sports department.
Claman was always happy with the song, but the attention it got seemed to surprise her, Morris said.
“She was pretty stunned when people started making a big fuss about it,” Morris said.
“I remember seeing her listening to a recording of it much later in life… She analyzed it and said, ‘I’m really proud of that. It was good, it was good for what it should have been.” “
The song earned her a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.
Morris recalls that her mother always had a deep love for music and said she often analyzed and commented on chord progressions or other elements of songs.
She also said her mother was a “strong feminist” and said that sexism in advertising never seemed to bother her.
“I just did what I do. The mostly men (who) worked with me were very nice,” Claman said in 2016, when discussing how she was one of the few women in her industry.
“I’ve rarely had a problem with them not wanting to work with a woman — well, a few times, but that’s fair enough. I was lucky enough not to worry about it at the time.”
But Morris recalled at least one incident, when Claman went out to dinner with a client in Toronto decades ago. The restaurant refused to serve Claman because women had to wear skirts and dresses. She wore an emerald green top and a bell bottom.
“She just stood there… in front of the maitre d’ and the whole table and just unzipped her pants and took them off,” Morris said.
The family will scatter her ashes in the park and in the Mediterranean because Morris said her mother loved to travel and admired the gardens in Britain’s Regent’s Park.
— with files from David Friend in Toronto
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 17, 2021.
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