A complex and passionate singer and artist best known for her interpretations of Edith Piaf's work
Published 24/04/2011 | 05:00
Anne Bushnell, who died in Dublin last week at the age of 72, had spent a lifetime in showbusiness, from her days as a child dancer in the Theatre Royal to her award-winning interpretations of the work of French singer Edith Piaf.
Anne Kavanagh was from a south Dublin show business family and her brother is the award-winning actor John Kavanagh.
She went to school in St Louis' Convent, Rathmines, where she was a junior champion Irish dancer and performed in musicals and plays. She later recalled the nuns trying to stop her singing jazz -- "the music of the night" -- and the songs of her heroine Judy Garland. Ironically, in the mid-Eighties, she was awarded the freedom of the city of New Orleans in recognition of her jazz singing.
After school she went to commercial college and qualified as a typist, but she always wanted to be a performer and was a feature of the jazz clubs and cabaret circuit in Dublin in the late Sixties, performing whenever she got a chance.
"I didn't have a wild, burning ambition to be a big star, but I though I would end up in Hollywood, one way or another," she told one interviewer wistfully.
Instead, she married her childhood sweetheart Tony Bushnell, a part-time musician and drummer, at the age of 20. They have two children: Paul, who is now a session musician based in Los Angeles and a daughter, Suzanne.
In the early Sixties she sang with a ceili band and worked with the RTE Light Orchestra, as well as doing musicals in the Gaiety and other theatres. In the Seventies she sang with the Jim Doherty Band. She also hosted an RTE show called Girls Girls Girl and was recruited by impresario Noel Pearson for a leading part in his Dublin Theatre Festival hit show Jacques Brel.
In 1980 she was a backing singer for Johnny Logan when he won the Eurovision with What's Another Year.
But Anne Bushnell really came into her own as the star of Leland Bardwell's life of Edith Piaf, No Regrets, which got rave reviews when it was first performed. She used it as a springboard for her own show based on the songs of the Parisian singer known as 'The Little Sparrow'. She was soon recognised widely as one of the best interpreters of her songs.
Bushnell was known widely in the business as a professional, and over the years she performed with most of the best-known Irish singers from Joe Dolan to Ronnie Drew. She had a weekly residency in the Leeson Street nightclub Bojangles and even felt she finally got her Hollywood moment when she worked on the film Agnes Brown with Anjelica Huston.
She also did much charity work -- admitting in her self-deprecatory style that sometimes she was doing "more charity work than work".
At one time she suffered from depression and turned to painting as a way of coping. Like much else in her life she became quite an accomplished artist and held a number of exhibitions in Dublin.
"She was a complex but a passionate performer and artist who wore her heart on her sleeve and was most comfortable in life the moment the house lights went down and the stage lights went on," her son Paul told Ken Sweeney following her death.
Bushnell was diagnosed with cancer eight months ago and died in Tallaght Hospital last Thursday.
As well as her husband Tony and her children Paul and Suzanne she is survived by her brothers John and Peter and her sister Phillis.