Chris Hadfield's top list of must-hear songs while living and working aboard the ISS

Chris Hadfield has put a lot of music on International Space Station (ISS) already, directly from his iPad ─ thousands of songs. Here are his favourites and what he has to say about them:

(Note that songs are in no particular order.)

Arrow "Take it From Day to Day" by Stan Rogers (C for Canadian artist)

Canadian folk singer/songwriter Stan Rogers. (Credit: Canapress)

Stan was, to me, the greatest Canadian folk singer/songwriter. This tune was never properly produced/released, but it tells a story of exploration and isolation that has strong parallels to spaceflight. I've been playing it (in a more driving version) for many years, but most notably, I played it while in my pressure suit in the Kennedy Space Center suit-up room, just before heading to Shuttle Endeavour for launch on STS-100. I hope to do the same again prior to the Soyuz launch.

Arrow "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen (C)

Poetry emotion, a classic that so many people have recorded, one that our band has loved and sung with harmonies and soaring leads for years. I played it in Star City, Russia, inside the new wooden Orthodox cathedral while it was under construction, with guitar and flute accompaniment.

Arrow "What Am I Doing Here" by Blue Rodeo (C)

A very catchy tune and image-building words that may well bear repeating after a month or 3 orbiting the Earth.

Arrow "If You Could Read My Mind" by Gordon Lightfoot (C)

Lightfoot wrote so many beautiful, iconic Canadian songs, but for me this one is the favourite. It combines a lilting melody and such thoughtful lyrics. I've loved it as long as I can remember.

Arrow "Big Smoke" by Dave Hadfield (C)

We're allowed to bring a few personal items to space with us, and my brother Dave asked if I could take a song for him. He wrote this for my Shuttle Atlantis launch to Mir in 1995, and it has since been played & sung onboard Mir, on Morningside with Peter Gzowski, with the Houston Symphony, and is currently part of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Living in Space traveling exhibit across Canada.

Arrow "I Vow To Thee My Country" a poem by Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, set to music by Gustav Holst

I first sang this when I was in the choir at CFB Moose Jaw, while learning to fly jets there in 1982. The only two male voices were the pastor and I, but we did our limited best to bring the deep power that gives the song its resonance. My great-grandfather moved to Moose Jaw from England in 1908, part of my British heritage, and this song is a British classic. Even more applicably, though, the melody is from Holst's orchestral suite, The Planets.

Arrow "If I Had a Million Dollars" by Barenaked Ladies (BNL) (C)

This song, even now, makes me smile every time I hear it. The originality and whimsy that set BNL apart are perpetually evident, from this early tune, through to The Big Bang Theory theme song.

Arrow "Four Strong Winds" by Ian & Sylvia Tyson (C)

A classic folk song, by one of the best-ever duos, and a song that I have known and sung my entire life.

Arrow "Trusscot" by Trent Severn (C)

Emm Gryner, centre, and Trent Severn. (Credit: Trent Severn Band)

Emm Gryner is a superb musician and good friend from my home town. She toured with David Bowie, introduced me to the McGarrigles, and we have performed together many times. Her new band is an all-Canadian female trio called Trent Severn, and I love their old harmonies and new ideas, especially in this tune. I really look forward to seeing them live when I get back from orbit.

Arrow "Rockstar" by Nickelback (C)

This self-deprecating song is very reminiscent of Cover of the Rolling Stone (which I've played for fun for many years), and provides a great self-mock for this hugely successful band that so many people claim to hate. We even learned it in the Max Q all-astronaut rock band, though not too well. I find it doubly fun for a peripheral musician like myself.

Arrow "No Sugar Tonight" by The Guess Who (C)

Especially in the coupled version with New Mother Nature, the odd neo-baroque intro and backbeat rhythm always struck me as wonderfully original, leading into the so-catchy rock chorus and Burton Cummings' unparalleled vocals. I love the Guess Who, and especially the distinctive creativity of this music pairing.

Arrow "Canadian Tire" by Chris Hadfield (C)

It's narcissistic to include on the list, but I wrote this song after living across Canada with the Air Force and then being posted out of country. It always gets a big, fun reaction when our band plays it in concert, with people sometimes throwing Canadian Tire money at us; there is even a devoted group of Canadian Tire fans in South Texas (where our band plays) who have never actually been to the store.

Arrow "Fly By Night" by Rush (C)

They were the first real rock band that I knew; simply guitar, bass, drums and vocals, but so much more. So original and unafraid, and from my part of the world. Listening to this tune while floating over the dark side of Earth sends a 'rush' up my back :)

More artists that Chris Hadfield plans on listening to while in orbit:

Canadian Artists

  • Great Big Sea
  • Loreena McKennit
  • Simple Plan
  • Sarah McLachlan
  • The Band

International Artists

  • Annie Lennox
  • Vivaldi
  • Handel
  • Tchaikovsky
  • AC/DC
  • Aerosmith
  • Kingston Trio
  • Van Morrison
  • Hans Zimmer
  • Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits