I hate to think how long it’s been since I first heard Anne Murray sing at the Agricultural Exhibition in Truro, Nova Scotia — the mid-1960s, you do the math. At the time, it was a welcome break from the quilts, the cotton candy, the cattle, and the thrill of the Tilt-AWhirl. But I do remember that she came onstage barefoot and sang her heart out as though she were playing Carnegie Hall.
Anne claims to be retired, but I don’t believe it. Again and again, someone will search her out of her hiding place and into the public eye, for her musicality, her good humour, and her down-to-earth humanity. You don’t see a lot of that sort of thing, these days.
I worked in Anne’s back-up band for a couple of years, and it was the most enjoyable way to travel. Anne had just had a hit with “You Needed Me,” and in her wisdom decided she needed a trumpet to spruce things up. (These days, it is rare to find a pop musician who actually knows what a trumpet is for — sprucing things up!)
Anne has always appreciated and hired many musicians. When touring artists were beginning to reduce their bands to synths, drum machines, and recorded tracks to cut overhead, she was backed up by three horns, pedal steel, a full rhythm section, two guitars, and two singers. She usually hired a large local string section and percussion as well.
Anne was and is a big deal. She has played to massive audiences of adoring fans all over the world; I remember one of her opening acts being Jerry Seinfeld, and Lenny Breau played in one of her early bands. Toronto arranging luminaries Doug Riley and Rick Wilkins arranged for her, along with many other Toronto-based musicians. Anne has always had an ear for serious musicianship, as well as for a great studio and a perceptive engineer, and she was a member of Local 149 right from the start.
A true Canadian legend, Anne Murray is a Companion of the Order of Canada — the country’s highest civilian honour. She has sold more than 54 million albums. She is a best-selling author with her memoir, All Of Me. She has accumulated a record 24 JUNO Awards, four Grammy Awards, three American Music Awards and three Country Music Association Awards. She has been inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, the JUNO Hall of Fame and The Songwriters Hall of Fame. She is a member of Nashville’s Walkway of Stars, and has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and on Canada’s Walk of Fame. She has literally had the world at her feet!
Anne’s artistry is matched by her generosity. A proud supporter of Canadian Women’s Foundation, Sheena’s Place, the David Suzuki Foundation, several East Coast charities and a member of the TELUS Atlantic Canada Community Board, Anne became a spokesperson for Colon Cancer Canada in 2008, and hosts the annual Anne Murray Charity Golf Classic to raise money for a cure. In 2010, she was one of eight notable Canadians who carried the Olympic Flag into the stadium at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Calling Anne a Legend doesn’t quite cover it; she also plays one hell of a game of golf !
by Charlie Gray