Lynn Anderson — one of country’s most dominant female vocalists of the 1970s — died Friday morning (July 31) in Nashville at the age of 67. According to her publicist Pam Lewis, the singer had recently been suffering from pneumonia.
Anderson — the daughter of singer/songwriters Casey and Liz Anderson — was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and raised in Fair Oaks, California. In a recent interview with Billboard to promote Bridges, which ended up being her final album, Anderson said you never knew just who might be hanging around the Anderson homestead.
“They would go to an artist’s concert, and Mother would invite them to come home and have bacon and eggs at 2 a.m. She’d cook, and Daddy would play them Mom’s songs in the living room. It was nothing to wake up in the middle of the night and hear Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Freddie Hart or Wynn Stewart,” she recalled.
Of course, with that exposure to music, there was little doubt what vocation Anderson would pursue. But there was also some competition from her other passion: horses. As a teenager, she won many horse shows around the area and earned the title of California Horse Show Queen in 1966. That same year, Anderson signed her first recording contract with Chart Records.
Her first single for the label, “For Better or for Worse,” a duet with regional star Jerry Lane, failed to chart. But her star would soon be on the rise, thanks to the success of “Ride, Ride, Ride,” which made it all the way to No. 36 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart. By 1967, she hit the top 10 for the first time with “If I Kiss You (Will You Go Away)” and was invited to become a regular cast member on ABC’s The Lawrence Welk Show. Anderson continued to place records on the chart throughout the decade, with 1969’s “That’s a No-No” being the biggest, peaking at No. 2.
In 1970, Anderson signed with Columbia, where her star would rise even further. Her version of Joe South‘s “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden” became one of the biggest hits of the era, hitting No. 1 on the country charts, and crossing over to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The exposure from that song helped her win female vocalist of the year awards from both the Academy of Country Music (of which she was an early member) and the Country Music Association. The hits kept coming throughout the ’70s with “Listen to a Country Song,” “How Can I Unlove You” and covers of pop hits such as “Keep Me In Mind.”
To modern ears, Anderson stands as a pure country legend, but her music was definitely on the cutting edge of crossover at the time. “I did a lot of songs that weren’t written by Nashville songwriters, like ‘Top of the World,’ which was written by Richard Carpenter,” Anderson reflected. “I did ‘Cry’ and ‘Under the Boardwalk,’ which were old pop hits. My music came from left field. I was sincere about singing country. I came by the boots and the cowboy hat honestly. But I can see how my music might have been a little off-center for a traditional country fan. We did use a lot of strings in those days.”
As the late ’70s dawned, Anderson’s chart success began to dim a little, so the songstress changed her style — recording more “outlaw”-themed music and adopting somewhat of a racier image. The overhaul proved to be a success, with 1979’s “Isn’t It Always Love” returning her to the top 10.
Despite the comeback, Anderson left Columbia in 1980 and didn’t record for close to three years, focusing on raising her children. She signed with Permian Records in 1983 and returned to the top 10 yet again with her Gary Morris collaboration “You’re Welcome to Tonight.” She would also record for MCA and Mercury in the latter part of the ’80s, hitting the top 30 in 1988 with her cover of “Under the Boardwalk.” The next year would see Anderson hit the charts for the final time with “How Many Hearts.”
Though her charting days were over, Anderson recorded a variety of country and western albums over the years. Her music continued to inspire many future superstars, such as Martina McBride, who released a cover of “Rose Garden” as the first single from her Timeless album in 2005. Anderson reprised the song earlier this year in bluegrass fashion with Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road on their album Country Grass.
Just last month, Anderson released her final album, Bridges. Her first-ever Gospel release, the singer said each track on the album held a particular place in her heart, but “Wanderer’s Prayer” was especially meaningful. “I’ve been so blessed in my life that things have kind of seemed to fall in place for me. I just have to keep on the right path and not jaunt off to the left or the right. I love how the lyrics speak of asking the Lord to keep me in the right direction. That’s where the song hits me.”
Arrangements for Lynn Anderson are pending.