Canadian Music Hall of Fame spotlight: Burton Cummings

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The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has announced Burton Cummings as the 2016 inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. The Winnipeg-born singer and songwriter was previously inducted in 1987 as a member of the Guess Who, so this honour will recognize his work as a solo artist. He will be inducted at the 45th annual JUNO Awards, which takes place at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on April 3.

“I wish my mother had lived long enough to see this,” Cummings said in a statement. “She would have been over the moon about it. I’ve received many acknowledgements through the decades, but truthfully, I cannot say that any of them outweighs this one. I watched the Canadian industry evolve from its fledgling days into a global contender, and witnessed one brilliant artist after another leave a mark that was recognized all over Earth. I’m extremely proud to have been a part of those early days…extremely proud. After considerable success in a band situation, I took that huge, frightening step into solo artist territory. Initially, my single instinct was just to keep going…keep recording.”

Cummings’ incredible career has spanned over five decades, earning him countless accolades, including seven JUNO Awards, and firmly establishing his position as a national treasure. The Guess Who found enormous success, both nationally and internationally, throughout the 1960s and 1970s with a long list of hit albums such as American Woman and Share The Land, all each either written or co-written by Cummings. The band sold more records than the entire Canadian music industry combined by 1970 and were the very first Canadian group to reach Number 1 on the Billboard charts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXkJN7e1_2U

In 1976, Cummings parted ways with the Guess Who to embark on a solo career. His debut single “Stand Tall” was produced by the legendary Richard Perry (known for work with artists such as Barbara Streisand and Carly Simon) and quickly gained gold status. Over a dozen popular albums and singles followed the song, including “I Will Play a Rhapsody,” “I’m Scared,” “My Own Way To Rock,” and “Break It To Them Gently.” Cummings won five JUNO Awards in those years between 1977 and 1980 for Best Male Vocalist and Best Album and even hosted the gala a record amount of four times.

Along with a staggering total of seven album releases, the 1980s and 1990s were also collaborative and reflective years for Cummings. He did a joint tour with Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band and starred in the 1982 film Melanie alongside Don Johnson (for which he won a Genie Award for Best Original Song). In 1997, he launched the Up Close and Alone concert series, where the singer discussed the stories behind some of his most popular songs and shared personal memories from throughout his career. A live compilation album of the series followed.

Cummings’ 2008 album, Above The Ground, was his first since 1997 and was received with much critical acclaim. In 2012, the singer released his first-ever live solo album, Massey Hall, which was recorded at the famous performing arts theatre in Toronto and featured some of his greatest hits from both his work as a solo artist and as a member of the Guess Who.

On April 1, Cummings will be the first Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee to have their name placed on the wall inside the hall’s new home at the National Music Centre. This induction will add to Cummings’ many honours, including those at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, Canadian Walk of Fame, Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, Prairie Music Hall of Fame, the Order of Canada, the Order of Manitoba, the Governor-General’s Performance Arts Awards, and the Broadcast Music Industry Awards.

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Yasmine Shemesh is a freelance writer who was born in Vancouver and raised on The Rolling Stones.
@yasmineshemesh

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