Anne Murray Biography
Last updated: 08/12/2014 05:17:12 PM
By the time she was seven years old, she was singing all the time. For over thirty years, her unique voice and heartwarming style have made her a household name. She led the way for a generation of Canadian divas, who have also conquered the world - Celine Dion, Shania Twain, k.d. lang, Alanis Morissette and Sarah McLachlan. They all followed in her footsteps - Canada's "Songbird", Anne Murray.
Over the years, Anne's recordings have seldom been off the charts. She has sold close to fifty million albums and has won countless awards. However, Anne Murray is more than just a Canadian icon. Her warm voice and well-loved songs have become woven into the fabric of our lives. Anne's songs celebrate our important milestones - childhood, a first love, the wedding day, parenthood and loss. They comfort us and inspire us; they bring joy and uplift us. Anne's songs are forever in our hearts.
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 the town doctor and her mother, Marion, was a registered nurse, who decided to focus her life on raising her family.
Anne learned determination and perseverance from her parents and from growing up with five brothers - David, Daniel, Harold, Stewart and Bruce. When Anne remembers her childhood, she remembers singing - her father singing while he was shaving, her mother singing around the house, and her brothers, singing together:
"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!" "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 loved music. It was the age of rock and roll, and she sang along with all her favourites - Buddy Holly, Bobby Darin and Connie Francis. However, Anne was also inspired by a wide variety of musical styles, including the classics, country, gospel, folk, and crooners such as Patti Page, Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. She loved them all.
Anne studied piano for six years. At age 15, she began taking classical voice lessons. (Her younger brother, Bruce, would soon also follow this path. Bruce went on to perform and tour with Anne in the 1980's.) Every Saturday morning, Anne took a two-hour bus ride from Springhill to Tatamagouche and back, for her singing lesson with Karen Mills. Her mother recalls one of her first performances:
"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."
After high school, Anne spent a year at Mount Saint Vincent University, a Catholic women's college in Halifax. Her next stop was the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, where she studied Physical Education. Her passion for music continued. Her university friends talked her into auditioning for "Singalong Jubilee", a popular CBC television show. She took along her baritone ukulele to the audition. Although Anne was not offered a job (there were already enough altos in the cast), she did make an impression! Two years and a tonsillectomy later, she got a call from "Singalong Jubilee" co-host and associate producer, Bill Langstroth. She reluctantly agreed to return for a second audition in 1966, and this time, she got the job! A document on display at the Anne Murray Centre in Springhill, dated May 30, 1966, tells it all: "Your signature on four copies of this letter will serve to engage your services for the 1966 "Singalong Jubilee" series. It is understood that you will be required to function either as a singer for a fee of seventy-one dollars and fifty cents ($71.50) per show or as a soloist for a fee of ninety-nine dollars ($99.00)."
After a summer of singing, Anne began teaching Physical Education at a high school in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. However, her first year of teaching was destined to be her last. She was offered a spot on a teen television show, "Let's Go", and returned to "Singalong Jubilee" during the summer as a featured soloist. After much soul searching, Anne decided to give the music business a "try". After all, if it didn't work out, she could always go back to teaching · She has never looked back!
A "Singalong Jubilee" cast album was eventually released by tiny Arc Records, one of Canada's first record labels. The show's musical director, Brian Ahern, convinced Anne, after much cajoling, that she should record her first solo album. The result was WHAT ABOUT ME, produced by Ahern in Toronto, and released in 1968 on the Arc label. A year later, Anne signed with Capitol Records, and in the fall of 1969, she released her second album, THIS WAY IS MY WAY.
This album gave the world Anne's first hit single, "Snowbird". ("Snowbird" was not the first single from this album. Capitol's Paul White had chosen "Thirsty Boots" for this. "Snowbird" was the flip side of the second single.) The song's composer, Gene MacLellan, was a shy fellow Canadian, who did not start writing songs until 1968.
"Snowbird" was only his second composition and was written in about 25 minutes. However, radio stations loved it and it went on to become one of North America's most played songs of 1970. And for the first time in history, an American gold record was awarded to a solo Canadian female - Anne Murray.
