100 Greatest Women, #32: Anne Murray

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition

#32

Anne Murray

2008 Edition: #28 (-4)

There may never have been a more unassuming female superstar than Anne Murray, who quietly built up an impressive run of hits that stretched two decades long. All this from a soft-spoken high school gym teacher who half-heartedly pursued the fame and fortune that came looking for her instead.

For Murray, music had only been a hobby. As she studied for her physical education degree at the Canadian University of New Brunswick, she tried out for the weekly CBC television series Singing Jubilee. They already had enough alto singers, but the producer remembered her. Two years had passed since the audition and she was already a high school gym teacher. The producer called her up with an offer to join at TV show called Let’s Go. She took the job, but kept teaching at the same time.

She struck up a friendship with the show’s musical director Brian Ahern. He asked her to record for the independent label Arc, and in 1968, she released her debut album What About Me? It did well enough to capture the attention of Capitol Records, who signed her to a deal. When her first single for the label, “Snowbird”, was released, it was an surprise hit, selling a million copies and going top ten on both the country and pop charts.

Murray was a reluctant overnight star. As she released several albums in the early to mid-seventies, she became increasingly uneasy with show business. She had to go from coffee houses to concert halls quite quickly, and it made her uncomfortable. She didn’t enjoy the early years of her success, despite having many hits, some with Glen Campbell, and winning a Grammy in 1975. That same year, she went into a short retirement, moving back to Toronto to start a family with her new husband.

When she was ready to return, she did so with a bang. In 1978, “Walk Right Back” announced her return, going top five. The next single, “You Needed Me”, was a monster, selling a million copies and topping the pop chart. In 1979, she was nominated in both the pop and country fields, losing her country bid for “Walk Right Back” but winning a pop Grammy for “You Needed Me.”

Murray adopted a more showy stage persona, but maintained her quite humility regarding her career, despite the fact that she was one of the most popular singers in the country for a few years. She had a string of #1 hits – five in three years. The biggest one was intended to be a duet with Kenny Rogers. Murray recorded the first verse in a lower register as a placeholder, and when the duet fell through, it ended up as a solo single. Featured on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack, “Could I Have This Dance” won her a third Grammy.

In 1983, Murray went topical, releasing the current events lament “A Little Good News.” The song struck a deep chord, and it won her another Grammy and the CMA for Single of the Year. It was the title track for the accompanying album, and Murray made country music history when she became the first female artist to win CMA Album of the Year in 1984. Nearly three decades later, she remains one of only four female artists to win the award. (Lee Ann Womack, Dixie Chicks and Patty Loveless are the other three.)

Murray then teamed up with Dave Loggins for the hit duet “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do.” The pair was named CMA Vocal Duo in 1985. Murray’s hit run continued throughout the eighties, until she scored her final big country hit in 1990 with “Feed This Fire.” She left Capitol in 1991, but by then she had built up such a strong catalog that the label issued a box set of her material, called Now and Forever, in 1994.

Freed from the expectations of a major label deal, Murray created side projects that she’d always wanted to do, including a standards album called Croonin’ , a live album and a Christmas album. She sold these albums primarily through direct marketing, and they were all commercially successful, with the Christmas release, What a Wonderful World, becoming a platinum record in the United States.

Today, Murray’s legacy is as strong as ever. She’s had two hits collections that have sold in the millions, and her duets album in 2007 sold strongly in both Canada and the U.S. The project revealed the high esteem for Murray among both her contemporaries and newer artists. Emmylou Harris, Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Olivia Newton-John, k.d. lang, Martina McBride, and Nelly Furtado are just a few of the big names that joined her in song.

Murray quietly retired after that duets project, ending her four decades as an artist with a final tour in 2008.  In 2017, she reflected on her many years as a music star. “It was a very good career, but it wasn’t noisy. It was just … work. Just work. I wanted to go out quietly.”   Murray has busied herself with the Anne Murray Centre, which is nearing its thirtieth anniversary of celebrating her career as it welcomes visitors to Novia Scotia.  She penned her autobiography, All of Me, in 2009, and personally chose the track listing of her most recent compilation, 2017’s The Ultimate Collection.

Essential Singles

  • Snowbird, 1970
  • Cotton Jenny, 1972
  • Danny’s Song, 1972
  • A Love Song, 1973
  • You Needed Me, 1978
  • I Just Fall in Love Again, 1979
  • Broken Hearted Me, 1979
  • Could I Have This Dance, 1980
  • A Little Good News, 1983
  • Nobody Loves Me Like You Do (with Dave Loggins), 1984

Essential Albums

  • Snowbird, 1970
  • Let’s Keep it That Way, 1978
  • New Kind of Feeling, 1979
  • A Little Good News, 1983
  • Heart Over Mind, 1984
  • Croonin’, 1993
  • Country Croonin’, 2002

Industry Awards

  • Academy of Country Music Awards
    • Song of the Year
      • You Needed Me, 1979
  • Canadian Country Music Association Awards
    • Single of the Year
      • A Little Good News, 1984
      • Now and Forever (You and Me), 1986
    • Vocal Duo of the Year
      • Anne Murray & Dave Loggins, 1985
  • Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, 2002
  • Canadian Music Hall of Fame, 1993
  • Country Music Association Awards
    • Album of the Year
      • A Little Good News, 1984
    • Single of the Year
      • A Little Good News, 1984
    • Vocal Duo of the Year
      • Anne Murray & Dave Loggins, 1985
  • Grammy Awards
    • Best Female Country Vocal Performance
      • Love Song, 1975
      • Could I Have This Dance, 1981
      • A Little Good News, 1984
    • Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
      • You Needed Me, 1979
  • Juno Awards
    • Album of the Year
      • New Kind of Feeling, 1980
      • Greatest Hits, 1981
    • Children’s Album of the Year
      • There’s a Hippo in My Tub, 1979
    • Country Female Vocalist of the Year, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986
    • Female Vocalist of the Year, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982
    • Single of the Year
      • I Just Fall in Love Again, 1980
      • Could I Have This Dance, 1981

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition

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Previous: #33. Pam Tillis

6 Comments

  1. Never cared much. I think it goes back to when I started collecting vinyl, and I kept seeing her stuff a lot. Now? I’ve got a barely-functional (as in, only the first side’ll play) cassette of New Kind of Feeling, but that’s it.

    I don’t know what’s more surprising about this new piece on her: That you cut the stuff about “Blame Canada” that was in the 2008 version, or that I had no idea she’d retired until reading this one.

  2. I love all your essential singles. Anne Murray has recorded so many great songs that it’s impossible to mention them all in a series of articles of this nature. I’ll just mention a few favorites of mine. Thanks to wiki I was able to get them with the songwriters identified. Some were not singles or maybe a not very successful single.

    “Wrong End of the Rainbow” (Milton Blackford & Richard Leigh)
    “A Stranger in My Place” (Kenny Rogers & Kin Vassy)
    “Raining in My Heart” (Felice & Boudleau Bryant)
    “Bidin’ My Time” (Gene MacLellan) who also wrote “Snowbird”
    “The Call” (Gene MacLellan)
    “Son of a Rotten Gambler” (Chip Taylor)
    “Blue Finger Lou” (Alan O’Day)
    “Yucatan Cafe” (Adam Mitchell)
    “What’s Forever For” (Rafe Van Hoy)
    “Lucky Me” (Charlie Black, Rory Michael Bourke)
    “Where Do You Go When You Dream” (Charlie Black, Molly-Ann Leikin)
    “It’s All I Can Do” (Archie Jordan, Richard Leigh)
    “Song for the Mira” (Allister MacGillivray)
    “Somebody’s Always Saying Goodbye” (Bob McDill)
    “Please Don’t Sell Nova Scotia” (Peter Pringle)
    “Uproar” (Paul Grady)
    “Highly Prized Possession (Brian Russell & David Palmer)

    My wife and I are big Anne Murray fans and probably have more music from her than any other artist. We play her music frequently. We were supposed to see her at Carnegie Hall once but found out when we arrived that illness had forced her to cancel. When the show was rescheduled, it was at the Radio City Music Hall. We also saw her at Westbury.

  3. Anne Murray is one of the greatest talents to ever to come out of Canada. She has one of the most lovely voices I have ever heard. Anne has too many great songs for me to pick as my favorite.

  4. And just for the record folks, in 1974, when she had a #1 C&W hit with her take on “He Thinks I Still Care”, it was on the flip side of her #8 pop hit “You Won’t See Me”, which was written by a couple of Brits named Lennon and McCartney (you may have heard of them once or twice [LOL]).

  5. Anne Murray is one of a kind. Voice is like silk.

    My favorite period of time for her music was the late 70s but I have all 8 of the cds that were produced by Jim Ed Norman. My favorites were Let’s Keep It That Way, New Kind of Feeling, I’ll Always Love You, and Somebody’s Waiting.

    The only addition I would make to the essential singles list above is her amazing cover of the Everly Brothers’ ‘Walk Right Back’.

    My personal feeling is that Murray should’ve definitely made at least the top 30 on this list, but deserves to be in the top 25.

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