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"Let me tell you something. It's not a complicated thing, Folks. I take a song. I get in there. I work my butt off. It's as simple as that."

After 30-plus albums, a collection of international awards, a string of No. 1 hits, and multiple-platinum sales in excess of 50 million, Anne Murray knows her stuff.

"It's simple," she says. "The basis of all of this is the sound of my voice. The instrument sings well, stays in tune, and knows how to interpret a song. But, the voice itself is so recognisable that, when you hear it on the radio, there's no mistaking it."

She's right. The world knows it.

Murray's achingly rich alto threads legato phrasings through the eye of a controlled vocal storm. It's a voice so identifiably hers it's earned the Toronto-based Entertainer of the Decade the distinction of possessing one of the finest female-vocalist instruments on the planet.

At newly appointed penthouse offices, Murray's a picture of calm: Charming, articulate, a little bemused by the nervous wreck of a writer who asks her to personalise an autographed publicity photo from the days of "Somebody's Always Saying Goodbye."

She fields questions concerning her incomparable sense of timing, the way her voice has lost little in the top-note department, the way it's gained depth and bluesiness in the lower registers. Then, the interview detours slightly.

The Topic comes up.

Murray starts it. (Not moi.) A cousin called to tell her she'd like to hear her sing with a certain churning hunk of love currently burning up continental country charts parading his achy-breaky heart.

"Yeah," drawls Murray, "yeah. I told her I wouldn't mind singing with Billy Ray either. He's gorgeous. And, I've only seen him in pictures . . ."

Murray paved the way for Canadian musicians at home and abroad at a time when our fledgling "star system" didn't exist.

She carried the industry through a dearth of quality material after 1970's Cancon legislation left radio scrambling to fill quotas. She didn't complain about the ensuing over-exposure but it affected her career and the perception of her body of work.

Country59's programme director, Bill Anderson, one of the few to give indigenous talent its due prior to the CRTC legislation (on the nationally syndicated radio show, Big Country), believes Murray's contribution "was (and still is) immeasurable.

"It's incredible; but, there are those in this industry who still don't fully appreciate that fact."

Murray displays unusual insight into the quixotic nature of the music business, the quirkiness of public taste, and her role in bringing Canadians to the world's attention.

If it bothers her, she doesn't say. Instead, she returns to the discussion of the gift she says she doesn't question.

"I'm not terribly introspective about either myself or my voice. I'm called a contralto [and not a tenor] because I'm a woman. But, other than that?

"I just go into the studio and lose myself in a song. You can always tell when it's right. You sing a song to get its direction. It's probably subtle but the differences, to me, are glaring. You sing it over and over to find it, to explore it. When the song's finished, I've done the best job I know how. It's really that simple."

And interpretation?

"Something in me has to be touched by what I hear. I have to have a positive reaction even if it's a negative song. It's a visceral thing, a gut-reaction kind of thing.

"And, you can be moved to interpret a song without experiencing it. Interpretation is a kind of acting. When I did 'Broken Hearted Me,' I was never happier; plus, you know, I recorded 'Danny's Song' before I had children."

Murray doesn't pamper her vocal cords. "The more I sing, the better I sing," she says, "and (with the new deal still in the works at that time) I miss the basic-track sessions. It's a very creative environment. I have a lot of input and, to tell you the truth, I can't imagine not being involved.

"From the choosing of songs to the arrangements and final tracks, I'm right there. I'm there from the moment the music starts."

The music started when Murray's first album, 1968's What About Me, indicated the rising star of CBC's Singalong Jubilee had stuff enough. The tempo accelerated after This Is My Way (1969) put Springhill, NS on the musical map and introduced the world to the singer of "Snowbird."

(This past year, Queen Anne celebrated 40 years in an industry where longevity's in short supply. Partially, longevity's a result of management's astute and protective eye; but, it's also a result of Murray's own considerable business smarts.)

The golf nut says she doesn't "spend a lot of time intellectualising about what makes me tick, what makes me work, or what makes the voice work. This is, after all, show business."

And this is, after all, Anne Murray.

It's as simple as that.



"Queen Anne" was originally featured in Judith Fitzgerald's "CountrySide" column (The Toronto Star) 12 July 1992. It is posthumously dedicated to the memory of Ms. Murray's longtime friend, manager, and most remarkable individual, Leonard Rambeau. © 1992-2008 Judith Fitzgerald. All Rights Reserved. (Special thanks to Margaret, Marlene, and Anne.)



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