|THE SONGS IN MY HEART
It has been my experience that everyone, no matter who they are, has a story to tell. This is mine. I have been a fan of Anne Murray’s since her career began. This is my take on her, her musical career and its effect on me. Anne Murray, you are responsible for the Songs in my Heart.
Me and Anne Murray (one fan’s point of view) by Me, Todd Canton
Growing up the way I did, it is not uncommon for kids to idolize a performer. The thing is the crush usually never lasts and neither does the star as fame tends to be fleeting. Our mother was one of the original crooners and we, as a family would sit and listen to and sing along with her. As a result, my love of music began to grow. I started collecting record albums at an early age. Today I own an immense amount. Of all the music to choose from and all of the singers to listen to, I am today a loyal fan of Elton John, Patsy Cline, The Carpenters, BJ Thomas, the Rankin Family, Rita MacNeil and Anne Murray. I have often preferred the voice and words over the music that may drown out everything else.
I, Todd Canton, was born in the border town of Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada, the fifth of seven natural children of Vivian and Bert Canton. We grew up ( as a family) on Russell Street. Amherst greets you as you enter Nova Scotia through New Brunswick via the Trans Canada Highway. A little further down the road lies the small town of Springhill. We on the east coast are known as Maritimers and since our lives are so involved with the Atlantic Ocean we are truly what they say we are…..the most down to earth people you might ever meet. Humility goes hand in hand with being a Canadian and we are proof. If we like something we tend to like it a lot and if we don’t we don’t, get it? It is refreshing in such a phony world to deal with persons so straight-forward and honest.
My life however, does not directly revolve around water. My ancestors existence consisted of work on the land or beneath it in the dark depths of the coal mines. My mother’s family, the Gillis clan, were a coal mining family. This is a hard old life at the best of times. Their’s was a humble life. Springhill was known for its rich coal beds and that’s how that town came to be. Along with coal mining comes tragedy and Springhill has seen it’s share with cave-ins, underground bumps and explosions. Many a life was lost in the mines.
Our life in Amherst was a little more privileged. We resided in a home that our father built for us on Russell Street. Generations of our family lived on the street and that’s a nice thing. My parents and grandparents were respectable and hardworking people and so are their children. Each of us has their own personalities and as a result, their own personal preferences when it comes to lifestyle, luxury and laughter. Despite any differences between us, one thing we all agree on is music.
For as long as I can remember I have been a fan of Anne Murray. I feel that I stand alone in my friendly obsession with Anne, my family, although tolerant, does not fully understand the depth of my soul. I like the way Anne sings, her looks, her sense of humor and her down to earth appeal. She was not a Hollywood star yet she was not a country girl either. She was talented in a way no other Canadian star was when she first appeared. I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable about her career and am proud of all the accomplishments that she has made throughout the years and yet always seemed to keep her feet on the ground. This might not have been easy for someone who appears quite shy.
You all know the story- born in Springhill, the doctor’s daughter, the only girl to five brothers, a tomboy. A tomboy who could sing. She sang at family gatherings, and even at her high school graduation. In college they made recordings of those talented students and eventually she began to take this natural talent of her’s seriously. It led to spots on radio and television. The first time I saw her was on Singalong Jubilee. This would have been in the late sixties. I was just a little kid. My mother said that she wanted us to watch the show because the ‘girl from Springhill’ was going to be on. Now this meant something to us as our Mother was from Springhill and naturally we were all curious to see. Anne Murray, I liked her right away. I love her today. I have watched every one of her television specials, own a copy of every one of her LP’s, tapes, 8-tracks and cassettes. There is nary a magazine or newspaper article that I do not own a copy of and my den looks more like the Anne Murray Centre than it does. This is not an obsession it is a possession. Anne’s my chick! She is the one whose upcoming albums (collections of songs) I anticipate, whose television appearances I look forward to, and whose perseverance in a rat race known as show business, I respect.
