Before going into the top 10 Lighthouse songs, let’s dig a bit into the Canadian rock band’s history. Originally, it was founded by Paul Hoffert and Skip Prokop in 1969 after the two musicians met on a flight between New York City and Toronto, Ontario. Prokop was with the Paupers prior to teaming up with Hoffert to form a band that featured a variety of musical sounds to adopt as their own. Those sounds included classical strings, jazz, and rock.
Added to the lineup was a guitarist named Ralph Cole, as well as a collection of musicians that included members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Together, the band made its first demo recording and had this brought to MGM Records in New York. It was good enough to secure a contract with the label but a manager managed to have Lighthouse sign with RCA Victor instead.
Love At First Light
Lighthouse earned its name after making a debut performance on May 14, 1969, at a popular Toronto club known as The Rock Pile. When Duke Ellington introduced the thirteen-man band to the audience, he unofficially labeled them “Lighthouse.” From there, the name stuck as Lighthouse continued to rise in popularity in Canada, as well as the United States. One of the group’s first rock concerts in the US was at New York City’s Carnegie Hall.
In June 1969, Lighthouse became the band’s debut album. It met with success, along with Lighthouse’s first single, “If There Ever Was a Time.” This would lead to the recording and release of Suite Feeling in November 1969. Despite the group’s rising popularity at the time, when offered to perform at the infamous Woodstock Festival, it was an invite that was turned down as the group was already committed to other engagements at the time. Lighthouse did, however, perform at a series of festivals that included Expo ’70, the Strawberry Fields Festival, and the Isle of Wight Festival. There were highly publicized concert events that took place in 1970 that kept Lighthouse in the spotlight as a rockin’ fan favorite.
What made Lighthouse stand out at the time was the unique brand of rock and roll music it brought to a fan base that was drawn to the unique blend of different musical styles working as one. However, by the time 1970 was over, Lighthouse was dropped from RCA Victor after experiencing less-than-ideal record sales. In addition to changing labels, Lighthouse also made adjustments to its lineup as it was downsized from thirteen musicians to eleven. In the process, Bob McBride was brought on board as Lighthouse’s new lead vocalist.
The Second Light
Now with Bob McBride as lead singer, Lighthouse recorded and released One Fine Morning as its fourth studio album in 1971. The title track became the group’s biggest hit to date as it became a number two hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart as well as certified platinum by Music Canada. This was followed by “Hats Off to the Stranger,” which became a number nine hit in Canada, as well as certified gold.
At the time, Lighthouse was among the busiest bands between studio recordings and concert tours. It also made a name for itself as one of the first rock groups to perform with a symphony orchestra. While touring across Canada, Lighthouse and Winnipeg’s Ballet High teamed up together in what has been viewed as an innovative approach to win over a live audience.
Lighthouse’s fifth studio album, Thoughts of Movin’ On, was also released in 1971. It produced three additional singles for the group starting with “Taking It Slow (Out In the Country).” This was followed by “I Just Wanna Be Your Friend” and “I’d Be So Happy.” This album, along with One Fine Morning, would later become certified platinum by Music Canada after surpassing the 100,000 copies sold mark.
Still riding on the high of peak popularity, Lighthouse proceeded to record live in February 1972 at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Lighthouse Live! became the first Canadian album to become certified platinum, even though this was recorded and released after the two 1971 albums that were already produced. After this, Lighthouse went back to the recording studio to produce Sunny Days. The album’s title track became yet another top-ten hit for the group. It also joined “One Fine Morning” to become certified platinum.
By the time 1972 was over, Lighthouse had its first greatest hits album released. One Fine Light was a double album that featured the best of the group’s musical material that was recorded up to this point. As for Hoffert, the band’s grueling schedule on the road prompted him to leave the lineup but stay on as its executive producer. In 1972, 1973, and 1974, Lighthouse appeared unstoppable as it won three Juno Awards in a row as the Canadian nation’s Group of the Year.
