Lynn Rene Anderson (September 26, 1947 – July 30, 2015) was an American country music singer known for a string of hits throughout the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, most notably her 1970 worldwide hit "(I Never Promised You a Rose Garden)." Anderson's crossover appeal and regular exposure on national television helped her to become one of the most popular and successful country singers of the 1970s.
Anderson charted 12 No. 1, 18 Top 10, and more than 50 Top 40 hit singles. In addition to being named "Top Female Vocalist" by the Academy of Country Music (ACM) twice and "Female Vocalist of the Year" by the Country Music Association (CMA), Anderson won a Grammy Award (earning seven nominations), People's Choice Award and an American Music Award (AMA). She was the #13 artist of the 1970s according to Joel Whitburn's "Billboard Hot Country Singles" book and the highest ranking artist of the list not yet in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Anderson was the first female country artist to win the American Music Award (in 1974), as well as the first to headline and sellout Madison Square Garden that same year.
Anderson debuted in 1966, at the age of 19, and had her first hit with Ride, Ride, Ride. After a series of Top 10 hit singles on the country charts during the late 1960s, Anderson signed with Columbia Records in 1970. Under Columbia, she had her most successful string of hits. Her signature song, "(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden," remains one of the biggest selling country crossover hits of all time. In addition to topping the U.S. country charts for five weeks, the song reached No. 3 on the Billboard Pop Chart. It also topped the charts in several countries around the globe, an unprecedented achievement at the time. CMT ranks "Rose Garden" at No. 83 on its list of the "100 Greatest Songs in Country Music History". Anderson continued to record and remained a popular concert attraction until her death, regularly headlining major casino showrooms, performing arts centers and theaters.
Although she was recorded as having been born in South Dakota, Anderson, according to family history, was actually born just north of the US border in Winnipeg, Canada, and the birth was recorded in Grand Forks so that she would gain US citizenship. She was later raised in Fair Oaks, California. She was the daughter of country music songwriters Casey and Liz Anderson. Lynn Anderson's great-grandfather was born in Aremark, Norway. In later life, Anderson met her Norwegian relatives through the Norwegian TV series Tore på sporet.
Anderson became interested in singing at age six. She had her first success in the horse show arena in and around California, where she would eventually win a total of 700 trophies, including the "California Horse Show Queen" title in 1966. In her teens, she performed regularly on the local television program Country Caravan.
In 1965, she was working as a secretary at Top 40 radio station KROY in Sacramento, California, when one of her mother's compositions, "All My Friends Are Gonna Be Strangers", was recorded by Merle Haggard and became a No. 10 country hit. Her mother signed with RCA Victor as a country music recording artist that year. While accompanying her mother to Nashville, Anderson participated in an informal sing-along in a hotel room with country stars Merle Haggard and Freddie Hart. One of the people present at the sing-along, Slim Williamson, owned Chart Records, a local record label. Williamson recognized Lynn Anderson's talent and invited her to record for his label. She began recording for Chart in 1966.
1966–1969: Country music success
In 1966, Lynn Anderson released her debut single, "For Better or for Worse", a duet with Jerry Lane which did not chart. Her first charting single and her third release on the Chart Label, "Ride, Ride, Ride", hit the Country Top 40. She had her first major hit single, "If I Kiss You (Will You Go Away)", the following year. It peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard country chart. It was followed by another Top 5 hit, "Promises, Promises", from an album of the same name, which would also spawn a second Top 10 hit, "No Another Time", in 1968. Then she released "Mother May I", a Top 25 duet that she recorded with her mother. (The elder Anderson also achieved success as a country artist around the same time, achieving two Top 10 hits—"Mama Spank" (1966) and a trio with Bobby Bare and Norma Jean, "The Game of Triangles" (1967).)
In 1967, Lynn Anderson became a regular performer on The Lawrence Welk Show. and toured with the Welk Road Show. Her appearances on the show would later rebound to her benefit. Because of the Welk show's widespread appeal, she was able to achieve success on the pop charts. In 1969, as her popularity grew, she left the Welk show in favor of sporadic guest appearances (Clay Hart would ultimately take Anderson's place in the Welk "musical family"). In 1968, Anderson married songwriter and producer Glenn Sutton, who would later produce and write many of her records during her tenure with Columbia. Their marriage lasted nine years. Anderson released her biggest hit single under the Chart label, "That's a No No", which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Country Chart in 1969. Soon after, she left the label; signing with Columbia Records in 1970. Chart Records would continue to release Lynn Anderson singles thru the end of 1971, including five Top 20 hits: "He'd Still Love Me", "I've Been Everywhere", "Rocky Top", "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" and "I'm Alright".
1970–1980: Pop crossover
After signing with Columbia in 1970, Anderson released the Joe South song, "(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden", which became a major crossover pop hit in 1970 and early 1971. The song was produced by her then husband Glenn Sutton. Anderson actually had to do some arm-twisting to get her producer-husband to allow her to record the song. Sutton was concerned that "Rose Garden" was a song to be sung by a man, with the line "I could promise you things like big diamond rings". It was Columbia executive Clive Davis who determined the song would be Anderson's next single released. The single peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard country chart and No. 3 on the Billboard pop chart, becoming an international success. In the United Kingdom, the single reached No. 3 and in Germany it peaked at No. 1 and stayed there for four weeks. The album Rose Garden was released in 1971 and was also hugely successful, receiving platinum certification by the RIAA. Anderson won the Academy of Country Music's "Top Female Vocalist" Award and the Country Music Association's "Female Vocalist of the Year" Award in 1970 and 1971, respectively. In addition, she won a Grammy Award.
Lynn Anderson had two No. 1 hit singles on the Billboard country chart in 1971 with "You're My Man" and "How Can I Unlove You", both peaking at No. 63 on the Billboard pop chart. In 1972, Anderson had three Top 5 hits on the country charts, beginning with a cover version of the 50s pop hit, "Cry", followed by "Listen to a Country Song" and "Fool Me". These songs were included on the Listen to a Country Song album. "Cry" peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard magazine country chart and at No. 16 on the Adult Contemporary chart. In 1973, she had a fourth No. 1 country hit with "Keep Me in Mind", and an album of the same name was released. Then followed a second 1973 album, Top of the World, whose title track was a No. 2 country hit. It was also a No. 1 pop hit for The Carpenters that same year. However, Anderson's version was the first to be released as a single and become a hit. The second single released from the Top of the World album, "Sing About Love", also peaked at No. 3. In 1974, "What a Man My Man Is" was Anderson's fifth No. 1 country hit. That same year, she also won the American Music Awards' "Favorite Female Country Artist" Award.
Throughout the 1970s, Anderson made frequent guest appearances on many television specials, talk shows and variety shows. Because of her crossover appeal, she often appeared on shows where country artists were not regularly seen. At the height of the show's popularity, she had a starring role in an episode of Starsky & Hutch. She made several appearances on The Tonight Show, and appeared on three Bob Hope television specials. Anderson frequently guest-starred on various Dean Martin television specials. She also hosted her own television special in 1977, with guest star Tina Turner. In 1979, Anderson performed live at the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C., included in the audience was President Jimmy Carter.
Anderson's success slowed down toward the end of the 1970s. She continued making appearances on the country charts every year for the rest of the decade. Anderson hit the Top 20 with two from her I've Never Loved Anyone More album in 1975: "He Turns it into Love Again" and the title track. She had a Top 20 hit with "All the King's Horses" in 1976 from an album of the same name. In 1977, Wrap Your Love All Around Your Man, partly due to its promotion on the television series Starsky & Hutch, became a major hit. In 1979, she had her first Top 10 hit since 1974 with "Isn't It Always Love" from her album Outlaw is Just a State of Mind. The album also produced the Top 20 hit, "I Love How You Love Me" and the Top 40 hit "Sea of Heartbreak". In 1980, she recorded her final album for Columbia, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, which featured two Top 30 hits. Following her separation from Columbia she did not record for nearly three years.