When she sang I felt that she was singing right to me. Now please let me explain this. As much as people have made light about the man who followed her all over the country for years hounding and harassing her, my obsession is purely admiration for a natural and talented performer. What people tend to forget is that; to the person who is on the receiving end of the harassment it can be just plain terrifying. You fear for your family as well as yourself and I am quite sure that she never was able to view the situation as anything but a serious infringement on her very private life.
Since she felt it necessary to guard her personal life it put her in a position to be criticized. People are curious. When she married a man so much older than her, that too was the subject of discussion. Also the fact that he was married to someone else when the romance began didn’t help any. Anne also has a huge lesbian following. With all that come rumors. So which is it, Jezebel or Degeneres? Give me a break people! This isn’t FRANK Magazine, it’s one guys take on the singer and her music.
As the sixties were reaching their peaks and valleys so was everything else. Our country celebrated it’s Centennial, Pierre Trudeau was elected Prime Minister of Canada and he brought with him a younger fresher view of what he thought Canada needed. Anne Murray was beginning to make a name for herself in the music business and she was as refreshing as a ray of sunshine. Sound corny? Well, maybe a little but it’s true. CBC television in Halifax was coming into it’s own. Singalong Jubliee was a summer replacement for the very popular Don Messer’s Jubilee. It featured a younger, more hip crowd but never roamed too far from it’s Maritime roots.
Bill Langstroth was the host and this banjo playing, charismatic singer led a host of talented performers. The female star of the show was Catherine McKinnon, a talented soprano, and she performed along with the likes of Fred McKenna, Jim Bennet, The Don Burke Four with Brian Aherne, Marilyn Davies, Kay Porter and Don Burke, the Dropouts with Karen Oxley, Lorne White and Vern Moulton. Then there was Robbie MacNeill, Ken Tobias, Edith Butler, Gordon McMurtrey, Patrician Anne McKinnon, Bud Kimball, Hal Kempster, Marg Ashcroft, Tony Roach, Herb Doane, Michael Stanbury and Hazel Walker. Later we would see the emergence of Shirley Eikhard, Gene MacLellan and Anne Murray. Manny Pittson was the producer. Each and every one of these people were talented in different ways. From traditonal folk songs and ballads to cultural pop tunes, it was an experience in itself.
Jim Bennet, probably the most insightful person in Atlantic Canada, wrote “Black Rum & Blueberry Pie” and the words are uniquely descriptive of our way of thinking : “We’re living in the world of space as everybody knows. And everyone is in the race as this here country grows. But, down among the lobster pots you’ll find a funny crew. Us Maritimers don’t do things like other people do. We just like fishin’, fightin’, getting tight and staring at the sky. Chewin’, spittin’ and just sittin’ watchin’ things go by. Climbing rocks and drivin’ ox and learning how to lie. Drinkin’ Black Rum & eatin’ Blueberry Pie”.
The national exposure of this show led to original cast recordings and eventually to individual recording contracts. Anne Murray stood out from the rest and ARC Records in Toronto wasn’t long in noticing that.
My nephew Rory was born in the spring of ‘68 and as the first grandchild, in a way, a new day was beginning for all of us.
The first album of Anne’s that I heard was the one everyone else did:What About Me. It was recorded in 1968 on ARC Records and although it was her first time out, one could tell that she put forth an honest effort. Anne Murray proved that she was no flash in the pan. She was able to record country songs without a twang and never sang about being ‘woman enough to keep her man’. That was something right there that made me curious to hear what was next and anticipate hearing new material. The album is durable today. I think it is probably the most underestimated album in Canadian history. The name of the album What About Me asked an important question. It might well have been called Why Not Me? Since so many others were able to make a name for themselves in show business on less talent than she did then why not? Listening to the title track today you are able to hear just how young she was at the time. There’s a certain huskiness to her voice. This album helped to launch her Maritime career and make her’s a household name and as a result she was offered a contract with Capitol Records who was, at that time, searching for Canadian talent.