Suddenly, Anne was in demand for television and stage appearances all over North America. She had hit the big time. The success of "Snowbird" was followed by hits on both the pop and country charts. She became a regular on "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour", and her popularity increased even further. It was a chaotic and exhausting time, and Anne felt she was burning out. She picked up the phone and called an old friend - Leonard Rambeau.
Anne had first met Leonard when she was teaching Phys Ed. He had hired her to sing at a youth group benefit. 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 Anne with her business affairs, including answering fan mail. Anne moved to Toronto when her career started to take off. 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 Balmur, Leonard did everything from road manager to running the lights at shows. In 1977, Leonard took over Anne's exclusive management. For the next eighteen years, he 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. When Anne was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1993, she saved her final thank you for Leonard:
"To my number-one man, my manager and right arm, Leonard Rambeau, for a list too long to recite."
Sadly, Leonard died in 1995, after a courageous battle with cancer.
Anne Murray married Bill Langstroth in 1975. Anne and Bill welcomed their first child, William, in 1976. After taking some time off, Anne returned to her career with enthusiasm and commitment.
Referring to William's birth, Anne remarked, "I figured, if I can do that, I can do anything!" Three years later, the Langstroth family welcomed a new addition - a baby girl, named Dawn. When her children were young, Anne took them on the road with her, lining up extended engagements in Las Vegas to try and bring some stability to an otherwise hectic life. "You just do what you have to do when they're young."
Juggling career and family, Anne continued to make television and concert appearances and records throughout the 1970's and 80's.
She was a guest star on many of the popular television shows of the era: Alan Thicke, The Bobby Vinton Show, Christmas With Friends of Sesame Street, American Bandstand, Dean Martin Summer Show, DINAH!, Johnny Cash's Christmas Special, Dolly Parton Show, The Midnight Special, The Mike Douglas Show (including a week in 1980, as co-host), Saturday Night Live, The Muppet Show, Perry Como Show, The Smothers Brothers Show and Solid Gold.
During this time, Anne was also busy starring in her own numerous television specials - set everywhere from Nova Scotia to Jamaica, from the Quebec Winter Carnival to the Caribbean!
Through the years, Anne has rubbed shoulders with many of the movers and shakers of the day: Prime Ministers and Presidents, a Beatle and some Barenaked Ladies, the royalty of Great Britain and the royalty of country music, hockey stars and golfers, comedians and divas.
President George Bush once wrote to Anne: "Your music is that Little Good News we sure could use." When John Lennon knocked on her dressing room door at the 1974 Grammy Awards, it was to tell Anne that her hit, "You Won't See Me", was his favourite cover version of a Beatles song.
Jerry Seinfeld opened for Anne on a number of occasions. Many years later, when he was the star of his own sitcom, he wrote a note to her:
I will never forget you or your kindness to me in the days that were. It was such fun and so important to me. I always think back on them (and you) fondly."
Anne recorded 24 studio albums between 1970 and 1988. Her 1977 award-winning children's album, THERE'S A HIPPO IN MY TUB, continues to delight a whole new generation of families. In 1978, she delivered her biggest hit ever, "You Needed Me", which led to her second Grammy. Anne says of "You Needed Me":
"...I have recorded in excess of 300 songs ... I liked all of those songs, but I think this is the best one."
Anne's career to date, has been honoured by a spectacular number of awards - more than almost any female singer in history. She is the proud recipient of four Grammys, three American Music Awards, three Country Music Association Awards, three Canadian Country Music Association Awards and thirty-one Juno Awards. Anne has also been honoured with the East Coast Music Association Directors' Special Achievement Award in 2001, induction into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002 and 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. In 1998, she was in the inaugural group awarded a Star on Canada's Walk of Fame on King Street in Toronto, and she has been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame Walkway of Stars.
In 2002, Anne was recognized with some diverse honours - she added her handprints to the cement at the Resorts Entrance to the Stars on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, she was named an Honourary Canadian Tourism Ambassador and a recipient of the Order of Nova Scotia in its inaugural year.