While Lighthouse was experiencing the peak of its popularity as a rock group, it was met with a series of lows that would spark some necessary changes to be made. Due to Bob McBride’s no-show in New York City for the recording of Lighthouse’s seventh studio album, Can You Feel It, Prokop and his bandmates had no choice but to continue without him. Taking over as lead vocalist with the exception of Dale Hillary’s “No More Searching,” Prokop performed what became one of Lighthouse’s most popular songs. It was felt by the producer at the time, Jimmy Lenner, whoever wrote “Pretty Lady” as a song should be the man to sing it. That man was Skip Prokop.
This single, along with the album, became certified gold by Music Canada. After this, 1974’s Good Day became Lighthouse’s eighth studio album. By this time, the role of lead vocalist was split between Prokop and Ralph Cole. However, Prokop’s preference was to play full-time guitar. Although this recording became certified gold by Music Canada, it marked the beginning of the end for Lighthouse as a big hitmaker. Its title track peaked as high as number nineteen and it wouldn’t be until 1996 that Lighthouse would experience another single that would become a top forty hit. “Remember the Times,” when it was released from Song of the Ages, peaked as high as number twenty-two on the Canadian Adult Contemporary Songs chart.
After Good Day, Lighthouse was about to work on its next studio album but a restless Skip Prokop decided he had enough. He opted out of the band, which led to the band’s decision to abandon its latest recording project. In 1975, Best of Lighthouse became the group’s second compilation album as it focused on the best musical material it released since its 1969 startup.
This became certified gold by Music Canada. As executive producer, Paul Hoffert worked with Ralph Cole in an attempt to restore Lighthouse back to its former glory. Doug Billard took over as the band’s new lead vocalist but by the time 1976 was over, it was lights out for one of Canada’s most elite rock groups in history. Since then, there have been reunions and revivals that include a series of concert tours spanning from 1978 until 1982.
As for Lighthouse’s core lineup when it was at its prime, it was never the quite same until Cole, Hoffer, McBride, and Prokop reunited in 1992. However, McBride’s return was short-lived as he was once again dropped from Lighthouse’s active roster as it appeared he had yet to conquer the same demons that plagued him in 1972. Replacing him as lead vocalist was Dan Clancy. Together, this Lighthouse lineup released Song of the Ages and “Remember the Times” as its first new batch of recordings since 1974. In 1995, Lighthouse was inducted into the Canadian Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Even after 1974, the legacy of Lighthouse continued to influence pop culture as the years went on. Paul Hoffert became a film composer whose contribution to the 1978 cult hit Outrageous! earned him a Genie Award. He also became a prized author who wrote five books that peered into the fusion of culture and technology. While he kept himself busy with his endeavors, Skip Prokop and Ralph Cole continued with their musical careers, either as solo artists or with new bands they’d form along the way.
As for Howard Shore, this saxophonist became a music director for Saturday Night Live, as well as one of the film industry’s favorite musical composers. He personally won three Academy Awards for his contribution to The Lord of the Rings and its three blockbuster movies. Despite his battle with substance abuse, Bob McBride became a popular session singer whose vocals were often used in several commercials. This continued until his personal addictions caught up with him and claimed his life on February 20, 1998. Another unfortunate event was the passing of Skip Prokop on August 30, 2017. Since then, his son, Jamie, has Lighthouse’s lineup as the current band roster continues to keep the legacy of this incredible rock group going.
Top 10 Songs from Lighthouse
#10 – Chest Fever
Originally performed by The Band, “Chest Fever” was a song Skip Prokop and his Lighthouse bandmates covered while recording Suite Feeling in November 1969. While The Band’s 1968 version of Music from Big Pink became a North American cult classic, Lighthouse’s 1969 recording became a fan favorite as a France-only release. It came from the group’s second studio album, Suite Feeling. While The Band’s version remains on top as the all-time favorite, Lighthouse’s performance was no slouch, either. Because Lighthouse’s lineup at the time featured a collection of performers experienced with the genres of classical, blues, jazz, pop, soul, and rock, their version of “Chest Fever” sounds like an orchestral masterpiece.
