Canadian singer Anne Murray (born 1945) was the first Canadian female singer to reach the top spot on the American music charts as well as being the first to earn a gold record, for 1970's "Snowbird." During her long career she has sold over 50 million albums. Her alto voice has garnered her fans and accolades from many different genres, including pop, country, and adult contemporary as well as winning her dozens of music awards.
A Childhood of Song
Born Morna Anne Murray on June 20, 1945, singer Anne Murray is the only daughter of James Carson Murray, a doctor, and Marion (Burke) Murray, a registered nurse and homemaker. The Murray family lived in Springhill, Nova Scotia, a town of only a few thousand people centered around the coal mining industry. One of six children, Murray grew up with five active brothers. On her website Murray noted that "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." With that inspiration coupled with her love of music, Murray first studied piano and then, from the age of 15, voice. One of Murray's earliest performances was of the religious song "Ave Maria" at her high school graduation in 1962.
Murray studied at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax briefly, then transferred to the University of New Brunswick at Fredericton to study physical education. She completed her degree in 1966. However, she did not forget her love of music during those studies. She unsuccessfully auditioned for a Canadian network television series, Singalong Jubilee, in 1964; in 1966, she again auditioned for the same series, and this time was cast. She worked on the show during the summer following her graduation from the University of New Brunswick before turning to a more stable career as a physical education instructor at a high school on Prince Edward Island.
Became a "Snowbird"
Her career as a teacher never progressed beyond that first year. Murray returned to Singalong Jubilee as a featured soloist during the summer of 1967 and also accepted a spot on another television show, Let's Go, aimed at teenagers. After appearing on the cast recording for Singalong Jubilee, Murray received an offer from the show's musical director, Brian Ahern, to record a solo album. In 1968 Murray released her first album, What About Me. She made her major label debut the following fall with the Capitol Records release This Way Is My Way. Not a songwriter herself, Murray performed and interpreted the songs of others, including a track called "Snowbird" penned by novice Canadian songwriter Gene MacLellan.
Although not selected as a single from This Way Is My Way, "Snowbird" appeared on the b-side of the album's second single, "Biding My Time." Radio stations began playing the song and it quickly became a hit. The song was one of the most played selections in North America in 1970 and garnered Murray an American gold record (meaning that the single had sold over 500,000 copies), a first for a Canadian female solo artist. Murray's song became both a pop and country standard. Speaking to an interviewer for Canada's Globe and Mail in 2006, Murray recalled, "I definitely fought against being labeled country at a very early stage in my career because I wanted to do everything. I didn't want to be labeled. I love all the music and was influenced by so many different kinds of music that I should be able to do any of it if I chose to." Murray's fans included even John Lennon, who told Murray at the 1974 Grammy Awards that her version of "You Won't Tell Me" was his favorite Beatles' cover. At that same awards ceremony, Murray received her first Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, for her hit "Love Song." However, this was not Murray's first major award—her first was the Juno award (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy) for Best Female Vocalist in 1971.
With the success of "Snowbird" and other songs, Murray began appearing regularly on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour and other popular variety shows of the time, including such major programs as American Bandstand, The Muppet Show, and Saturday Night Live. Both Murray's professional and personal lives blossomed during the 1970s. In 1975 Murray married Bill Langstroth, and the following year the couple had their first child, William. In 1979 Murray gave birth to a daughter, Dawn. For a few years after her marriage, Murray essentially dropped out of the music world to focus on her family.
Murray returned to record more diverse material in the late 1970s, including a children's album called There's a Hippo in My Tub in 1977. This album won the Juno for Best Children's Album in 1979; that same year, Murray again received the Juno for Best Female Vocalist. In 1978 she scored a major country and pop hit with the song "You Needed Me." This track earned Murray her second Grammy Award.
A Prolific Artist
Murray continued to record and perform extensively during the 1980s, releasing at least one album every year except 1985. In 1980 Murray received her third Grammy Award in the Best Country Vocal Performance category for the song "Could I Have This Dance." That same year, she was honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. In 1983 Murray's song "A Little Good News" garnered her a fourth Grammy, again for Best Country Vocal Performance.