With all of her success, Anne wanted to give something back to her community. Her hometown of Springhill had closed its coal mines and the economy needed a boost. Anne was happy to lend her name and her support to the Anne Murray Centre.
The Centre is a non-profit association, and all the revenue generated from its operation is used to provide employment for local people and for its ongoing maintenance. The Anne Murray Centre, which opened its doors in 1989, is a recognition of Anne's musical accomplishments. It has successfully fostered tourism in the area and has promoted awareness of the music of Nova Scotia and Canada.
The Anne Murray Centre celebrates the success of Anne Murray, with an incomparable collection of photographs, awards, memorabilia and audio-visual highlights of her life and career. Anne selected her favourites from the Centre's collection and put them together for the just published book, ANNE MURRAY CENTRE SCRAPBOOK. There are more than 200 photographs and letters from some of Anne's biggest fans, including Burt Reynolds, Wayne Gretzky and Bryan Adams.
Anne has showed no signs of slowing down in the past decade. In 1996, she signed on with a new manager - legendary Bruce Allen, who also manages the careers of Bryan Adams and Martina McBride. She recorded her first live album in 1997, and in 1999, she released WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD, an inspirational album. This 26-song collection combines ageless hymns with tunes from the pop music world that have lifted the hearts of millions. Included on the album is the debut single "Let There Be Love", which Anne recorded with her daughter Dawn.
The album, WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD, has been an outstanding success, going platinum in both Canada and the United States. However, it is also remarkable for the impact that it has had on people's lives:
"...although I've been making music and receiving fan mail for more than 30 years, nothing could have prepared me for the letters, e-mails and faxes I received after the release of this album. Some people found themselves emotionally overwhelmed by certain lyrics; other people spoke of tunes that unleashed an unexpected flood of childhood memories. Many, many people wrote to tell me that these songs, and these sentiments, were continuing to help them through troubled times in their own lives. And their letters continue to be an inspiration to me."
Anne's fans remain inspired by the moving songs of this album. The WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD television special (now available on video and DVD) was first aired in early 2000, and continues to be televised throughout North America. A special gift book, ANNE MURRAY WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD, combines the stirring lyrics from the album with beautiful and inspirational colour photographs of Anne's home province of Nova Scotia. (A companion CD of 12 songs, selected from Anne's WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD album, is included with the book.) Also published is an album-matching songbook, with sheet music for all the songs on the inspirational album.
In October 2001, Anne released a new Christmas album, entitled WHAT A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS, which has now reached gold status in Canada. The double CD and cassette includes new recordings, a children's medley and previously released material. The album has been released internationally in Australia, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia and Singapore. The television special "ANNE MURRAY WHAT A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS", with guest stars Diana Krall and Leahy, was first broadcast by CBC in December 2001.
In late 2001, Anne re-released her award-winning children's album THERE'S A HIPPO IN MY TUB, adding three popular new tracks -"Sing High, Sing Low", "I Can See Clearly Now" and "What A Wonderful World".
The year 2002 was a busy one for Anne. She recorded and released her 32nd studio album COUNTRY CROONIN', which Anne describes as "the best thing I've ever done". This album of '30 Timeless Country Classics' is Anne's tribute to the great country songs and artists of the late 1940's to the early 1980's. In the fall of 2002, Anne was presented with a platinum award for COUNTRY CROONIN' sales in Canada.
Fans throughout North America continued to flock to Anne's shows in 2002. Backed by her band and symphony musicians, Anne gave almost 80 performances during the year, including a week of shows at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
In February 2003, Anne's fans were treated to a first in Canada - Anne starred in a televised live request concert. The show "ANNE MURRAY RSVP" gave audiences across the country a chance to request songs for Anne to perform. This two-hour CBC television special showcased fans' favourites from the 33 albums that span Anne's 35-year career. Hosted by one of Anne's biggest fans, CBC sportscaster Ron MacLean, this live show was watched by viewers throughout Canada and the northern United States.
Anne continues to enjoy going out on the road to bring her music to her fans.Anne is looking forward to a busy concert schedule in 2003. 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, after 35 years, Anne continues to delight and bring joy to her fans - both old and new alike.