“Now once upon a time some economic fellers came. Development of Human Type Resources was their game. They asked a big computer what us folks was meant to do. It gave a big long list of things that were best suited to. That list read fishin’, fightin’ gettin’ tight and staring at the sky. Chewin’, spittin’ and just sittin’, watchin’ things go by. Climbin’ rocks and drivin’ ox and learnin’ how to lie. Drinkin’ Black Rum & Eatin’ Blueberry Pie”. Singalong Jubilee touched the heart of the country because it’s approach was so down to earth.
|WHAT ABOUT ME|
|What About Me**
|On Anne’s album this song is listed written by Tyson-WHITMARK-ASCAP (which might mean Ian Tyson) but (Scott Mackenzie wrote this song and to my knowledge Anne was the only one who ever recorded it. It is said that when Anne released a bouncier live version of this song a couple of years later the money made from it assisted the songwriter through rehab. Ain’t that somethin’!) When you listen to Anne sing this song you can hear just how young she really was. Her alto voice is put to the test and she delivers.|
|Both Sides Now****||Originally titled Clouds this is a Joni Mitchell tune that was a hit by Judy Collins but I think Anne does a better job…..but don’t tell Judy.|
|It’s All Over****||The LP says this is written by MacRae…..whoever that is , they wrote a great song. George Hamilton IV recorded this song a number of years later and did a decent job on it as well.|
|Some Birds/For Baby****||Now here is Anne at her best. Some Birds is a beauty written by fellow Singalong Jubilee alumni Ken Tobias who is a genius as far as I’m concerned. For Baby is a nice song written by then unknown John Denver. The two songs that go hand in hand. When I was in grade 8 at ARHSAmherst Regional High School, Mr Ross’s class they asked us to bring in modern music. Mine was a year or two before the times but Mr Ross recognized For Baby as a song he and his high school band used to sing. When he askd me about the author Duetchendorf, I told him what I knew….that it was John Denver. I got a good grade.|
|Paths of Victory**||A Bob Dylan tune. (On the album it is listed as written by Ahern-CANINT-CAPAC which would refer to Brain Ahern). Ahern produced this and few more albums for Anne. Anne herself has stated that she is a long time fan of Dylan and his music.|
|David’s Song****||David Wiffen(?) song in which Anne gives a haunting performance. This really adds to the album. In fact it is the nicest song on there. This is one of those album cuts that never gets air play but is considered (by me) one of Anne Murray’s greatest hits. Had this song been the focus of her career, Anne Murray may not have had the career she has today, and don’t ask me why. Perhaps, this song is an above average attempt at leaving a positive impression.|
|There Goes My Everything***||There Goes my everything is a nice version of what I consider to be a real country song. Written by Dallas Frasier. Anne gently wraps her voice around this tune and as a result it flows tenderly. Great song!|
|Buffalo in the Park**||Another Brain Aherne song…..quite an unusual one too.|
|Last Thing on my Mind**||(Anne recorded this song once before on a Singalong Jubilee album.) This folksy style was perfect for Singalong Jubilee but I believe they were geared more toward the pop markets.|
|All the Time***||I believe this was written by country music legend Mel Tillis. Anne does a great job on it. She hits every range on this LP and that is why it is a classic. The girl from Springhill had talent and not too many could argue otherwise. As far as the group from Singalong Jubilee went, Anne stood out. Catherine MacKinnon, a beautifully trained soprano was the real female star of the show but Anne was quickly finding her own audience.|
This Way is my Way (1969) showed different sides of Anne. This was also the introduction of songwriter Gene MacLellan with Hard as I Try, Just Bidin my Time and Snowbird. Snowbird, of course, was the song that helped Anne find a place on the American charts and caused her career to really take off. She was the first Canadian female to sell a million records in the States and for that you receive a ‘gold record’. In Canada the song was played a million or more times and a lot of people got tired of it real fast. I never did. To this day I love that song. Snowbird represents to me what pop music was all about and where it was going in the seventies. It was the first song that I learned all of the words to, (save O Canada and God Save the Queen.) It helped to open people’s eyes to several things; that there was talent