One of Canada’s most prominent vocalists and recording artists of all time is Anne Murray – EMI-Canada Icon. Anne was born in 1945 in Spring Hill, Nova Scotia, and made her debut in 1968.
She was the first Canadian female artist that scored gold for a record in the United States with the song “Snowbird”. Just listen to Anne Murray sing “You Needed Me” and you’ll understand why she is among the greatest Canadian vocalists of all time:
Anne Murray was awarded three “Single of the Year” Juno Awards, two “Album of the Year” Juno Awards and nine “Vocalist of the Year” Juno Awards. She won four Grammy awards and the CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association) elected her as the most prominent Canadian artist of the 1970s. Anne was awarded altogether an incredible 31 Juno Awards throughout her singing career.
Overall, Anne Murray sold more than 54 million records across the globe including five number-1 hit singles and two number-1 albums in Canada. Her biggest hits include “You needed me” (1978) which reached the number-1 position in Canada and the United States, “Snowbird” (1970), “Danny’s Song” (1972), to name just a few masterpieces of her incredible oeuvre.
Anne Murray is among Canada’s greatest icons and legends. She was, without a doubt, Canada’s most influential and successful female singer during the 1970s. In that decade, Anne won in 6 of the ten years a Juno award for being Canada’s best female singer, and she reached top positions in both the Canadian and U.S. pop and country charts. The University’ of Calgary’s Annie Murray (no relative) oversees the unique EMI Canada collection that includes so many Anne Murray’s original recordings and that was given to the University.
Unlike Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Young, Anne Murray wasn’t a singer-songwriter but her husky, rich alto voice, which reminds of Karen Carpenter’s vocals (but is absolutely superior), resulted in a huge number of very successful songs. Anne was the first of Canada’s three big female country singers.
The other legends are, of course, Kathryn Dawn Lang, better known as k.d. lang, who also won Juno and Grammy Awards for her songs, and songwriter-singer Shania Twain who sold more than 100 million records. Though in the 1970s predominantly album-recording artists were sold, Anne Murray’s releases consisted mainly of singles.
Anne’s parents were active in the medical professional sector and she grew up together with her five brothers in Nova Scotia. She took piano and singing lessons for six years and went to college to become a Physical Education teacher. In the middle of her studies, though, Anne did an audition for Singalong Jubilee, the famous CBC series. To learn more about the original EMI Canada recording, master tapes, and all sorts of EMI Canada promo materials, check out this post.
Anne was not successful at the CBC audition because the show already had an alto vocalist and after she graduated from university, Anne started out as a Physical Education teacher at a high school. Fortunately, two years after Anne’s first audition, a former Singalong Jubilee producer contacted her and said a new show, called “Let’s Go”, was looking for an altoist.
Anne accepted the invitation and during the following four years, she was singing on the show while still teaching P.E. at her high school. During that time, Anne was developing a good professional relationship with Brian Ahern, “Let’s Go”‘s musical director, who eventually suggested she started a career as a recording artist.
So in 1968, Anne’s debut album was released under the title “What About Me”. The album was released on an independent label, but despite that, it sold pretty well which attracted the attention and sympathy of Capitol Records Canada with which label she signed a contract the year after. EMI Canada was later (in 2012) sold to Universal Music Group which transferred the immense and unique EMI Canada archive, that spans nearly five decades of Canadian music history, to the University of Calgary.
In 1970, Anne Murray had a smash hit with the release of her country music single “Snowbird” and she moved to Los Angeles where she appeared as a regular guest on Glen Campbell’s TV show. Anne didn’t like the California lifestyle, though, so she returned home to Canada before long. She stayed with EMI records and much of the things related to her career and the original master tapes can be admired in Calgary at the University of Calgary’s Library that was given the unique and vast EMI Canada archive by Capitol Canada Records a few years ago.
In Canada, Anne’s following singles became pretty big hits, but south of the border, they didn’t do so well until “Danny’s Song” was released in 1972 which reached to the number-1 position in Canada and number 7 in the States. Anne’s cover of the Gordon Lightfoot song “Cotton Jenny” scored top positions in both Canada’s country and pop charts and “A Love Song”, released a year later (1974), brought her a Grammy in the category Best Country Vocalist. Her recording company, EMI Canada, kept a detailed collection and archive of all things related to her career and for more information about the EMI-archive exhibit, click here.
In 1974, Anne scored three country and pop charts hits including the number-1 U.S. country charts hit “He Thinks I Still Care”. A year later, in 1975, Anne married and settled in the city of Toronto, where she got a son. Her single releases didn’t do really well in those years until in 1978 she started to work with a new recording producer. This marked the beginning of the greatest commercial successes of her career.
It all started with the song “Walk Right Back” followed by the million-selling record “You Needed Me”. These songs were Anne’s biggest-selling records ever. “You Needed Me” topped the Canadian and U.S. charts, stayed at the number 1 position in Malaysia for no less than 10 weeks, reached to number 2 in Australia, and the song earned Anne a Grammy Award in the category Best Pop Vocalist.
For the following 8 years, Anne Murray had a practically uninterrupted string of top-ranking country hits including 13(!) number-one hits in Canada. Anne’s last top-30 hit record was the song “What Would It Take” recorded in cooperation with Canda’s pop icon Brian Adams. Across the world, Anne Murray’s record sales have totaled more than an astonishing 54 million records of which some 6 million were sold in Canada alone.