Page 12 Thursday, April 18, 2013
daily townsman / daily bulletin
Singer Rita MacNeil dies at age 68 Nick Patch Canadian Press
TORONTO — Rita MacNeil, a singer-songwriter from small-town Canada whose powerful voice explored genres from country, to folk, to gospel, died Tuesday night following complications from surgery. She was 68. Always seeming an unlikely star, MacNeil worked tirelessly over decades to gradually become a beloved fixture in Canadian culture, with her greatest success coming only after she was in her 40s. Her spotless, astonishingly full voice carried a light Celtic lilt that only sweetened her dulcet tones, but she was a versatile singer who could coax grittier notes from her voice as well.
She was painfully shy and admitted to battling self-confidence issues, largely stemming from her weight. Yet she was a renowned live performer who sold out gigs around the world. “I am deeply saddened by the loss of a dear sweet woman and a gifted singer-songwriter who represented women and her beloved Nova Scotia so eloquently in her songs,’’ singer Anne Murray said in a statement. Country music legend Tommy Hunter said his “one vivid memory’’ of MacNeil was when she was a guest on his show. “Coming from a coal mining area she had a soft spot in her heart for those miners. When she sang ‘Working Man’
there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Rita could convey that kind of warmth and sincerity through her songs to the people in the studio audience and to the viewers at home. It was evident that she touched them all from the many letters and comments we received after that show. I have lost a good friend.” Born in Big Pond, N.S., in 1944, MacNeil grew up with three brothers and four sisters. She fell in love with singing by the age of six, despite her shy disposition and a cleft palate that eventually required surgery. She relocated to Toronto at age 17 in 1962. Once there, she endured a succession of
School DiStrict 5 iS inviting all three year olDS to School! Ready, Set, Learn is an initiative that recognizes that families need positive connections with the school system and community agencies that provide relevant resources and information. All public elementary schools in Southeast Kootenay School District will be offering an opportunity for all three year olds to come to their neighbourhood school (children born in 2010 who have turned three by the date of the RSL event). This event is a partnership between the province, the district, and the early childhood teachers in Cranbrook, Fernie, Sparwood, Jaffray, and Elkford. Ready, Set, Learn will include opportunities such as a tour of the school, a visit to the kindergarten classroom, activities, refreshments, displays or presentations by school children. Parents and caregivers will receive helpful tips for supporting their preschooler’s learning and development. They will also be provided with information about local services available. Each child will receive a learning kit. Four year olds, those children that will be entering kindergarten in September 2013, will be invited to Kindergarten Orientation in their neighborhood school.
Cranbrook Schools April 18 April 19 April 19 April 22 April 23 April 24 April 25
Steeples Elementary Amy Woodland Elementary T. M. Roberts Elementary Gordon Terrace Elementary Highlands Elementary Kootenay Orchards Elementary Pinewood Elementary
10:00 - 11:00 am 11:00 am - 12:00 noon 1:00 - 2:00 pm 9:00 - 10:00 am 10:30 am - 12:00 pm 9:00 - 10:00 am 9:30 – 10:30 am
Elk Valley/South Country Schools April 17 Isabella Dicken Elementary April 23 Rocky Mountain Elementary April 24 F. J. Mitchell Elementary April 30 Jaffray Elementary Jr. Sec.
9:30 – 10:30 am 9:15 – 10:15 am and 10:30 – 11:30 am 9:15 - 10:15 am 12:40 – 1:40 pm
Early Learning Fairs April 22 Cranbrook @ Gordon Terrace Elem. April 24 Elk Valley @ F. J. Mitchell Elem. (Sparwood)
9:00 am - 12:00 pm 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Rita MacNeil low-paying jobs, including a retail gig at Eaton’s and a stint as a cleaning woman. Meanwhile, she turned heads with appearances at Toronto’s famed Riverboat folk club and performances at the Mariposa folk festival, but wasn’t earning enough to pay the rent. While struggling to make ends meet, she found comfort in the fledgling women’s
movement. She began attending meetings in Toronto in the early ‘70s that she found out — years later — were being monitored by the RCMP. “If you wanted to see a bunch of women sitting around talking about issues and going on demonstrations that are peaceful and non-violent, then so be it, but I don’t think there was a reason to do that,’’ MacNeil said in 2008.
“What’s radical about equal pay for equal work? And trying to empower women to reach the potential that they have?’’ MacNeil has said these meetings gave her strength and pushed forth her songwriting — in fact, after one get-together, she was inspired to write her first song. By 1975, she was ready to independently release her first album,
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“Born a Woman.’’ “All of those songs would have been sung at rallies, demonstrations or meetings that we attended,’’ MacNeil said. She had two children during that time as well — Laura and Wade — though she would eventually divorce their father. She returned to Big Pond, N.S., in 1976 and continued writing. In 1981, she issued “Part of the Mystery,’’ a record financed by family and friends. Big Pond Publishing and Productions Ltd., was operated on a minuscule budget and was forced to conduct sales on a consignment basis. Still, MacNeil was building a fan base through her consistently first-rate performances and slowly growing discography. She issued another album, “I’m Not What I Seem,’’ in 1983. Her breakthrough came with 1987’s “Flying on Your Own.’’ The album — with a cover featuring MacNeil under one of her trademark floppy hats — finally won her some radio play, largely on easy-listening stations in smaller Canadian cities. It was soon certified platinum. Also in 1987, MacNeil won her first Juno Award as Canada’s “most promising female vocalist’’ — at age 42 (she graciously accepted the award even though some thought it odd). She didn’t wait long to issue a followup, releasing “Reason to Believe’’ the following year. Some reviewers thought the record represented a compromise in MacNeil’s sound, with a move toward a more rock-oriented style. MacNeil disputed that and pointing out she always loved rock. Audiences seemed to embrace MacNeil’s new sound and the record quickly reached platinum status in Canada. She issued a popular Christmas album later that year and began recording hit records at a torrid pace, with a new release coming near-annually for the next decade.
April 18, 2013 edition of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman