A little more than a decade ago Tom Cochrane was worried he might have ownership of his iconic song “Life is a Highway” unintentionally taken from him. Rascal Flatts had recorded the song for the “Cars” soundtrack, introducing it to a whole new generation.
But the song remains firmly in his grasp, and not only that the highway itself is his, too.
In October, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced a 300-kilometre portion of Provincial Road 391 — from Cochrane’s hometown of Lynn Lake to Thompson — was to be renamed Tom Cochrane’s Life is a Highway.
Cochrane called the renaming an unexpected honour, and plans to visit the road this summer.
“It’s going to be a real trip to actually get up there and explore the road,” he said, adding that he told the premier changing the speed limit would do wonders for tourism.
“There’d be a lot of people with fast cars with plaid shirts and fishing rods heading up to one of the best fishing areas in Canada.”
Since the Rascal Flatts version of “Life is a Highway” — which topped out at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, one spot below Cochrane’s original 14 years earlier — he’s continually had parents introduce him to their children as the man that wrote the song. Cochrane says that’s pretty cool and also flattering that people still credit him as the songwriter.
“I’ve always thought of myself as a writer first and foremost,” he said.
Cochrane has never been far from the spotlight on the Canadian music scene, but is now back in the middle of it with the 25th anniversary of his most successful album, “Mad Mad World.” A deluxe reissue of the album, which featured “Life is a Highway,” “No Regrets” and “Sinking Like a Sunset,” was released late last year and Cochrane is touring Canada this winter. He’s at the Canalta Centre tonight at 8 p.m., playing the entire “Mad Mad World” album and other fan favourites from his career.
A quarter of a century later Cochrane marvels at the success of “Mad Mad World,” which achieved the rare feat of selling more than 1 million copies in Canada.
“We’ll never see those times again,” Cochrane said of the sales numbers. “It’s one of those records that when you think about it, one out of every 30 or 25 Canadians had it.”
The story behind the album’s hit song is as rare as the album sales it managed. The song began as “Love is a Highway” but languished unreleased in a sort of musical purgatory.
Following a trip to Africa with World Vision, Cochrane says he needed a song that would be a pep talk to himself and “Life is a Highway” was born.
“It ended up a pep talk to millions of other people and it just keeps going,” he said.
World Vision is just one of the many charitable groups Cochrane with which works. He’s long been interested in what’s going on in troubled parts of the world, even before his music career took off, at one time wanting to be a foreign correspondent.
“I’ve always felt that in spite of the way it’s being bandied around these days that journalism is the cornerstone of freedom and truth, that, good journalism that is, is about truth and getting facts to people and keeping the world on an honest course,” he said. “I always felt there was nothing more noble that going to a foreign country that was in trouble, in danger, a war zone or whatever and reporting back the truth.
Alas, Cochrane became a music superstar and uses that status to help. He says on each trip he’s moved by the kids and the other people he meets.
“It sort of galvanizes your role to help seeing how dedicated World Vision is,” Cochrane said. “I’ve been rewarded by it because it’s made me a better person and it’s fueled my batteries. It gives you a different perspective on life and it really makes you appreciate what we’ve got in Canada and in the free world and not to take that for granted.”
On this side of the ocean, Cochrane, who played at Desert Blume in the Canadian senior men’s golf championship in 2015, says he always enjoys coming back to Medicine Hat, saying he feels right at home.
“It seemed like back in the Red Rider days it kept us alive because we were there every second week in Alberta and it’s an incredibly supportive province,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad show in Medicine Hat, the crowds have been incredible and I expect the same this time.”
Meghan Patrick will open the show.
Tickets $49,50-69.50 plus services charges and GST, are available at http://www.ticketmaster.ca, by phone at 1-855-985-5000 or in person at the Canalta Centre box office.