Cape Breton's Rita MacNeil newest inductee to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame
HALIFAX -- The woman remembered to many as Cape Breton's 'First Lady of Song' is being honoured as the newest inductee to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
It was on this day eight years ago that Rita MacNeil passed away at the age of 68. Today, MacNeil's legacy will be remembered with a permanent place in the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame at the National Music Centre in Calgary, Alta.
"I think it's a great honour for Rita," said Nipper MacLeod, a performer with the group Men of the Deeps. "It's very well deserved. Nobody had a way with words like Rita, she was a great songwriter."
The Men of the Deeps often shared the stage with Rita – a friendship that Macleod refers to as a special connection.
"Rita was a working class person and the miners always represented the workers of Cape Breton Island and that meant a lot of her, and it meant a lot to us to be on stage with her," said Macleod.
Stephen Muise is the musical director for the Men of the Deeps. He believes the honour for Rita is long overdue.
"Rita is such a Cape Bretoner, a Canadian, a Nova Scotian treasure," said Muise. "Her music will, and should, live on forever so; I think it's such an exciting moment to have her music honoured this way."
In a release from the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, they say the love between Rita and her audience was always mutual.
"Through her lyrics and songwriting, Rita allowed us into her heart and soul,” said Vanessa Thomas, Executive Director of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. "Rita didn't sing to people, she sang for people; and her audiences, in return, gave her strength to overcome her shyness and stage anxiety. There are few artists who have such an intimate and authentic connection with their fans, and that bond lives on through her songs."
Along with the induction ceremony, a special tribute to Rita MacNeil will also take place at Centre 200 in Sydney, N.S., on May 6, during the 2021 East Coast Music Awards.
The induction presentation will include a musical tribute performed by a cast of former bandmates, friends, and more.
"Rita paved the way for so many young entertainers and I think she will continue to do so in the future," said Muise.