Lynn Rene Anderson was one of the most important female country music voices of her time. She was one of the best female country names in the genre by 1970 and helped pave the way for future Nashville stars throughout her celebrated career.
Anderson was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, in 1947, but was raised in California by her songwriter parents, Casey and Liz Anderson. She had a knack for performing early on, singing at local horse shows as well as the local program Country Caravan.
The future star was working as a radio station's secretary in California when her mother's song, "(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers" was recorded by the great Merle Haggard and became a hit. Her mother secured a record deal with RCA Victor, and when she moved to Nashville, Lynn went with her. She was quickly discovered by Chart Records and released her own debut single, "For Better or for Worse," in 1966.
Her first major single, "If I Kiss You (Will You Go Away)" was released the following year and hit number 5 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles. Multiple charting singles followed, including one of many collaborations with her mother, "Mother May I." She even regularly performed on The Lawrence Welk Show. Anderson's career was up and running, and by 1970, she moved over to Columbia Records.
Perhaps the biggest song of her career was her first single with Columbia, "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden." The Joe South song was produced by her husband at the time, Glenn Sutton, but Anderson really had to push to be able to record the song. Sutton felt like the song should be recorded by a man, but luckily her label had her back and knew she could make it a hit. They were right. The song was an incredible pop crossover success, hitting number one on the country charts, number 3 on the pop charts, and in the top 5 in various international countries. The song secured Anderson ACM's Top Female Vocalist Award, CMA's Female Vocalist of the Year Award, and a Grammy Award. Take that Glenn Sutton!
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Two number-one hit singles followed with "You're My Man," "How Can I Unlove You," and "Keep Me In Mind" in 1973, proving that Anderson was on top of the world in the '70s. She made appearances on multiple TV shows, including a role in Starsky & Hutch and Bobe Hope TV specials. She was even the first female country star to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Not too shabby.
Anderson continued releasing music through the '80s, including the top 10 hit on the country charts "You're Welcome to Tonight,'' a duet with Gary Morris. The last charting single of her career was "How Many Hearts," which peaked at 69 in 1989.
After that, the country artist dabbled a bit more in acting, starring in the BBC Scotland TV drama The Wreck on the Highway as well as various other projects. By 1999, she was inducted into the Country Music Association's International Hall of Fame. The following year, Tennessee governor Don Sundquist named June 15, "Lynn Anderson Day."
Until her death in 2015, Anderson made her rounds at the big festivals. She made appearances over the years at the Stagecoach Festival, CMA Fest, and even the Grand Ole Opry. She also released a Grammy-nominated bluegrass album in 2004, The Bluegrass Sessions.
Anderson died on July 30, 2015, after suffering a heart attack. She is buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery (the "Cemetery of Country Stars"). In 2018, the cemetery even established The Lynn Anderson Rose Garden, which is comprised of 200 Lynn Anderson Hybrid Rose Bushes (the National Rose Society of America named them after the country singer) in honor of the song that became the signature song of her career.
This article was originally published in April, 2020.
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