Published Apr 17, 2013Cape Breton-born Canadian music icon Rita MacNeil passed away last night (April 16) after complications from surgery. The singer's passing was announced through her website, with CBC reporting she had been in a hospital battling a post-surgery infection. She was 68 years old.
MacNeil was born in Big Pond, NS, on Cape Breton Island, and moved to Toronto at the age of 17 to start singing in folk clubs. Following another stint in Ottawa, she moved back to Cape Breton.
Over the course of her lengthy career, MacNeil recorded over 24 albums, selling millions of records along the way. A residency in Vancouver during Expo 86 shot her into the spotlight, which led to a Juno win for "Most Promising Female Vocalist" in 1987 at the age of 42.
Her next album, 1987's Flying On Her Own, was the first on an eight-album run to go platinum or higher in Canada. Some of her most well-known singles include "Working Man," "Flying on Your Own," "Reason to Believe," "I'll Accept the Rose Tonight" and "Home I'll Be."
From 1994 to 1997, the singer hosted the popular CBC variety program Rita and Friends, which showcased her own songs, as well as a number of Canadian acts.
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of a dear sweet woman and a gifted singer-songwriter who represented women and her beloved Nova Scotia so eloquently in her songs," Anne Murray said in a statement. Murray had recorded a cover of "Flying on Your Own" in 1988.
Of her many acclaims, MacNeil won three Junos, numerous East Coast Music Awards and Country Music Awards, as well as a Gemini for Rita and Friends. She was also a Member of the Order of Canada, was awarded the Order of Nova Scotia, and received five honorary doctorates.
She is survived by her children Laura and Wade, and her grandchildren.