In July of 1989 Murray opened the Anne Murray Centre in her hometown of Springhill, Nova Scotia. The community's coal mining industry unexpectedly shut down in the 1958 after a series of mining accidents, and Murray wanted to promote a new industry for the struggling area. The Anne Murray Centre displays artifacts from Murray's career and aims to promote music appreciation in the Nova Scotia region. Shortly after the opening of the center, Maclean's magazine noted that Murray "herself is coming to terms with the idea that she is a Canadian institution."
In 1984 Murray became a Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honor. From the mid-1980s on, Murray's commercial appeal declined somewhat. In the late 1980s country music listeners' tastes shifted considerably from softer, more adult contemporary-influenced sounds to harder, more traditional rock-country bands. Despite this shift, Murray's albums continued to be commercially and critically acclaimed.
A Long and Celebrated Career
In 1993 Murray was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. After the death of her longtime friend and manager, she signed with a new manager and her career took a different turn. During this transitional phase Murray did not release any material; the period between 1993 and 1996 remains her longest musical hiatus. In 1997 Murray released her first live album, and two years later she again explored a new style with an album of inspirational songs, What a Wonderful World. This album went platinum in both the United States and Canada, showing Murray's continued commercial appeal. The following year, Murray became one of the charter inductees on the Canadian Walk of Fame.
Murray entered another new genre in 2001 with the release of her album What a Wonderful Christmas. Achieving gold status in Canada—an unusual feat for a seasonal album—What a Wonderful Christmas became one of the more successful Christmas albums of all time. In 2002 Murray released an album of classic country songs entitled Country Croonin'. The album went platinum in Canada and Murray embarked on a tour to support it. Three years later Murray released her 33rd studio album, All of Me, to critical praise. Writing in People magazine, Ralph Novak commented that "All in all, this excellent album makes for an ideal companion piece to Murray's 2002 collection of country standards, Country Croonin'."
In a rare crossover between Murray's personal and professional life, she and her daughter Dawn set out in the late 1990s to promote awareness of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. Dawn suffered from the disease for several years before seeking treatment, and mother and daughter appeared on television talk shows in the hopes of preventing other young women from experiencing the same problem.
During her career, Murray has sought to put her talents to use for many good causes. After a tsunami devastated southeast Asia in late 2005, Murray joined a contingent of Canadian performers to appear in the massive benefit Canada for Asia, sponsored by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). In 2006 Murray received a Legacy Award from the Canadian Songwriters' Hall of Fame, acknowledging her long career as a premiere interpreter of songs. During her career, Murray has performed more than 80 songs written by Canadian songwriters, showing her dedication to the arts of her native country. Unlike many successful Canadian performers, Murray has lived in Canada her entire life, mostly in the Toronto area.
To date, Murray has sold over 50 million albums. In addition to her four Grammy awards, she has received nearly 25 Juno awards, three American Music awards, three Country Music Association awards, and three Canadian Country Music Association awards. In addition to these wins, she has been nominated for many other awards. With a career spanning 40 years, Murray's storied alto seems guaranteed to please fans for years to come.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada), February 3, 2006.
MacLean's, December 25, 1989; January 18, 1999.
People, February 28, 2005.
Toronto Star, January 14, 2005.
Toronto Sun, February 6, 2006.
"The Anne Murray Centre," AnneMurray.com, http://www.annemurray.com/amc/ (January 2, 2007).
"Anne Murray," CMT.com, http://www.cmt.com (January 2, 2007)
"Anne Murray's Story So Far," AnneMurray.com, http://www.annemurray.com (January 1, 2007).
"Every Show, every winner …," TheEnvelope.com, http://theenvelope.latimes.com (January 2, 2007)
"Grammy Award Winners," Grammy.com, http://www.grammy.com (January 2, 2007).
