Lynn Anderson ~ An American Original
Lynn Anderson, rightly described as a “singer’s singer,” ranked among the most admired and trailblazing entertainers in America throughout her six-decade career. Her sparkling vocals brought a new level of sophistication and glamour to country music. This groundbreaking pop-country sound—labeled “countrypolitan” by the media—helped her become one of the first female country artists to achieve mass crossover appeal.
A distinctive stylist, she ranks among the ten most successful female country artists in all-time record sales and is also one of the most awarded country artists of any era. She performed for the Queen of England and for four American presidents, including a special invitation to appear at a Jimmy Carter birthday celebration at the White House. Anderson set a number of precedents for female country artists: She was the first female country singer to perform on The Tonight Show, first to headline and sell out Madison Square Garden, and the first to win an American Music Award for Favorite Female Vocalist.
Country music artists were rarely invited to appear as guests on network television shows in the 1970’s, but Anderson helped break down barriers by accepting invitations to perform on variety shows, national telethons, high-profile benefits, talk shows, and even prime-time dramas. In addition to being a favorite of Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, Anderson was featured on many of the highest-rated and best-loved TV programs of her time, including The Ed Sullivan Show, The Kraft Music Hall, The Dean Martin Show, This Is Tom Jones, Midnight Special, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, The Carol Burnett Show, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Hollywood Squares, The Dinah Shore Show, Solid Gold, Good Morning America, People’s Choice Awards, American Music Awards, Grammy Awards, and three Bob Hope Specials. Anderson even starred in her own CBS special, with Tina Turner as a guest. She also acted in an episode of the top-rated series Starsky & Hutch, in an NBC Movie of the Week, Country Gold, and starred in the BBC drama, The Wreck on the Highway. Her popularity on television began early in her career, as a cast member of The Lawrence Welk Show. At the time, she became the only country artist featured weekly on a national telecast.
Lynn Anderson spent her youth in California, and as a teen she entered and won a singing contest in Sacramento that once featured Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. By time she turned 20, she was a star on television, had been recording for three years, and had scored a series of country hits, including “That’s a No No,” “Promises, Promises,” “I’ve Been Everywhere,” and “Rocky Top.”
In 1970, Anderson made a fortuitous move to Nashville and signed with Columbia Records. Working with husband/producer Glenn Sutton, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the singer turned out a steady stream of hits. But it was her one-of-a-kind take on Joe South’s “Rose Garden” that propelled her to superstar status. The hit topped both the country and pop charts and made Anderson an international star of the top order. For 27 years, it stood as the biggest-selling recording by a female country artist.
Proof of her staying power as an artist followed: “Cry,” “How Can I Unlove You,” “Keep Me in Mind,” “You’re My Man,” “Man What a Man My Man Is,” “Listen to a Country Song,” “Fool Me,” and “Top of the World” all went to number one on the charts. In all, Anderson scored a remarkable 12 Number One records, 18 Top Ten records, and more than 50 Top Forty records.
The recording industry rewarded her success by naming her CMA Female Vocalist of the Year and ACM Female Vocalist of the Year (twice). She earned a prestigious Grammy Award, as well as an American Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year. Lynn repeatedly delivered chart topping songs and was named Record World’s Artist of the Decade and became Billboard’s Artist of the Decade for the 70s.
Anderson blazed trails in other fields as well. She maintained an equestrian career as a competitor with cutting horses and show horses from the 1960s until her death. As a horsewoman, she won 16 national, eight world, and several celebrity championships. Her notable championships included becoming the National Chevy Truck Cutting Horse Champion in 1999, the American U.S. Open Invitational Champion in 2000, and the National Cutting Horse Association Champion in 1999. She also raised horses at her ranch in New Mexico and worked with the Special Riders of Animaland, a horseback-riding therapy program for children.
Lynn Anderson died on July 30, 2015, of a heart attack while battling pneumonia at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Her memory will live on forever as generations sing along with the radio. Come along and share the good times while we can.