Education and Early Career
Anne Murray was raised in the coal-mining town of Springhill, Nova Scotia. She studied piano starting at age 11, and at 15 she began two years of classical voice lessons with Karen Mills in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia. She also sang with a girl trio, The Freshettes. She began singing solos at age 15 and performed “Ave Maria” at her high school graduation ceremony. Her musical influences were Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Connie Francis and Patti Page (influences that were obvious in her recordings), as well as folk music, the Mills Brothers, Dusty Springfield, The Beatles and Bobby Darin.
In 1962, Murray took a preparatory year at Halifax’s Mount Saint Vincent College (now Mount Saint Vincent University), where she took singing lessons with Charlie Underwood and participated in a musical theatre production. She then entered the Bachelor of Physical Education program at the University of New Brunswick, graduating in 1966. Her first professional singing engagement was in Fredericton in 1964. At university, Murray sang in a revue and on a student recording. After undergoing a tonsillectomy in 1965, Murray discovered she could open her throat completely and that her voice had dramatically improved.
Early Professional Career
Murray auditioned unsuccessfully for a spot on CBC TV’s Singalong Jubilee in 1965. By 1966, she was singing on Halifax radio shows, for CBC Radio and at clubs in the Atlantic provinces. She then spent a year teaching physical education at a high school in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. A year later, Singalong Jubilee co-producer Bill Langstroth called her back to join the show’s chorus. She became a summer featured performer on the show and participated in a soundtrack album as part of the cast. She also met producer Brian Ahern, who recommended she pursue a solo singing career.
From 1967 to 1968, Murray also appeared on the Halifax version of Let’s Go, CBC TV’s national pop music show featuring regional segments. Murray left her teaching job and moved into the limelight through national broadcasts, quickly establishing herself as a fan favourite with solo spots on Singalong Jubilee until 1970. In these early years, Murray sang barefoot and accompanied herself on guitar.
Encouraged and produced by Brian Ahern, Murray made her solo recording debut with the folk album What About Me (1968) for the Canadian label Arc Records. The single “What About Me” was a hit in Canada, her first of many. She also appeared on The Wayne & Shuster Comedy Special in 1968, increasing her exposure to national audiences.
Capitol Records released Murray’s second solo album, This Way Is My Way, in 1969, and her first hit single, Gene MacLellan’s “Snowbird,” in 1970. Murray’s recording of “Snowbird” typified what would become her characteristic crossover sound: part country, part pop, part adult contemporary. The song was a massive hit, reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart and making Murray the first Canadian woman to earn a gold record in the United States. “Snowbird” sold more than 1 million copies in 1970 alone and earned Murray two Grammy Award nominations.
Singing Career 1970–72
Murray’s recognizability increased after she made her US national television debut on 4 October 1970 on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, where she became a frequent guest. In October 1970, CBC TV aired the first of many Anne Murray specials. Her reputation as a country singer was further entrenched through appearances on Nashville North (The Ian Tyson Show) and The Johnny Cash Show.
Although she became well known in the United States, Murray continued to base her career in Canada. By 1971, she had moved from Nova Scotia to Toronto, but she resisted a permanent move to the United States even though she performed in that country frequently, e.g., opening for Glen Campbell’s concerts and appearing in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
In 1971, she made her first tour of Western Canada (to sold-out shows) as well as her debut at Massey Hall in Toronto (four shows over two days). However, the frequency of her television appearances and concerts led to speculation that Murray was becoming overexposed and that an absence of focused planning was damaging her career. Also, by the early 1970s she had followed up “Snowbird” with a string of largely unsuccessful singles and badly needed a hit. She toured Europe and North America in 1972.
Singing Career 1973–75
Murray began to update her image in an attempt to place her more firmly in the pop genre. In 1973, she found the hit she needed with “Danny’s Song,” which spent two weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart and earned a Grammy nomination. She also opened for Glen Campbell in Europe. Then in 1974, she received a Grammy Award for best female country vocal performance for “A Love Song.” That recording reached No. 5 on Billboard’s country chart and No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Also that year, “Send A Little Love My Way,” which she sang for the film Oklahoma Crude, was nominated for a Golden Globe. She was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1975.
Time Off with Family
In 1975, formalizing a long relationship, Murray married CBC TV producer Bill Langstroth. She stepped back from the music industry in May 1976, resting after the hectic pace of the previous years. She bore two children, William in 1976 and Dawn in 1979. When she returned to performing, she often spoke of the practical and emotional difficulties of touring while raising children.