"Juno Awards Artist Summary," Juno Awards, http://www.junoawards.ca (January 2, 2007)
"Murray, Anne." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/murray-anne
"Murray, Anne." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/murray-anne
Anne Murray is one of Canada’s most successful vocalists. She scored her first hit in 1970 with “Snowbird,” which made her the first Canadian woman ever to sell one million copies of a song. Murray has since had many other smashes on both the country and pop charts, including “Danny’s Song” and “You Needed Me,” and her long and fruitful career has also yielded her twenty-two Juno Awards, four Grammy Awards, and three awards from the Country Music Association.
Murray was born Morna Anne Murray on June 20,1945, in Springhill, Nova Scotia, Canada. The daughter of a doctor and a nurse, and the only girl in a family of six, she had a happy childhood except for the trauma of mining disasters which occasionally devastated Springhill. “It was horrifying,” Murray recalled for Edwin Miller of Seventeen. “Many of my girlfriends had their fathers killed. Just standing at the pit head, waiting for days on end for them to find people. You’re not aware of it at the time, but it has a profound effect on you. Growing up in that environment made me fairly strong.”
Murray’s smalltown Canadian environment also drove her to entertain herself with music. “After a long winter,” she confided to Miller, “people are ready to slash their wrists waiting for spring.... The people along the entire coast amuse themselves singing.” Her parents recognized her talent during family sing-alongs, and paid for approximately eight years of piano lessons and three years of voice training. Murray had to travel one hundred miles every Saturday to get to her singing teacher. Of course, like most young people of her generation, she also listened to the radio. Her influences ranged from Rosemary Clooney to Odetta, from Dusty Springfield and Peter, Paul and Mary to Buddy Holly and the Beatles.
But as a teenager Murray did not have enough faith in her vocal abilities to depend upon them for her livelihood, and after graduating from high school she decided to enter college to become a physical education teacher. While earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of New Brunswick, however, she auditioned for a Canadian summer replacement television program called “Sing-Along Jamboree.” She came close to winning a spot in the show’s chorus, but the producers decided they already had enough altos. Two years later, though, when Murray had already taken a job as a high-school gym teacher on Prince Edward Island, Bill Langstroth, the host of “Sing-Along,” urged her to try out again. By 1967 she was a regular soloist on the show, and quickly “became Canada’s country music sweetheart,” in the words of Bob Levin of Maclean’s.
Murray appeared barefoot and sang country and folk-flavored tunes, and Canadian fans warmed to her
Full name, Morna Anne Murray; born June 20, 1945, in Springhill, Nova Scotia, Canada; daughter of James Carson (a physician) and Marion (a nurse; maiden name, Burke) Murray; married Bill Langstroth (a television host and photographer), June 20, 1975; children: William, Dawn. Education: Attended Mount St. Vincent University, c. 1963; University of New Brunswick, B.S. in physical education, 1966.
High school physical education teacher, Prince Edward Island, Canada, 1967-68; regular on Canadian television show “Sing-Along Jamboree,” beginning in 1967; recording artist and concert performer, 1968—. Appeared on television shows, including “Glen Campbell’s Good Time Hour,” “The Muppet Show,” and her own special, “A Special Anne Murray Christmas.”
Awards: Received numerous awards, including twenty-two Juno Awards, four Grammy Awards, and three Country Music Association Awards; named to the Order of Canada, 1975.
Addresses: Residence —4881 Yonge St., #412, Toronto, Ont. M2N 5X3.
strong voice and wholesome image. In 1968 she recorded an album on the Canadian label Arc.
Brian Ahern, one of the producers of “Sing-Along,” believed Murray could be successful on an international level as well, and he encouraged her to seek a recording contract with a label that had a U.S. affiliate. Capitol of Canada met those requirements and was eager to sign the young singer. Her first two albums for them were sufficiently well-received in Canada, but did not get much attention in the United States. But “Snowbird,” a song written by another “Sing-Along” regular and recorded as the B-side of what they thought would provide a hit for Murray, brought her to the notice of U.S. audiences. It raced up both the pop and country charts in 1970, and Murray was an international star. Ironically, “Snowbird” brought Murray controversy as well. “Some people called it a drug song!” she exclaimed to Miller. “I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even know what cocaine was! A guy wrote it because he was walking alone on a beach in the spring and there was snow around and birds.”
Though Murray continued her efforts after “Snowbird,” she went for three years without another major hit. Her fears of being a “one-hit wonder” were greatly alleviated when “Danny’s Song,” written by the songwriting team of Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina—also veterans of “Sing-Along”—proved successful with both pop and country audiences in 1973. The following year, she scored with another Loggins and Messina tune, “Love Song.” Even with these triumphs, however, Murray was becoming frustrated with her career. Attempts to spice up her image and give her a more sophisticated appeal went nowhere, and in 1975 she went into semi-retirement after marrying former “Sing-Along” host Bill Langstroth. In 1976, Murray gave birth to her first child, William; a daughter, Dawn, followed three years later.
But while she concentrated on starting a family, Murray also did some studio work, and recorded what is perhaps her biggest hit, “You Needed Me.” The song’s phenomenal success encouraged Murray to return to the limelight after its 1978 release—it netted her both a Juno and a Grammy for best female pop vocalist. With the awards came a new self-confidence. Murray admitted to Christopher Petkanas in High Fidelity that at first she was daunted by her fellow 1978 Grammy nominees—stars such as Donna Summer, Olivia Newton-John, Carly Simon, and Barbra Streisand—and asked herself “What the hell am I doing in this category? Those singers are in show business.” But the Canadian songstress finally came to terms with her own abilities. “I listened to my performance [on ’You Needed Me’],” she told Petkanas, “and realized that I can sing as well as the next girl.”
Since the breakthrough of “You Needed Me,” Murray has produced a flurry of pop and country smashes, including 1979’s “Shadows in the Moonlight,” “I Just Fall in Love Again,” and “Broken-Hearted Me” and 1980’s remake of the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer,” and “Could I Have This Dance,” a single from the film Urban Cowboy. Her concerts continue to attract large crowds in both Canada and the United States, even though she tries to schedule her appearances and recording sessions to allow her at least four days a week with her husband and children. In 1986, Murray again went for a more sophisticated pop sound with the album Something to Talk About —as she concluded for Levin, “I’m doing what I think is right…. I want to reach as many people as I can.”
Singles; on Capitol Records
“Cotton Jenny,” 1972.
“What About Me?” 1973.
“Send a Little Love My Way,” 1973.
“Danny’s Song,” 1973.
“You Won’t See Me,” 1974.
“Love Song,” 1974.
“Just One Look,” 1974.
“He Thinks I Don’t Care,” 1974.
“Son of a Rotten Gambler,” 1974.
“Walk Right Back,” 1978.
“You Needed Me,” 1978.
“I Just Fall in Love Again,” 1979.
“Shadows in the Moonlight,” 1979.
“Broken-Hearted Me,” 1979.
“Could I Have This Dance?” 1980.
“Daydream Believer,” 1980.
“I’m Happy Just to Dance With You,” 1980.
“It’s All I Can Do,” 1981.
“Now and Forever (You and Me),” 1986.
Also recorded singles “Another Sleepless Night,” “Just Another Woman in Love,” and “A Little Good News.”
Albums; on Capitol Records
Anne Murray, 1971.
Talk It Over in the Morning, 1971.
Love Song, 1974.
Highly Prized Possession, 1974.
Keeping in Touch, 1976.
Let’s Keep It That Way, 1978.
New Kind of Feeling, 1979.
I’ll Always Love You, 1980.
A Country Collection, 1980.
Anne Murray’s Greatest Hits, 1980.
Where Do You Go When You Dream, 1981.
Something to Talk About, 1986.
Anne Murray’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, 1989.
Maclean’s, October 20, 1980, April 7, 1986.
People, December 17, 1979.
Seventeen, April 1980.
"Murray, Anne." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/murray-anne
"Murray, Anne." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/murray-anne