down here among the lobster pots, a likeable star was emerging and that dreams really do come true. Anne Murray certainly paved the way for future Canadian stars, some of whom are presently the largest in the world. By this time it was easy to see that her way was my way…****My father was a quiet man who lived a quiet life and in doing so taught us the quality of listening rather than talking, and as a result we were able to learn a real appreciation for music. I stood at his knee and remember watching Anne perform on Singalong Jubilee when my father remarked about how much talent he thought Anne Murray had and suspected that her career would soar. He was right for several reasons. One, because he knew talent when he heard it and two, because he was never one to give credit unless credit was due.****
Around this time a second grandchild joined our ever expanding family, a little girl with rosy cheeks namedStacie. When Frank Sinatra decided that maybe it was time to retire, he recorded the classic Paul Anka tune “My Way”. It effectively described Frank Sinatra and his career. Anne Murray, who by this time was just starting out and had a shot at the big time, carefully chose the title for her first Capitol Records release as “This Way Is My Way”. A sure sign that this woman was someone who knew who she was and where she was going (even if she herself didn’t realize it).
|THIS WAY IS MY WAY|
|Bidin’ My Time****||Just Bidin’ My Time is truly a Canadian classic. They had hoped it would be a hit in the US and released it as a single. It didn’t take, but a Florida DJ liked the flip side of the 45 and he began playing it……..a song calledSnowbird! I guess one never knows do they?|
|Sittin’ Back Lovin’ You***||Sittin’ Back Lovin’ You This was a hit for John Sebastion and the Lovin’ Spoonful but Anne really does a decent job on it. Anne makes every song her own and this is no exception.|
|No One is to Blame**||Steven Rhymer has written some beautiful and inspirational songs and this is one of them. Anne’s voice is pure and her approach to this song is very soft and natural. *** Note: I feel that Emmy Lou Harris’s ‘Light of the Stable’ (by Steven Rhymer) is the prettiest Christmas song ever. Have you heard it?****|
|I Wonder How the Old Folks are at Home***||Bluegrass a la Anne Murray written by another Anne with an ‘e’ Anne Bybee.|
|Sunspots***||This is definitely a sixties tune written by Arthur Gee and Anne does a fine job on it. It makes me think of London in the spring.|
|He may Call****||M. Brown and S. Martin wrote a song that puts Anne’s vocal range to the test.|
|Thirsty Boots***||This was the first single off the album. (I believe it was a Canada only release.) I think they wanted something different and thought this was it. Although the song may be dated today it certainly is unique. Eric Anderson wrote it.|
|Snowbird****||I am sure that no one knew the impact the song Snowbirdwould have on the music industry. It was one of the first crossover hits and it brought Anne Murray over with it. No one has known where to place her ever since! Snowbird has been recorded by many, many singers over the years and yet no one, and I mean no one, can sing it like our Anne. When asked over the years when Anne fully realized that she “had made it’ she has given several responses, (one in particular, that when she appeared in Vegas, her name was on one billboard and Frank Sinatra’s was on the one across the street). I, Todd Canton, became aware of how successful she was when she appeared in our music book at school. Up until that time I had only ever seen Americans or British musicians. Having someone from home rise to stardom was certainly something to be proud of. Snowbird has been performed by many including Elvis Presley. Writer Gene MacLellan recorded it on his debut album and it contained an extra verse. He also sang a version with French lyrics. It was said that he wrote that song in less than an hour and put little or no effort into it. All that being said there was no way he could ever have known what would happen with it. True? Unexpected success from an unimaginable genius……|
|Hard as I Try***||Hard As I Try is another Gene MacLellan classic. Poor Gene MacLellan. He meant every sad word he wrote. Success and fame didn’t set well with him so he went into hiding for a very long time. That may have helped him but eventually the depression he suffered from took him over. Anne’s recording of this song was a prelude to the croonin’that she would do later. Anne Murray was a soft and sultry singer, far before her time.|