#9 – If There Ever Was a Time
On the Canadian Top Singles Chart, “If There Ever Was a Time” became a number twenty-four hit for Lighthouse. Its debut in 1969 met with success that spiked the group’s popularity which began its roots in Toronto, Ontario that same year. Adding to the appeal of this song, as well as Lighthouse as a rock group was the mix of various styles such as classical and jazz into its musical repertoire. It was a formula that worked well as Ralph Cole and Skip Prokop introduced to the world a brand of rock music the audience hadn’t heard before.
“If There Ever Was a Time” started off as a jazzy gem with its opening piano performance before slipping into a contemporary rock performance that had no trouble wowing the audience. Vic “Pinky” Dauvin was the lead vocalist behind this classic gem before he was replaced in 1970.
#8 – Take It Slow (Out In the Country)
“Take It Slow (Out In the Country)” was a song Lighthouse single recorded and released in 1971 from the group’s fifth studio album, Thoughts of Movin’ On. On the Canadian Top Singles Chart, it became a number twelve hit, as well as a BMI Canada Limited Certificate of Honor award winner. It also became certified gold, thanks to the vocal performance of Bob McBride and the musical composition put together by Ralph Cole, Keith Jollimore, and Larry Smith.
This song, as well as the album, played an instrumental role in Lighthouse’s recognition as Canada’s Vocal Instrumental Group of the Year, as well as McBride’s award win for Outstanding Male Performance. As a song, McBride expressed the need to get away from the noise of the city in a quest to venture out to the country. If you’re looking for a pick-me-up classic, “Take It Slow” would make a great choice.
#7 – I Just Wanna Be Your Friend
From Lighthouse’s fifth studio album, Thoughts of Movin’ On, “I Just Wanna Be Your Friend” was one of three singles to become a hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart. It peaked as high as number fifty-four as a modest hit. In 1972, Bob McBride and Skip Prokop received a BMI Canada Limited Certificate of Honor for a single that became one of Lighthouse’s most popular songs. This one came from the group’s fifth studio album, Thoughts of Movin’ On, which was released in 1971.
Throughout the majority of Lighthouse’s career as a recording artist, what made the group from Ontario so appealing was the jazzy, orchestra-style performance by a talented group of musicians who never seemed to hold anything back. McBride sang about the preference to be a friend instead of a love interest and was beautifully backed by the supporting vocals of Prokop and the instrumental performances from Ralph Cole, Paul Hoffert, and the rest of the Lighthouse crew.
#6 – Reincarnate Nation
Unfortunately for Lighthouse, 1974 marked a year where this fantastic Canadian-based rock band had begun to play second fiddle to the surging popularity of disco music. Good Day marked the final album release of Lighthouse before Skip Prokop moved on to pursue other musical projects. “Reincarnate Nation,” although not released as a single, was an instrumental masterpiece. Up until now, Prokop primarily served as the group’s drummer. He switched instruments to play the guitar full-time and was replaced by another incredibly talented drummer, Billy King.
The album itself had Ralph Cole and Skip Prokop split the role of lead vocalist now that Bob McBride was no longer part of the lineup. While “Got A Feeling” was no doubt another Good Day classic from Lighthouse, “Reincarnate Nation” marked the perfect closer to the wild ride of a rock group that won so many fans nationally and internationally. It also served as a beacon of light, so to speak that not even the trend of disco music at the time would be enough to snuff out one of the most creative and talented musical groups of all time.
#5 – Hats Off (To the Stranger)
“Hats Off to the Stranger” was a single released as a follow-up behind Lighthouse’s biggest hit to date, “One Fine Morning.” This 1971 hit peaked as high as number nine on the Canadian Top Singles Chart, making it the second single in a row for the Ontario-based rock group to experience a top-ten hit in its home nation. This gem of a song beautifully fused what makes jazz so appealing with a rock sound that made “Hats Off” one of the best and most unique ever recorded.
The talent pool of Lighthouse seemed to really be at its best with this classic as Bob McBride demonstrated why he was one of the music industry’s best lead vocalists at the time. As an album, One Fine Morning deservedly became certified platinum by Music Canada as songs like “Hats Off” not only won over Lighthouses’s Canadian fan base but worldwide as well. Bob McBride, Peter McGraw, and Skip Prokop worked together on this song’s wonderful musical composition and lyrics. Listening to “Hats Off” was a great feel-good song that could easily pass as an uplifting spiritual experience.
