Saturday 22 October 2016

Obituary: Lynn Anderson Country singer

Born September 26, 1947 Died July 30, 2015

Published 09/08/2015 | 02:30

In her blood: Both Lynn Anderson's parents were both song writers for country stars
In her blood: Both Lynn Anderson's parents were both song writers for country stars
Rose Garden album cover

Lynn Anderson, the country music singer who has died aged 67, was best known for the worldwide crossover hit that she had in 1971 with 'Rose Garden'.

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The song's lyrics, written by Joe South and sung with unsentimental authority, dispensed hard-won wisdom about matters of the heart: "I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden/ Along with the sunshine, there's gotta be a little rain sometimes."

Anderson attributed its wider success, however, to her fellow Americans looking for something positive to take from the debacle of the Vietnam War.

"It was released just at the right time," she said later. "People were trying to recover from the Vietnam years. The message in the song - that if you just take hold of life and go ahead, you can make something out of nothing - people just took to that."

The song was a number one in Ireland, reached number three on the US Billboard pop chart and climbed to the same spot in the UK. This led to a memorable appearance by Anderson - all back-combed hair and yellow maribou feathers - on Top of the Pops.

The single was number one in Germany and the LP of the same name from which it was taken remained for a quarter of a century the biggest-selling by a female country artist, until the advent of Shania Twain.

Anderson won a Grammy in 1971 and was also voted country music's female vocalist of the year.

Yet 'Rose Garden' was almost not recorded. Finding that she had a spare 15 minutes at the end of a studio session, Anderson suggested that she sing South's track. But her husband tried to persuade her otherwise as some of the words - "I could promise you things like big diamond rings" - sounded as if they came from a man's standpoint.

Nonetheless, she prevailed and her version secured the backing of her record label, Columbia, and its influential boss, Clive Davis.

Although she went on to perform it for five US presidents, the song made her most proud, she said, when she appeared at a concert in Texas hosted by Bob Hope for American soldiers returning from Vietnam.

An army operations base in neighbouring Thailand was known as "Rose Garden" and as she sang the opening notes of her signature tune, 5,000 Marines in dress uniform rose as one to salute her.

Lynn Rene Anderson was born on September 26, 1947, at Grand Forks, North Dakota.

She was of Norwegian descent, and her parents both worked as songwriters for country singers, although she spent most of her childhood away from the music's heartland in California. There she became an accomplished horsewoman and as an adult she went on to be a nationally successful trainer of show horses.

When Anderson reached her late teens, her mother - who had written hits for country stars such as Merle Haggard - moved to Nashville to try to make it as a singer.

Anderson went with her, and while accompanying her mother at a sing-along for industry figures, her own talent was spotted.

She was signed to Chart Records, where she worked at first as a secretary, sometimes taking orders by telephone for her own records.

Anderson began to score country music hits in the late Sixties, and would go on to have more than a dozen hits with songs such as 'You're My Man' and 'How Can I Unlove You?'

Her national appeal began to grow from 1967, when she appeared regularly on The Lawrence Welk Show, which introduced country music to a wider audience. She later ascribed her breakthrough to Welk also being from North Dakota and wanting to feature her as she "must be a good Scandinavian girl".

Following the success of 'Rose Garden', she became, in 1974, the first female country singer to sell out Madison Square Garden. Yet by the end of the decade, her popularity was in decline and her last country hit of note came in 1983.

She was unlucky in failing to follow up her big hit, having chosen to do so in 1972 with 'Top of the World', which she had heard on an album by the Carpenters and which was well-suited to her melodic voice.

When the Carpenters themselves heard what she was planning, however, they quickly released their own song as a single, overshadowing Anderson's version. She continued to release new albums, her most recent being the gospel-influenced Bridges, which came out in June.

Both her marriages were dissolved and she is survived by a son and two daughters, as well as her partner of 30 years, the songwriter Mentor Williams.

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