Singing Career 1977–92
Murray sang “O Canada” at the Toronto Blue Jays’ first baseball game in 1977 and returned to recording with the Juno Award-winning children’s album There’s A Hippo In My Tub (1977). But her true comeback album was Let’s Keep It That Way (1978), which earned three Grammy nominations. Her recording of “Walk Right Back” began a string of high-charting releases stretching into 1986. Her comeback was complete with the 1978 Grammy Award for best female pop vocal performance for “You Needed Me,” a song that shot her to international mainstream success.
Foreshadowing the careers of Canadian pop-country crossover artists such as k.d. lang and Shania Twain, Murray easily spanned the Hot 100, Adult Contemporary and Country charts. However, her versatile appeal confused many in the recording industry, who were anxious to pigeonhole her sound to better market her recordings.
Throughout the 1970s, Murray was a frequent guest on Canadian and US variety shows. Her success continued with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a 1980 Grammy Award for best female country vocal performance for “Could I Have This Dance.”
Seeking stability for her children, Murray undertook long-term engagements in Las Vegas to reduce travel demands, alternating with concerts in venues such as Carnegie Hall, where she sang in September 1979. She performed in Holland and England in 1981. In 1983, she won her fourth and final Grammy for best female country vocal performance for “A Little Good News.”
In 1984, she was promoted to the rank of Companion of the Order of Canada. By the mid-1980s, she was again undertaking a hectic schedule, giving 100 concerts a year and hosting her own CBC and CBS television specials (the latter including a concert at London’s Albert Hall). Her 1988 CBC Christmas special drew 4.5 million viewers.
The music business was still confused about how to categorize Murray’s style and song choices. She had been trying to shed her girl-next-door image and adopt a cooler, more upbeat image. For example, her 1986 album, Something To Talk About, was an effort at electropop. Ironically, it did best on the country charts. However, her popularity inevitably waned by the late 1980s, despite a solid fan base. Her last big hit was “Now and Forever (You and Me)” in 1986. She undertook her first Canadian coast-to-coast tour in 1987. In 1992, Capitol Records dropped her from its roster.
Later Career 1993–2008
Murray was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1993. After some moderately successful recordings, she made one last comeback with the 1996 album Anne Murray. The critically acclaimed record moved Murray away from country-tinged ballads to contemporary pop and R&B, and featured a duet with Bryan Adams. This project marked the introduction of her new manager, the influential Bruce Allen, after the death of her long-time manager, Leonard Rambeau. She also hosted the Juno Awards in 1996.
The next year, her appearances included one on CBC Television’s Royal Canadian Air Farce 1997 New Year’s Eve special. She also recorded her first live album, following it with What a Wonderful World (1999) and I’ll Be Seeing You (All of Me in the United States) in 2004.
As her performance career slowed, Murray received a number of major recognitions. In 1998, she was among the first stars awarded a place on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto. In 2001, she received the East Coast Music Association (ECMA) Directors’ Special Achievement Award. In 2002, she was inducted into the Order of Nova Scotia and the Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Fame. In 2005, CBC TV broadcast the retrospective Anne Murray: The Music of My Life.
Known for being an avid golfer, Murray was named the top female celebrity golfer of 2007. She came back briefly to make one last album in 2007, the all-female Duets: Friends & Legends, which features duets with k.d. lang, Céline Dion and Nelly Furtado, among others. It received two Juno Award nominations and reached double-platinum sales in Canada.
Murray went on her last concert tour in early 2008 and gave her final public performance in Toronto in May 2008. She also appeared that year as a mentor on the Canadian Idol television show. In 2009, she published her memoir, All of Me, and in 2010 she was a flag-bearer for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. She remains retired from the music business.
Anne Murray sang on the 1985 famine relief recording “Tears Are Not Enough,” and on the disaster relief telethon Canada for Asia (2005). She hosted an annual golf tournament for Colon Cancer Canada (the disease that claimed the life of her first manager, Leonard Rambeau). She supports the economy of her hometown, Springhill, Nova Scotia, through The Anne Murray Centre museum and other local projects. She has also served as honorary chair of Save the Children Canada.
Plays About Murray
Two plays have been staged about Anne Murray’s career: one was the 2014–15 tribute show Snowbird: A Tribute to Anne Murray. The other was the 1984 play I Love You, Anne Murray, which recounts the true-life stalking and harassment of Murray by an obsessive fan.
Murray was nominated for or won a Juno Award every year but one from 1971 to 1995, winning 23 in total, more than any other artist. She won the Juno Award for country female vocalist of the year annually from 1974 to 1976 and from 1980 to 1985. She was the Junos’ female vocalist of the year eight times, and won album of the year and single of the year twice each.
A Companion of the Order of Canada and a Member of the Order of Nova Scotia, Murray has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Fame, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame. She has also been recognized by the Country Music Hall of Fame, Hollywood Walk of Fame and US Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2001, she received a Special Achievement Award from the East Coast Music Association. In 2006, she received the Legacy Award from the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in recognition of her contributions to the Canadian songwriting industry and her support of Canadian songwriters. In 2007, Canada Post honoured Murray with a postage stamp alongside Gordon Lightfoot, Paul Anka and Joni Mitchell.
An icon of the Canadian music scene, Anne Murray was the first Canadian woman to establish herself as a commercial force on the US pop and country music charts. Along with Joni Mitchell, Murray paved the way for a younger generation of female recording artists. She has been cited as an influence by such singers as k.d. lang, Jann Arden, Shania Twain and Sarah McLachlan.
A highly successful crossover artist, Murray had 28 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, eight No. 1 hits on the Adult Contemporary chart and 25 Top 10 hits on the Hot Country Songs chart. Named the Female Recording Artist of the 1970s by the Canadian Recording Industry Association, she has sold more than 55 million albums worldwide. Twenty-five of her albums sold more than 500,000 copies each in the United States alone. By December 2007, 27 of her recordings had achieved gold or platinum status in Canada.
Despite her obvious commercial success, Murray was often criticized for being too cautious in both song choice and singing style, and for blandness and predictability. She was also one of the first artists to be greatly aided by the Canadian content regulations, introduced in 1971. But with her warm alto voice, wholesome image and stylistic versatility, Murray was a queen of middle-of-the-road (MOR) and country radio during the 1970s and 1980s.
Canadian songwriters whom Murray promoted by recording their work include Bryan Adams (“What Would It Take”), Paul Anka (“Everything’s Been Changed”), Jann Arden (“Missing You”), David Foster (“Now and Forever (You and Me)”), Gordon Lightfoot (“Cotton Jenny”), Allister MacGillivray (“Song for the Mira”), Gene MacLellan (“Snowbird,” “Put Your Hand in the Hand”), Rita MacNeil (“Flying on Your Own”), Joni Mitchell (“Both Sides Now”), and Amy Sky (“Let There Be Love”), among others.
- Top Female Vocalist (1971)
- Female Vocalist of the Year (1972)
- Female Vocalist of the Year (1973)
- Pop Music Album of the Year (Danny’s Song) (1974)
- Country Female Vocalist of the Year (1974)
- Female Vocalist of the Year (1975)
- Country Female Vocalist of the Year (1975)
- Country Female Vocalist of the Year (1976)
- Female Vocalist of the Year (1979)
- Best Children’s Album (There’s a Hippo in My Tub) (1979)
- Single of the Year (“I Just Fall in Love Again”) (1980)
- Female Vocalist of the Year (1980)
- Country Female Vocalist of the Year (1980)
- Album of the Year (New Kind of Feeling) (1980)
- Single of the Year (“Could I Have This Dance”) (1981)
- Female Vocalist of the Year (1981)
- Country Female Vocalist of the Year (1981)
- Album of the Year (Greatest Hits) (1981)
- Female Vocalist of the Year (1982)
- Country Female Vocalist of the Year (1982)
- Country Female Vocalist of the Year (1983)
- Country Female Vocalist of the Year (1984)
- Country Female Vocalist of the Year (1985)
- Inductee, Canadian Music Hall of Fame (1993)
- Top Country Female Singer (1979)
- Canadian Country Artist of the Year (1979)
- Best Country Album (I'll Always Love You) (1980)
- Top Country Female Vocalist (1985)
- Best Country Single (“Nobody Loves Me Like You Do” with Dave Loggins) (1985)
- Top Female Vocalist (1986)
- Canadian Country Artist of the Year (1987)
- Best Country Single (“Now and Forever (You and Me)”) (1987)
- Top Country Female Vocalist (1988)
- Video of the Year (“If I Ever Fall in Love Again” with Kenny Rogers) (1990)
- Special Achievement Award (2001)
Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Awards
- Single of the Year (“A Little Good News”) (1984)
- Single of the Year (“Now and Forever (You and Me)”) (1986)
- Best Country Vocal Performance, Female (“Love Song”) (1974)
- Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female (“You Needed Me”) (1978)
- Best Country Vocal Performance, Female (“Could I Have This Dance”) (1980)
- Best Country Vocal Performance, Female (“A Little Good News”) (1983)
Country Music Association Awards
- Single of the Year (“A Little Good News”) (1984)
- Album of the Year (A Little Good News) (1984)
- Vocal Duo of the Year (with Dave Loggins) (1985)
American Music Awards
- Favorite Single, Country Music (1982)
- Female Country Video Artist (1985)
- Favorite Video Single, Country (“A Little Good News”) (1985)
- Best Variety Performer, ACTRA Awards (1973)
- Country Female Vocalist of the Year, Country Music Association of Great Britain Awards (1974)
- Officer, Order of Canada (1975)
- Inductee, Country Music Hall of Fame Walkway of Stars (1974)
- Song of the Year (“You Needed Me”), Academy of Country Music Awards (1978)
- Star, Hollywood Walk of Fame (1980)
- Female Recording Artist of the Decade, Canadian Recording Industry Association (1980)
- Companion, Order of Canada (1984)
- Best Variety Performance in Television, ACTRA Awards (1986)
- Best Performance in a Variety Program, Gemini Awards (1993)
- Governor General’s Performing Arts Award (1995)
- Inductee, Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame (1997)
- Star, Canada’s Walk of Fame (1998)
- Inductee, Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Fame (2002)
- Member, Order of Nova Scotia (2002)
- Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002)
- Stars on the Boardwalk, Atlantic City (2002)
- Honorary Canadian Tourism Ambassador (2002)
- Legacy Award, Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (2006)
- Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award, US Songwriters Hall of Fame (2008)
- Honorary Leadership Award (Canadian Women’s Foundation) 2010
- Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012)
- Doctor of Letters, University of New Brunswick (1978)
- Doctor of Letters, Saint Mary’s University (1982)
- Doctor of Laws, University of Prince Edward Island (2009)
- What About Me (1968). Arc AS-782
- This Way Is My Way (1969). Cap ST-6330
- Honey, Wheat & Laughter (1970). Cap ST-6350
- Snowbird (1970). Cap 579 (combined songs from ST-6330 and ST-6350 for US release)
- Straight, Clean and Simple (1971). Cap ST-6359
- Talk It Over in the Morning (1971). Cap ST-6366
- Anne Murray/Glen Campbell (1971). Cap SW-869
- Annie (1972). Cap ST-6376
- Danny’s Song (1973). Cap ST-6393
- Love Song (1974). Cap ST-6409
- Country (1974). Cap ST-6425 (compilation)
- Highly Prized Possession (1974). Cap ST-6428
- Together (1975). Cap ST-6425
- Keeping in Touch (1976). Cap ST-11559
- There’s a Hippo in My Tub (1977). Cap ST-6454
- Let’s Keep It That Way (1978). Cap ST-11743
- New Kind of Feeling (1979). Cap SW-11849
- I'll Always Love You (1979). Cap SOO-12012
- A Country Collection (1980). Cap ST-12039 (compilation)
- Somebody’s Waiting (1980). Cap SOO-12064
- Greatest Hits (1980). Cap SOO-12110 (compilation)
- Where Do You Go When You Dream (1981). Cap SOO-12144
- Christmas Wishes (1981). Cap SB-16232
- The Hottest Night of the Year (1982). Cap ST-12225
- A Little Good News (1983). Cap ST-12301
- Heart Over Mind (1984). Cap SJ-12363
- Something to Talk About (1986). Cap SJ-12466
- Harmony (1987). Cap ST-12562
- Country Hits (1987). Cap CDP7-46487 (compilation)
- Songs of the Heart (1987). Cap CDP7-46488 (compilation)
- As I Am (1988). Cap C1-48764
- Anne Murray Christmas (1988). Cap C1-90886
- Greatest Hits Volume II (1989). Cap C2-92072 (compilation)
- You Will (1990). Cap C-94102 (CD and cassette)
- Yes I Do (1991). Cap C-96310 (CD and cassette)
- Croonin’ (1993)
- Anne Murray (1996)
- An Intimate Evening with Anne Murray…Live (1997)
- What A Wonderful World (1999)
- What A Wonderful Christmas (2001)
- Country Croonin’ (2002)
- I’ll Be Seeing You (2004)
- Duets: Friends & Legends (2007)