In the course of her long and illustrious career, Lynn Anderson has been involved with many interesting and fulfilling projects. However, her latest is something very different for the legendary singer. Anderson has a pair of cuts on the new collection, “The Betty Swain Project.” She tells Billboard the incredible story of Swain — who defined the phrase “Never Give Up.”
“She was an elderly lady living in North Carolina, cleaning out her attic. She came across a box of old lyrics she had written. She had tried a career in music when she was younger, and she never really made it or did anything with the songs. But, before she passed away, her friends and family got some musicians together, and they threw her a big party. The musicians learned the songs, and wrote additional music to them, and played the songs for her. She got an opportunity to hear her music being played just a few weeks before she passed away.”
After Swain’s passing, her family decided that her stories and her music needed to be heard. Anderson picks up the story. “There had been enough work done on it that her family figured ‘We’ll just continue this.’ They took it to Nashville and hired a professional team to produce it. A friend of mine happened to get in on that, Robin Ruddy – who played steel guitar for me for quite a while, and asked me if I would come in and sing one. When I heard them, I said ‘Sure, why not?” It’s kind of a retro project, a voice out of the past. It’s kind of a humanitarian kind of thing to do because Betty’s daughter has cancer, so this is a labor of love. It’s kind of old-fashioned, but there’s some good stuff in there.” Anderson performs Swain’s compositions “Sweet Memories” and “Prove You Care.”
What spoke to Anderson about Swain’s story? She said the ingredient that anyone trying to make it in the music business – determination. Her family stuck with the project and made it work for her while she was alive, and then they kept after it and wanted to make it work for her daughter. I guess it’s a common story. There’s a lot of people who have tried to make it in the music business, but this family continued to try, and made it happen. It was an interesting thing to be swept up in and to be a part of it.”
Anderson is one artist that definitely did make it, placing sixty singles on the Billboard Country Singles chart between 1966 and 1989 – including chart-toppers “Keep Me In Mind,” “How Can I Unlove You,” and the million-selling “Rose Garden.” Her success led to her being named the Female Vocalist of the Year in 1971 from the Country Music Association. She says it was a magical time. “It was an amazing thing. I’ve never gotten over how it felt to be backstage and be surrounded by all the other nominees – Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Sammi Smith, and Tammy Wynette. To be in the audience, and waiting for the winner to be called. The joy of being able to take that trophy home is a wonderful thing. It gives you something to strive for. It was quite a time in the music business. It’s interesting to look at things now, because sometimes I feel like it’s me revisited. I look at someone like Carrie Underwood, and think ‘That was me.’ It’s amazing to see how much it changes, and how much it stays the same.”
Anderson is still at it today. “I just got finished doing a Gospel project, and am about to record a duet with an artist from Norway. I’ve got a western single that’s out all over Europe. It’s crazy. It’s been an amazing few months,” she said, happily.
It appears that the work ethic that she gained from her parents – singer / songwriters Casey & Liz Anderson is still very much there. “I guess I am my parents’ daughter,” she admits. “My daddy is 87, and he was out working on his motor home today. My mother wrote until the day she died – when she 86. I guess we never get over it once you get involved in the music business. I’ve slowed down quite a bit, but not to the point of sitting back in the rockin’ chair.”