#4 – The Chant (Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo)
The wonderfully unique “The Chant (Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo)” was a single that was recorded and released in 1970 by Lighthouse while still signed with RCA Victor. It became a number thirty-nine hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart, as well as a number thirty hit on its Adult Contemporary Songs chart. This song played a key role in the success story behind Peacing It All Together as one of Lighthouse’s best-selling albums as it became certified gold by Music Canada. What fans of Lighthouse may observe with “The Chant,” as well as the rest of the album’s tracklist, was a shift in its musical style from psychedelic-style rock to something more mainstream.
What made “The Chant” first stand out as a cult classic was the chiming start of a song before Vic Dauvin, Ralph Cole, Paul Hoffert, and Skip Prokop broke into the harmonious lyrics about peace, love, and togetherness. According to the religion known as Buddhism, “Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo” means we each have the ability to overcome whatever challenges life has to offer. Although Lighthouse wasn’t at the 1969 Woodstock Festival in New York, they were among scores of recording artists who felt the impact of what many fans will claim has been the greatest concert event of all time.
#3 – Sunny Days
Recorded and released in 1972, “Sunny Days” was the title track of Lighthouse’s sixth studio album. Not only did it peak as high as number four hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart, but it also became the second single for the group to become certified platinum by Music Canada. On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Sunny Days” also became a hit as it peaked as high as number thirty-four.
This song became one of Bob McBride’s final recordings as the lead vocalist for Lighthouse but also one of his finest. The mix of jazzy-style sounds and rock was Lighthouse’s signature sound that served as a ray of sunshine to what became one of Lighthouse’s most beloved classics. As an album, Sunny Days was a musical masterpiece as Ralph Cole and Skip Prokop proved they, along with their bandmates, still had the chops to bring forth more than just one hit song after another.
From the opening piano performance to McBride’s awesome voice as Lighthouse’s lead vocalist, made “Sunny Days” one of Canada’s all-time favorites as a cult classic. According to Lighthouse, “Sunny Days” was best enjoyed by simply laying back in the sun and listening to the rock music coming from a radio station. Considering how often this song still plays on the airwaves, it appears the fans couldn’t agree more.
#2 – One Fine Morning
After a less-than-ideal 1970, Lighthouse experienced a few significant changes before the recording and release of One Fine Morning in 1971. It switched record labels and it brought Bob McBride to the lineup as the group’s new lead singer. As a single, “One Fine Morning” became a number two hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart as well as a number twenty-four hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. It also became certified gold by the RIAA and certified platinum with Music Canada.
This cult classic once again demonstrated how talented the Lighthouse lineup was between McBride’s incredible vocals and the instrumental performance carried out by Paul Hoffert, Ralph McBride, and Skip Prokop. “One Fine Morning” not only serves as a great “good morning” tune to wake up to but as a festive number that is enjoyable any time of day.
#1 – Pretty Lady
“Pretty Lady” was written by Skip Prokop with the intent of Lighthouse’s lead vocalist at the time, Bob McBride, to record it while they were at The Record Plant’s studio in New York City. His failure to show up resulted in his immediate removal from the band’s lineup. Proceeding without him, Prokop sang what became one of the group’s most beloved songs of all time. After “Pretty Lady” was released in 1973, it became a number nine hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number fifty-three.
This single, along with Can You Feel It, became certified gold by Music Canada and the final top ten hit for what became one of the nation’s most cherished rock bands. If there is one song that has fans instantly recognize Lighthouse as a Canadian rock legend, “Pretty Lady” is it. This song earned Prokop yet another BMI Canada Limited Certificate of Honor. It didn’t take long for “Pretty Lady” to become a cult classic as it was a great tune for hopeful boyfriends to play for that special lady in their lives. Even today, as a great feel-good song, “Pretty Lady” continues to play as a favorite on classic rock radio stations, especially in Canada.
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