In some ways the lady who we are privileged to profile today needs no introduction. For close to fifty years her rich melodic voice has been singing Canadians through happy and hard times, vicariously sharing the joyous moments of their lives and offering comfort in the sad and lonely hours. By now her voice and songs are part of the country’s musical fabric, tightly woven into our hearts and lives. Unlike so many of her predecessors and contemporaries she managed to make history by becoming a major international success as well as being loved at home, and all while promoting and embracing her Canadian identity. The ladies of Canadian music who followed in the path she boldly blazed, from Celine Dion to Sarah McLachlan owe her a thank you for having been the first to conquer that climb.
With profound pleasure today we share a small portion of the fabulous life and career of Canada’s Songbird, …
“By Summer thunder on moon-bright days,
Northern Lights and skies ablaze
And I bring to you,
Lover, when I sing to you
Silver wings in a fiery sky
Show the trail of my love and I
Sing to you, love is what I bring to you,
I want to sing to you …”
“A Love Song.”
Written by D. L. George and Kenny Loggins
Vocals By Anne Murray
For close to fifty years Anne Murray has done exactly that, sung to us, bringing us love and sharing her unique voice and love for music with the world.
While her first solo album, What About Me debuted in 1968,
it was in the autumn of 1969 in her second album that the song that would change her life and set an indelible mark on Canadian music was released. Written by fellow Canadian Gene MacLellan, “Snowbird”
was the flip side of the second single released from the album, This Is My Way. With its simple poignant lyrics and contrasting, bright, fast paced melody it quickly became a success at home in Canada, and soared to hit status in the U.S.
It was the first ever American gold record to be awarded to a solo Canadian female! From this beginning Anne herself soared, and we’ve treasured her and her beautiful voice ever since.
Morna Anne Murray was born on June 20th 1945, in the small coal mining town of Springhill, Nova Scotia.
Anne was one of six children, and the only girl. From a very early age she learned the value of determination and persistence (a necessity to hold her own with her brothers), traits that stood her in good stead in the years to come when facing the challenges presented by the music industry.
“I often think that perhaps the reason I became a successful singer was that, as a kid, I could never do anything as well as my brothers. I wanted to do something better than they did.” — Anne Murray
The Murray house was a live with music, from Anne’s Father James Carson Murray who sang while he shaved, to her Mother Marion who sang around the house, to her brothers who sang with each other. Anne also loved to sing and began early. She says she first had an inkling of her voice’s possibilities at the age of nine:
“As far back as I can remember, I sang. The first time I became aware that I could sing maybe a little better than others, I was driving in a car. I was nine years old, and I was singing along to the radio. My aunt-to-be was in the front seat and she turned to my mother and said ‘My, Marion, she has a beautiful voice.’ I later found out that Aunt Kay was tone deaf, but I guess it doesn’t mean she couldn’t detect talent!” – Anne Murray
She studied piano as a child and at the age of fifteen began taking voice lessons. Through the rest of high school she traveled two hours on the bus every Saturday morning to study classical voice training. She gave her first public solo performance at her high school graduation:
“I think it was Grade 11, at her graduation, that she sang Ave Maria. Anne noticed people were crying in the audience. That’s when she knew that her voice must be good.” – Anne’s mother, Marion Murray
Anne attended university in Nova Scotia then studied physical education in New Brunswick. She then taught for a year.
Throughout this time her passion for music continued to flourish. While still in university her friends persuaded her to audition for a CBC television show, Singalong Jubilee. She did but they had enough altos in the cast and she was not accepted. However, she obviously left a good impression since in 1966 the co-producer of the show, Bill Langstroth contacted her and she reluctantly consented to audition for a second time. On May 30th 1966 musical history was made when she signed a contract with Singalong Jubilee. (The contract is on display at The Anne Murray Centre in Springhill N.S.)
After her early successes Anne moved to Toronto to pursue her music career full time. In 1975 she married Bill Langstroth and together they had two children, son William born in 1976, and daughter Dawn born in 1979.
