In a career spanning almost 30 years, Canadian rock royalty Billy Talent have a consistent track record of giving back and speaking out against injustice in their music. They’re currently on tour in support of their latest album Crisis of Faith (2022). Wanting to go beyond simply promoting their new album, they also supported local food banks in every Canadian city they played. Here’s their history of care, through song and philanthropy.
The Fight Against Multiple Sclerosis
While they support many causes, Billy Talent’s fight against multiple sclerosis (MS) may be their most personal. After drummer Aaron Solowoniuk was diagnosed with the condition in 1998, Billy Talent held their first “F.U.MS” benefit concert at Toronto’s historic music venue, The Opera House, in 2006. They’ve organized many benefit concerts since then, including a 2018 event in Wiesbaden, Germany.
MS is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks one’s central nervous system. According to a 2020 report published on the MS Society of Canada website, about 2.8 million people worldwide live with MS. In Canada, 1 in every 400 or approximately 90, 000 people live with MS.
Billy Talent have channeled the spirit of living in defiance of MS into their music. This is How it Goes, a fan favorite off their 2003 self-titled album, was written in tribute to Solowoniuk. Band vocalist Ben Kowalewicz also ends the chorus of Don’t Count on the Wicked (from their 2012 album Dead Silence)by belting the line “Turn anger into hope!” In a webisode dissecting the track, Solowoniuk says the line was inspired by F.U.MS’s tagline.
Billy Talent Raised Over $20,000 for MS Charity
The Billy Talent Charity Trust serves as one big pool of funding that is divvied up to support various local and global efforts. Some of these include: MusiCounts, Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer, War Child and, of course, the MS Society of Canada.
In 2018, Billy Talent spearheaded a project selling limited edition gold record plaques that include the band’s photo, discography artwork, and their autographs signed in gold. They raised over $20,000 with proceeds donated to the MS Society of Canada.
Billy Talent Supported the #TorontoStrong Fund
In 2018, Toronto made national headlines for two heartbreaking tragedies; the Yonge Street van attack in April and the Danforth Avenue mass shooting in July. The #TorontoStrong fund was initially created in response to the April event. In August 2018, Billy Talent headlined a concert, alongside other Ontario-bred artists like City and Colour, at the Danforth Music Hall, to support the #TorontoStrong fund.
Billy Talent Toured in Support of Canadian Food Banks
Billy Talent kicked off their current tour on April 1st, 2022, in support of Crisis of Faith. On the Canadian leg of the tour, they supported a local food bank in every city they played.
Fans had the choice of bringing non-perishable food items to any tour stop, and $1 from every ticket sold was also donated to local food banks.
Musical Statements of Resistance and Self-Love
Billy Talent spreads love through their music. Nothing to Lose (2004) is a song many fans hold dear due to its relatable themes of isolation and despair. The heart-rending video ends by sharing the Kid’s Help Phone Number.
And Judged (2022), their latest right-to-life anthem, bursts out of speakers like an alarm clock blaring at 5 am. The chorus sings:
“Judged! For being born in your skin
Judged! for love that they call a sin
Judged! Because you’re different to them
Profiled, defiled, tired of being
Judged! For using your right to choose
Judged! Before you walk in the room
Judged! Yeah, we’re the ones you refused
Profiled, defiled, tired of being judged”
In a career spanning over 30 years – known as Pezz before they changed their name to Billy Talent – they’ve made it clear that they stand for social equity. I’m proud to call Billy Talent my favorite band.
Lead photo by Dustin Rabin/Warner Music Canada.