Raylene Rankin of top-selling Celtic-folk group The Rankin Family, died Sunday after a long battle with cancer. She was 52.
The Rankin Family sold more than two million albums, won 15 East Coast Music Awards, six Juno Awards, four SOCAN Awards and three Canadian Country Music Awards.
“We at EMI are all very saddened by the passing of the beloved Raylene Rankin who was part of one of the most remarkable sibling harmonies of all time,” EMI Music Canada president Deane Cameron told Billboard in a statement. “I always knew Raylene to be a kind, talented and determined woman. The Rankin Family are one of Canada’s shining musical achievements, with their incredible talents they brought an international spotlight to Celtic music. Our condolences go out to the entire Rankin Family and all who knew Raylene.”
It is a testament to Raylene’s impact on Canadian culture, as part of The Rankin Family and later as a solo artist, that the Canadian government issued a statement via Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage: “It was with sadness that I learned of the passing of great Canadian singer Raylene Rankin. On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Raylene Rankin and to Canada’s musical community.”
Rankin first battled and beat breast cancer more than a decade ago, but it returned in 2009. Last year, she was diagnosed with liver cancer.
In a June interview with CBC, promoting her new solo album, All The Diamonds, she said, “I’m at a place now where I guess I’m just content. I accept the roads I’ve taken and the roads not taken and what I’ve come away from the whole experience with is an appreciation of all those things, all those gifts that have been given to me — my husband, my son, my family, my very good friends, the career that I’ve had that I sort of fell into, just little things like the first crocuses of the spring, the spring light which is different than winter light. All those things I see as little diamonds.”
Based in Mabou, Nova Scotia, The Rankin Family — John Morris, Raylene, Heather, Cookie, and Jimmy — released a self-titled album in 1989, which achieved platinum sales status (then 100,000 in Canada) and followed it up in 1990 with another independent release, Fare Thee Well Love. A year later, they signed with Capitol/EMI Music, which reissued the album. It reached No. 1 and eventually moved a half-million copies. 1993’s North Country went four-times platinum.
In 1998, they released their final album together, Uprooted, in order to pursue solo ventures. It was certified gold. Two years later tragedy struck the family when John Morris died in a single car accident on a slippery road when he swerved to avoid a pile of road salt. In 2007, the remaining members of The Rankin Family reunited and released Reunion on EMI and, in 2009, the album These Are The Moments, this time on Maple Music/Universal.
In her June CBC interview, Raylene talked about her 10-year struggle with cancer which had metastasized: “I’m scared a lot and just it seems when you get to a place where you’re not afraid then you’re given a reason to be afraid again. But it’s something that I’m working through. I’m reading one of these books that I’m trying to work with, it’s about not having a fear of death, which is the ultimate fear I guess… I’m working on it.”
She is survived by husband Colin Anderson and son Alexander.