|I’ll be Your Baby Tonight***||Bob Dylan wrote this tune and Anne says she has always been a great fan of his but I think I told you that already. This rousing version of his song is done very well.|
|Nice To Be With You**||A Goldstein song. Anne does a good job on this tune. Paul White who served as associate producer on this LP wrote in the liner notes “Anne sings with just the right touch of mellow sophistication needed to underscore her individuality.” Well said!|
I just realized something. In the words of her liner notes for Honey, Wheat & Laughter it states that “When Anne Murray sings, she sings directly to you” you know something, I thought I was the one who thought that one up!During all the hoopla over Snowbird and all of the success that Anne was enjoying in 1970 another album appeared, Honey, Wheat and Laughter. The title was chosen from the song Someone Else Today. This collection of songs was yet another glimpse into the many sides of Anne Murray. This album, like This Way is my Way was a Canada only release and no singles were released off of it. A truly great album, probably the best of her early stuff.
While all the hoopla was going on about Snowbird and it’s success our tired and sick father passed away. He left our mother alone at 43 with seven kids and two grandchildren to take care of. His death was so unexpected by those of us who were so very young that as a result I feel we all reacted in different ways. I suffered despair at the loss of my dad and I was able to find peace with spirituality and with music.
|HONEY, WHEAT & LAUGHTER|
|Fire and Rain***||Fire and Rain James Taylor wrote this one. Anne opens and closes this collection of songs with James Taylor tunes. I am sure that he was pleasantly surprised at how well she did in recording this song. How could he not? Even at this very young stage of her career, Anne Murray proves that she is like no one else.|
|Rain***||This one, Rain, was written by Jose Feliciano. He had a major hit with it and Anne does a nice job on it. It was the flip-side of the Snowbird 45 in Canada.|
|Someone Else Today**||Someone Else Today is a haunting and unusual tune. It’s written by Peter Cornell. It has never really played a role in Anne’s career other than the words ‘honey, wheat & laughter’. Although I liked the song I never quite got it’s true meaning. Peter Cornell later became Peter Pringle and has had a reasonably successful career as a singer. This song has been done Gavo style recently and is re-mixed as a dance tune. Again the song is done in an unusual way….|
|Head above the Water**||Another Steven Rhymer song. Although it’s less than two minutes long it packs a powerful message.|
|Break My Mind***||John D. Loudermilk wrote Break My Mind. It was a song Anne quite often sang with George Hamilton IV. Anne proves that her range is unlimited when it comes to choosing and recording songs.|
|The Call***||The Call Gene MacLellan wrote this one. It’s not really an Anne Murray song until she redoes it on a later album. Nice though!|
|Put Your Hand in the Hand**||Anne Murray is the first person to record Put Your Hand in the Hand, this magnificent inspirational tune. I am sure that no one (certainly not Gene MacLellan) knew the impact this song would have on the world. Being the novices they were it wasn’t released as a single so an unknown group called Ocean whisked it away and had a major world wide hit selling millions and millions of copies….|
|Running***||Peter Cornell wrote this anti-draft song and Anne does a fantastic job on it.|
|Musical Friends***||Bruce Cockburn, the folk singer, wrote this. Anne makes this song her own. Songwriters must be thrilled when someone with such quality records their material.|
|Get Together***||Dino Valenti wrote this. This is a very nice version to a very nice song. It speaks of a time when the world desired peace and the words ring true today.|
|Night Owl**||Another James Taylor song…..|
Since the single Snowbird had done so well in the States an album had to follow. Snowbird the LP was put together with cuts from Honey, Wheat and Laughter and This Way is my Way. It was the best of both and a great album. The gold record for Snowbird was presented to Anne on the Merv Griffen Show in the fall of 1970 (We had to watch it on the news as the Merv Griffen Show was not televised in this country). Our whole country appeared proud of her. Even if one didn’t admit to liking her and her music the woman was making a name for herself and was bringing a lot of positive attention to Canada and Canadians.SNOWBIRD this album might very well be the most important album that Canada ever sent south.
