Tuesday 12 November 2019

Book ~ "I'm Not What I Seem: The Many Stories of Rita MacNeil's Life" (2016) Charlie Rhindress

From Goodreads ~ Rita MacNeil has long been recognized as one of the East Coast's great singer-songwriters. As a young girl with the dream of becoming a singer, she overcame a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and achieved success by believing in herself and refusing to give up. A trailblazer, Rita played an integral role in the women's movement in Canada and forged a path that was unique to her, paving the way for future generations of east coast musicians. 

Charlie Rhindress first came to know Rita as he collaborated with her on his play "Flying on Her Own", incorporating more than twenty of her songs into a script that told the story of her life. 

For this biography, Rhindress did extensive research and interviewed many of the people who worked with her and knew her best. The story of a strong, sensitive, complex woman emerged and the result is a powerful and moving portrait of a unique woman and important artist of her times. 

Rita MacNeil (1944 – 2013) was a Canadian singer/songwriter from Big Pond, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. She was the fifth of eight children and was born with a cleft lip and palate, which made her shy but she found happiness through singing.  In addition, her childhood wasn't overly happy with her parents always fighting and drinking. 

Her family moved to Toronto for work when she was young, before heading back home to Cape Breton.  Rita moved back to Toronto when she was 17, hoping to make a name for herself as a singer.  Instead, she ended up pregnant by a man who wouldn't marry her and moved back home to Big Pond to the support of her family.

Rita moved back to Toronto after her daughter was born to again pursue her singing career.  She met and married David and settled in being a wife and mother.  She wanted more and became in involved in the women's rights movement and wrote songs of protest.  Rita and her family moved back to Big Pond, with Rita figuring that would bring her contentment.  But she knew that singing was what she wanted to do and that became her goal ... and she did everything to make it, including leaving her marriage.  Rita ended up with many top selling albums and awards from around the world.

I didn't know a lot about Rita and wasn't a fan, though I didn't dislike her music.  I like reading bios/autobios and I knew Rita had had an interesting life. The book included interviews with Rita's friends and former colleagues, in addition to the author interviewing Rita.  I liked the writing style and found the book interesting and honest.

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