On The Fringe
For almost as long as there has been a viable music industry in Canada, there has been Anne Murray. She was arguably the country's first popular musical artist whose fame transcended the country's national borders.
Her tremendous success paved the way for future female Canadian performers like K.D. Lang, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, and Alanis Morissette. But Anne Murray is far more than just a Canadian icon. For people around the world, Anne's unique voice and signature songs have been woven into the soundtracks of our lives - in our homes, our places of work, even at our weddings. Fans around the world have embraced her as an internationally acclaimed performer of the highest calibre, a claim validated by an impressive list of recognitions and awards.
Morna Anne Murray was born on June 20, 1945 in the small coal-mining town of Springhill, Nova Scotia. Her father, James Carson Murray, was a physician and her mother Marion, was a registered nurse who chose to focus her life on raising her family.
Anne learned her characteristic determination and perseverance from them, and growing up surrounded by five brothers - David, Daniel, Harold, Stewart and Bruce! "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."
Like most teenagers, Anne loved music. It was the age of rock 'n roll, and she'd sing along with favourites like Buddy Holly, Bobby Darin and Connie Francis. But unlike most others her own age, Anne's exposure to music extended far beyond rock to a wide variety of other music styles, including the classics, country, gospel, folk, even her parents', Patti Page, Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney albums. She loved them all. .
Anne studied piano for six years, and at 15 began taking classical voice lessons. Every Saturday morning for two years, Anne would get on a bus and ride for two hours to her lesson. Then she'd visit with her grandparents until it was time to take the two-hour trip back home.Her mother recalls "I think it was grade 11, at her graduation that she sang 'Ava Maria'. Anne noticed people were crying in the audience. That's when she knew that her voice must be good." After finishing high school, Anne spent a year at Mt. Saint Vincent, a Catholic women's college in Halifax, then entered the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton to study Physical Education.Her studies didn't diminishher passion for music, and in her second year at university,her friends managed to convince her to audition for Singalong Jubilee, a popular Canadian summer television show shot in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Anne didn't get the job, since there were already enough altos in the cast, but she did make an impression Two years later co-host and associate producer Bill Langstroth tracked her down and asked her to appear on the show. She did, and at the end of the summer, began teaching high school phys ed in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. But her first year of teaching also became her last when she was offered a spot on a television show called "Let's Go".
She decided to give show business a "try". Anne soon became a popular fixture on Singalong Jubilee, and even recorded an album with the cast from the show. The show's musical director, Brian Ahern, convinced Anne to record her first solo album in 1968. WHAT ABOUT ME was produced by Ahern and released on tiny Arc Records - one of Canada's first record labels. A year later Anne signed with Capitol Records, and in the fall of 1969 released THIS IS MY WAY, her first album on the Capitol label. It was this album that produced her first breakthrough hit single, "Snowbird", and the first time in history that an American gold record was awarded to a solo Canadian female.
Anne Murray hit the big time. Suddenly she was in demand and making appearances all over North America. When she became a regular on Glen Campbell's television show, her popularity increased even more. It was a chaotic and exhausting time, and Anne felt she was burning out. So she picked up the phone and called up an old friend - Leonard Rambeau. Anne first met Leonard when she was teaching Phys Ed and he hired her to sing at a benefit for a youth group. Anne was very impressed by Leonard's professionalism and organizational skills, and told him, "If I ever need a manager, I'll call you." From that first concert their friendship grew. Leonard offered to help the fledgling singer with her business affairs, including answering fan mail.
When Anne's music career started to take off, she decided to move to Toronto. Leonard recalled, "I got a call from Anne in April of 1971, asking me, "are you ready to come to Toronto?" I gave it some thought because I had this career of my own going, but I knew I would rather go through life knowing I had given it a try, rather than wondering what would have happened if... " Leonard decided to give up his government career to form Balmur Ltd. with Anne. As general manager of the company, Leonard did everything from road manage to call the lights at shows. Anne was actually "managed" during those years by Nick Savano, Glen Campbell's manager, followed by Alice Cooper's manager, Shep Gordon. In 1977 Leonard took over Anne's exclusive management. For the next 18 years, Leonard was Anne's manager, mentor and friend. "It was a great relationship," Anne reminisces. "We used to finish each other's sentences." One of the things that made them such a strong team was that they both shared the same basic philosophy - what is most important in life is family and friends. Sadly, Leonard died in 1995, after a courageous battle with cancer.
When she returned, she attacked her career with a newfound confidence and fervor. Referring to William's birth, she said "I figured, if I can do that, I can do anything!" Three years later, Anne's daughter Dawn was born.
When her children were young, Anne took them on the road with her, lining up extended engagements in Las Vegas to try and foster some stability in an otherwise hectic life. "You just do what you have to do when they're young."
Juggling career and family, Anne continued to make records and television appearances. In 1978, she delivered her biggest hit ever - YOU NEEDED ME, which led to her second Grammy.
In her 31-year career to date, Anne has stacked up a mountain of awards, including four Grammys, three American Music Awards, three Country Music Association Awards, three Canadian Country Music Association Awards, 25 Juno Awards, and an induction into the Juno Hall of Fame in 1993.
Anne is a Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest honour that can be awarded to a Canadian civilian. She was the first inductee into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters' Hall of Fame. She has her own star at Hollywood and Vine, and on Canada's Walk of Fame on King Street in Toronto and has been inducted into Nashville's Walkway of Stars. With all this success, Anne wanted to give something back to her community. So when her hometown of Springhill needed to boost the local economy after the coal mines closed, Anne was happy to support their effort to foster tourism, and to lend her name and memorabilia to the Anne Murray Centre, which opened in 1989.
Brimming with hundreds of photographs, awards and memorabilia representing a lifetime of achievement, the Centre traces Anne's life from her early years in the tiny coal-mining community to her present stature as a world-acclaimed vocalist.
Anne has no intention of slowing down, either. She recently signed on with a new manager - legendary Bruce Allen, who also manages the careers of Bryan Adams and Martina McBride. "Where do I fit?" she asks, "I don't know. I've tried to erase any labels. I'm a singer. When I sing a country song, I'm a country singer. When I sing a pop song, I'm a pop singer. I've even had singles where one side was a pop hit and the flip side a country hit."
Anyone who's seen Anne Murray in concert knows that she makes a special connection with her audience. "I think that when you leave a performance, you should feel that you know the performer a little better." Just one more reason why, even after 30 years, she continues to delight her fans - both old and new alike.
Anne released her 31st studio album in 1999. "What a Wonderful World" features 26 songs of inspiration.
From Anne Murray's Official Website.
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