In 1971 came Straight, Clean and Simple. This was another pop album. The title said it all. A wholesome image was how she presented herself and this was how she was accepted by the public. I believe that until you take the time to really listen to Anne and these album cuts that don’t get a lot of attention you have never really heard her. This album too was worth the $3.99 at the Met. The liner notes on this album say “Anne Murray is the type of girl next door that you wish the door she lived next to was yours”…….How true!
|STRAIGHT, CLEAN & SIMPLE|
|It Takes Time***||Singer/songwriter Shirley Eikhard, from Sackville, New Brunswick, has proven herself to be a fantastic singer and songwriter, writing several songs that Anne has recorded over the years. As a teen Shirley has written and recorded some fantastic tunes. (She also penned the Bonnie Raitt tune Something to Talk About.) I consider It Takes Time to be an anthem for it’s time. A strong message is delivered through the words of such a young songwriter. Shirley has appeared on many of Anne’s albums doing back up and has the perfect voice for it.|
|People’s Park**||Brent Titcomb wrote this. He was one of the musicians on several of Anne’s albums.|
|One Day I Walk**||Another Bruce Cockburn song.|
|Child of Mine**||Carole King, probably the most talented female songwriter in North America, virtually shaped the face of easy listening music with her talented singing and song-writing. Anne’s voice is a little deep on this one but my goodness it’s a beautiful song.|
|Sycamore Slick***||Another Brent Titcomb song and what I would consider an album filler. Nice though.|
|Wishing Smiles Made it all True**||A nice song by Richard Gael but not really an Anne Murray song.|
|Sing High, Sing Low***||Sing High, Sing Low. I love this song and so does all of Korea. It seems Anne is big over there. For the third and last time on this album Brent Titcomb wrote this wonderful song. In keeping with Anne’s wholesome image this song fits perfectly into Anne’s ever expanding repitoire.|
|Days of the Looking Glass****||Days of the Looking Glass. I cannot play this record without allowing this song to play from beginning to end. It must’ve been written with Anne in mind because she sings it so perfectly. A beautiful Gene MacLellan tune that once again proves the genius behind the talented and shy man.|
|A Stranger in my Place****||Kenny Rogers, you know who he is don’t you? He wroteStranger in My Place but I bet he could never sing it as smoothly as Anne does. I can only imagine what a pleasant surprise it was the first time he heard Anne Murray sing one of his songs. He must’ve been impressed, they’ve been friends ever since.|
|I’ll Never Fall in Love Again***||Burt Bacharach/Hal David wrote I’ll Never Fall in Love Again and it was a big hit for Dionne Warwick. Burt Bacharach’s music was what the sixties and seventies were all about. Anne’s harmonies are put to the test on this one and she does a great job.|
By this time CBC had successfully made a star out of Anne Murray. Everyone from coast to coast knew her name. Her television specials were entertaining . We were given a glimpse into the private life of Anne Murray, her family, her community and her love for her homeland through television. These TV specials always drew huge crowds. Most of them were written by unknown Alan Thicke. Anne was busy, quite often appearing regularly on the Tommy Hunter Show and with Ian Tyson on Nashville North. I could see how she was becoming more confident with stardom and yet there was that little bit of shyness. What also was coming into full view was the fact that no matter how hard you looked, there was no one else in the world like Anne Murray.Any comments, challenges questions or opinions? If so email me at canton(at sign goes here)tru.eastlink.ca