Throughout the 70s and beyond, her musical star continued to rise. Such songs as “A Love Song“, “You Needed Me“, “Could I Have This Dance” (one of the most requested songs at weddings to this day), “Danny’s Song“, “I Just Fall In Love Again“, “Shadows In The Moonlight” and “Just Another Woman In Love” along with her covers of such songs as Gordon Lightfoot’s “Cotton Jenny“, the Beatles “You Won’t See Me” and the Monkeys “Day Dream Believer” continued to grow her reputation, a reputation that has grown into a legend. After more than forty years her songs still have air time and she has rarely been off the charts. Her first hit “Snowbird” was covered by artists from Elvis Presley and Perry Como, to Andy Williams and Loretta Lynn. Her appeal to her peers has never faded. In 2007 she released a compilation album in which she sings duets with present day stars such as: Shania Twain, K. D. Lang, Jann Arden, Emmylou Harris, Martina McBride and Amy Grant. To date her albums have sold close to fifty million copies.
While the songs she has chosen to sing frequently have moving lyrics, it is something indefinable in the heartwarming quality of Anne’s clear lovely voice that makes her so unforgettable, and that has planted her permanently in our musical consciousness.
Since the first fire storm of publicity generated by “Snowbird” through to 2010, Anne has delighted us with public appearances and performances. She has appeared on many television shows, from The Oprah Winfrey Show and Good Morning America to 20/20 and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. She gave us the memorable Christmas specials: A Special Anne Murray Christmas and Anne Murray’s Classic Christmas. In addition she has had five highly rated U.S. specials on CBS (with more than forty million viewers tuning in to each one), and several specials on CBC including: Anne Murray In Nova Scotia, Intimate Evening With Anne Murray and What A Wonderful World to name only a few.
On April 7th 1977 she performed “O Canada” at the first American League baseball game played in Canada when the Toronto Blue Jays played the Chicago White Socks at Exhibition Stadium. Later she reprised the Canadian national anthem prior to Game 3 of the 1992 World Series at The SkyDome. And memorably , from centre ice, wearing a Toronto Maple Leaf’s jersey, she concluded the arena’s closing ceremony by singing “The Maple Leaf Forever” after the last game played at Maple Leaf Gardens.
On February 12, 2010, Anne Murray was one of the eight Canadians who carried the Olympic Flag during the Opening Ceremonies of The XXI Winter Games in Vancouver British Columbia.
Over the years Anne recorded an impressive 32 studio albums, 15 compilation albums and 76 singles, out of which seven albums and thirty-three singles charted at number 1!
She was also the first woman and the first Canadian to win “Album of the Year” at the 1984 CountryMusic Awards for her Gold-plus 1983 album A Little Good News.
In 1995, Anne received a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts. In addition she is a Companion Of The Order Of Canada, the second highest honour that can be awarded to a Canadian civilian. She was also a recipient of the Order of Nova Scotia in its inaugural year.
“In 2006, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame chose her and Leonard Cohen as recipients of the Legacy Award for their contributions to and support of the Canadian songwriting industry. Murray was recognized for her support of Canada’s songwriters, through her performances and her recordings.”
“She has been inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, the Juno Hall of Fame, and The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. She is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame Walkway of Stars in Nashville, and has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles and on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto.
In 2011, Billboard ranked her 10th on their list of the 50 Biggest Adult Contemporary Artists Ever.”
On June 29th Canada Post issued a limited edition Anne Murray stamp, making her one of only two female recording artists to appear on a stamp.
Finally in October 2009 we were given the gift of Anne Murray’s autobiography, as is explained on her website:
“After being on tour for most of her adult life, Anne knew that 2009 was the right time to “stop and reflect”. In typical Anne style, she and journalist, author and writing partner Michael Posner immersed themselves in researching and writing All of Me, the story of Anne Murray’s extraordinary 40-year career.”
Within two weeks of the book’s launch it had become a best seller on the Canadian Non-fiction list, and it kept a top ten place for the next two months.
Frankly I do not believe a single book can do the life and experiences of this Canadian icon justice, so it is impossible to do more than give the barest thumbnail sketch of her achievements in a mere blog post. However, there are some excellent websites out there packed with information about Canada’s Songbird and we have listed a few including the two we have quoted from (they were of the most help in putting this article together) below.
Anne Murray’s Official website: This invaluable resource features Anne Murray’s musical history, biography, news and events, along with links to other sites: