Burton Cummings reflects on five memorable songs from his solo career
Burton Cummings will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame on Friday in recognition of his 40-year solo career.
The Winnipeg-born master of infectious soft rock anthems, and former member of the Guess Who, becomes the first artist to be added to the hall's new home at the National Music Centre in Calgary. The Juno Awards will also pay tribute to him during Sunday's telecast.
Cummings reflected on his career and chose five songs from his solo era that he'll never forget:
• “Stand Tall” (his debut single as a solo act, a certified gold record)
“I knew it had a shot when we released it, but we were all very pleasantly surprised when it became so big. It eased some of my fears of being a solo artist and kind of confirmed in my head that I had made the right choice.”
• “I'm Scared” ( first track on his self-titled 1976 debut)
“I was in New York City and it was cold at Christmastime and ... I was running back to my hotel and I passed this church. I went in basically to warm my hands and sat in the very back pew. There was not another human being in there, but I felt this presence really and truly - not to sound corny. I left a little bit upset and ran back to the hotel, scribbled down some lyrics, and it ended up being 'I'm Scared.' It's
not a love song, it's a song about wondering and questioning.”
•“Heavenly Blue” ( from 1980's “Woman Love”)
“(The song is) one of my mother's favourite things ever. It's one of those pretty heartbreak songs with a good vocal - one of the best vocals I ever did, I think.”
• “Is It Really Right” ( from 1976's “Burton Cummings”)
“That was supposed to be the title of the first solo album, but Portrait (Records) went all middle-of-the-road and decided to put me in a stupid striped suit (on the album cover). We had this bizarre Mad Magazine-type cover ... a setup in the back alley. We hired two middle-aged twins, (producer) Richard Perry, my road manager Jim Martin ... and a couple of sexy models. We were all sitting around the big white grand piano as if it were a piano bar ... (that) original cover was fantastic.”
•“You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet” (a cover of estranged former Guess Who bandmate Randy Bachman's hit with Bachman-Turner Overdrive)
“It was kind of meant to piss Randy off, but when the royalties started flowing in for him, he wasn't so pissed off anymore. Originally I had planned to start that cut with the cash registers chinkling, but Richard (Perry) and I decided maybe that was going a bit too far.”
Comments have been edited and condensed.
Burton Cummings poses for a photograph at Massey Hall in Toronto in 2012. The 68-year-old former Guess Who frontman says he's lucky to still be around to witness his induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame on Friday in recognition of his 40-year solo career.