Rita MacNeil (1944-2013)

Rita MacNeil (1944-2013)

Canadian singer Rita MacNeil fit into no Country Music stereotype: Born in Big Pond, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, she suffered from extreme shyness; though she recorded her first album, Born a Woman, in 1974, she only began performing regularly after age 40. Never glamorous, she connected with listeners through her warm personality and easily recognizable warbling vocal style. MacNeil recorded more than 24 albums, selling millions especially in Canada, won three Juno Awards among other honors, received the Order of Nova Scotia plus five honorary doctorates, and from 1994 through 1997 hosted her own CBC television show, “Rita & Friends.” Eight of her albums achieved Platinum status between 1987 and 1994; in 1990, her sales in Canada even outstripped those of Garth Brooks. Her best-known songs include “Working Man,” “Flying on Your Own,” “Reason to Believe, “I’ll Accept the Rose Tonight” and “Home I’ll Be.” MacNeil, 68, died on April 16 from post-surgical complications.

photo: Annemarie Deece-Cassidy

The following report on MacNeil’s death is by “The National,” the nightly news program on Canada’s public broadcaster, CBC News.