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Dan Hill

Year of Induction: 2021
Origin: Toronto, Ontario
Date of Birth: June 3, 1954

The prolific songwriter Dan Hill is the writer of the classic ballad Sometimes When We Touch and the winner of five Juno awards and several SOCAN awards. His intimate soft rock recordings found their permanent home in the adult contemporary charts through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s with a devoted worldwide following.

Hill grew up in the Toronto suburb of Don Mills. Influenced by the music of Harry Belafonte, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Joe Williams and Billie Holiday and later songwriters including Laura Nyro, Simon and Garfunkel, and Canadian icons Gordon Lightfoot and Leonard Cohen, Hill pursued a pop music career, studying guitar and composing pop songs at age 14.

As Hill states in his memoir, “Right from the beginning, I’ve written songs simply because I’ve had no other choice.” He performed at Toronto coffeehouses, and by 1971 had turned professional. At ease working with words, as a teen he also wrote articles for Toronto newspapers, including one entitled “On Being Black.”

Encouraged by Belafonte and Jose Feliciano to continue song-writing, in 1975 Hill launched an album of his own material. His first single, You Make Me Want To Be (a Father), and the gold “Dan Hill” album earned him a Juno award for Most Promising Male Vocalist.

As Hill put it, “Everything magically fell into place for me at 21.” The next months saw Hill touring North America opening for Gino Vanelli, Murray McLauchlan, and Art Garfunkel.

The gold follow-up “Hold On” firmed up his already considerable fan base, while his third album, the Juno-winning “Longer Fuse,” rocketed to double platinum with his first international hit single (Sometimes When We Touch) as well as the socio-political, intimate McCarthy’s Day, about the courageous inter-racial relationship between his American-born parents.

Released in 1977, co-written with New York songwriter Barry Mann, the passionate Sometimes became one of the biggest songs of the decade: No. 1 in Canada, No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and No. 4 on Cash Box. It won Hill the Best Composer Juno award as well as a Grammy nomination.

 

Sometimes has since been covered by numerous artists including Tammy Wynette, Oscar Peterson, Rod Stewart, Barry Manilow, Ginette Reno and Cleo Laine. Hill declared, “So many pop stars recorded it… that in a sense it didn’t belong to me any longer. It was bigger than me, bigger than life.”

Hill’s streak of successful albums and chart-topping singles continued. Between 1986 and 1989, a Dan Hill hit could be found on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart (and usually the Canadian national chart) every week for an unparalleled four years. His hits in the 1980s and 1990s included the romantic ballads In Your Eyes, Hold Me Now (with Rique Franks), All I See Is Your Face, Carmelia, Unborn Heart, and I Fall All Over Again. Never Thought That I Could Love made No. 1 in Canada, and Can’t We Try (with Vonda Shepard) reached No. 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart (No. 2 in Canada).

In the late 1990s Hill shifted his focus to writing songs for other artists, explaining, “Because I came of age when melody and lyric meant everything, I was perfectly positioned to write songs for other artists.” He became a versatile writer-on-demand for pop, country and R&B artists like Britney Spears, Tina Turner, George Benson, Spain’s Camilo Sesto, Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, the Backstreet Boys, and 98 Degrees.

His many successes include the No. 1 country hits I Do (Cherish You) and Love Of My Life, and a 1996 Grammy award for Co-Producing Celine Dion’s album “Falling Into You”, which featured his song “Seduces Me” co-written with John Sheard.

Dan Hill continues to write and record, including the 2009 album “Intimate” and his topical 2020 single What About Black Lives? off his 2021 album “On The Other Side of Here”. His matchless talent is still in demand: “There’s still a craving for real songs….People still want to have old-fashioned songs with stories, strong melodies and relatable lyrics.”

Daniel Grafton Hill IV was born in 1954 in Toronto. He has earned six ASCAP awards and SOCAN’s William Harold Moon award for international songwriting success. He published a best-selling memoir in 2009. His father Daniel Hill III was the first director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission

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Singer-songwriter Dan Hill reflects on his career
Singer-songwriter Dan Hill talks to Ian Hanomansing about his long career, including overcoming his ‘albatross’ hit Sometimes When We Touch and being inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
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