Cape Breton singer Rita MacNeil dies at 68
Acclaimed Cape Breton singer Rita MacNeil has died at age 68.
A notice on her website states MacNeil died on April 16 following complications from surgery.
Born in Big Pond on Cape Breton Island, MacNeil was one of eight children.
She moved to Toronto at age 17, where she wrote her first song and began singing in folk clubs. MacNeil later moved to Ottawa where she recorded three albums, but eventually returned to Big Pond, where she formed a trio.
MacNeil was famously shy, but said her parents helped her overcome that trait by constantly reminding her to believe in herself.
"You can be shy," she said. "You can work through all kinds of struggle. But somewhere deep down, you have to have belief or nothing's going to happen."
Cape Breton's first lady of song made her mark during a six-week run at Expo ’86 in Vancouver. In 1987 she earned a Juno award as most promising female artist, at age 42.
MacNeil recorded 24 albums and sold millions over the course of her career.
She hosted a CBC-TV variety program, Rita and Friends, which ran from 1994 to 1997 and drew regular audiences of one million viewers.
MacNeil was a member of the Order of Canada and the recipient of five honorary doctorates.
In 1986 she opened Rita’s Tea Room in her hometown of Big Pond, where she also gave performances.
Through it all, she kept a positive outlook.
MacNeil inspired a generation of Cape Breton songwriters and performers. She encouraged young singers, even if she wasn't a fan of their voices.
"Who are we to say 'if you have a dream, don't waste your time,'" MacNeil said. "There are different degrees of the dream. Maybe they'll get to sing in a church or another place that keeps them very happy."
I like to think that she would have been a belieber. New single dropping next week, yo!
Rita proved that you don't have to look like a porn star or be a teenager to have a successful career in the music industry.
In Canada R6
She never made it internationally.
Strangely, she was quite popular in Japan, and Australia. And the UK, but not the US. Like an obese Kylie Minogue.
I never understood her appeal (and I'm Canadian), but my Facebook feed is full of mourning gays today. To each their own diva, I guess.
It's Canada dear, we don't give a shit.
Shocking that a morbidly obese person would die so young! She truly was the people's princess! I am always amazed to know that there are celebrities in Canada who are completely unknown just steps south of the border. She had a very "church special" quality to her songs, no?
If she were in the USA, she would be an anti-gay religious wacko. She is a testament to the tolerance of Canada, eastern Canada at least.
Give me a women with a similar social upbringing and small town demographic from the USA and yeah, dangerous and bigoted.
She appeared on a comedy show where she was in a field of marijuana plants
[quote] Strangely, she was quite popular in Japan, and Australia. And the UK
How do you know?
She spent a fortune producing an infomercial featuring her CD and targeted at TV stations in US red states.
Fashioning herself as Canada's country music star.
I recall that infomercial. She had a nice voice that didn't ever need Autotune.
She was actually a lesbian, quietly living with her partner in Big Pond, Nova Scotia. The old Frank Magazine outed her on several occasions.
My mother loved her, my Dad hated her. She was sweet and treacly but she was sincere in what she did. She had a show on CBC showcasing musical guests, often alternative Rock Bands. It was called Rita and Friends and it was funny to hear her in her schoolmarm, Edie McLurg-like chirp 'and now my good friends, the Festering Puss-Filled Sores, will perform a lovely song called "Dead Whore"
Her Christmas album is a staple at my family's house during the holidays. She has a very nice voice. Did she have a cleft palette or something? her face looks wack!
I think she had a harelip.
She had a cleft lip.
She was a national treasure. She was painfully shy and had obvious physical flaws for which she was regularly mocked. But she pushed on with her music and made a name and a career for herself. She spent her early years in Toronto as a feminist folksinger, attending demonstrations and rallies and pushing for women's rights. Encouraging other women to become self-empowered. The RCMP kept a file on her for some reason.
I didn't care for her music. Too sappy and folky. But I loved her and what she stood for. A very sweet, kind lady. Canada has lost an icon.
I hope her rap album still gets released later this month.
Nice voice, why didn't she come to the US?
We will honor her at this year's Fest. What would be be appropriate, fellow womyn-folk?
She was quite fat
MacNeil showed that with genuine talent you don't need back up dancers, autotune, six-pack abs, public scandals, etc. ... just a beautiful voice and a kind spirit. RIP
Instead of back up dancers, she had back up miners.
Those Maritimers really know how to ENTERTAIN!