1983–1989: Commercial resurgence
After three years away from recording, Anderson signed with the Permian Records label in 1983, and had a Top 10 country hit with "You're Welcome to Tonight", a duet with Gary Morris At Permian, she recorded Back, her first studio album since 1980. The album's first single, "You Can't Lose What You Never Had", peaked outside the Top 40, but the second single, "What I've Learned from Loving You", was a Top 20 hit. She left Permian in 1984. In 1986, she recorded "Fools for Each Other", a duet with Ed Bruce, which was included on his Night Things album. The single peaked just at number 49.
That same year, Anderson recorded a single for MCA Records. In 1986, she signed with Mercury Records, which produced one album, What She Does Best, and five singles that were minor hits on the Billboard country chart in the late 1980s. She had two Top 40 hit singles with MCA—"Read Between the Lines" and a cover version of The Drifters' "Under the Boardwalk", which hit Top 25 country in 1988. In 1989, Anderson released her last charting single to date with "How Many Hearts", which peaked at No. 69.
1990–2015: Later music career
In 1990, Anderson starred as singer Betsy Hall in the BBC Scotland TV drama The Wreck on the Highway. She performed the song "Dream On" in the film, which consequently became a minor hit in a BBC collection of country standards. In 1992, she recorded a new studio album titled Cowboy's Sweetheart, released by Laselight Records. Emmylou Harris and Marty Stuart appeared as guest performers on the album. During the same time, the American Rose Society created a hybrid tea rose and named it the "Lynn Anderson" Anderson did not record any studio albums for the rest of the decade and became more focused on touring and performing, as well as non-musical projects. In 1999, she was inducted into the North American Country Music Association's International Hall of Fame.
In 2000, Tennessee governor Don Sundquist made June 15 "Lynn Anderson Day" throughout the state. Anderson produced a TNN special, "American Country Cowboys," which helped handicapped groups also during this time.
In 2002, Anderson was ranked at No. 29 on CMT's television special of the 40 Greatest Women of Country Music. In 2000, she recorded a live album titled, Live at Billy Bob's Texas.
In 2004, she recorded her first studio album in 12 years, The Bluegrass Sessions, a Bluegrass album that consisted of Anderson's major hits from the 1960s and 1970s re-recorded in a Bluegrass format. The album was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Bluegrass Album in 2005, along with Ricky Skaggs' album Brand New Strings, Ralph Stanley II's Carrying on, as well as a multi-artist album.
In June 2007, she performed as part of the CMA's 2007 Music Festival in Nashville. She performed an outdoor concert at the Riverfront Park area, which also included concerts by Aaron Tippin and Jason Michael Carroll.
In April 2009, Anderson was part of the concert line-up at the annual Stagecoach Festival in Palm Springs, which also included concerts by Charlie Daniels, Kevin Costner, and Reba McEntire. Throughout 2010 and 2011, she performed a series of concerts backed by the Metropole Symphony Orchestra. Until the end of her life, Anderson remained a popular concert attraction; regularly headlining casino showrooms, performing arts centers & theatres throughout the United States and Canada.
In 2015, Anderson signed with Center Sound Records to release a new country gospel album, Bridges. The album featured a gospel version of the Mentor Williams' penned hit "Drift Away", with new lyrics by the writer. It also contained vocal collaborations of Anderson with The Martins and Country Music Hall of Fame members The Oak Ridge Boys. The album was released on June 9, 2015, as both digital download and vinyl 45.
Outside of her music career, Anderson also maintained an equestrian (cutting and show horse) career from the 1960s until her death. As a horsewoman, she won 16 national, eight world, and several celebrity championships.
Her championships included 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. Anderson raised horses at her ranch in New Mexico and worked with the "Special Riders of Animaland", which is a horseback-riding therapy program for children.
Her sorrel quarter horses "Lady Phase" and "Skipster’s Chief" were produced as plastic models by Breyer Animal Creations. "Skipster’s Chief" was also the poster horse for the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association.
Anderson was married to Grammy Award-winning songwriter Glenn Sutton from 1968 to 1977. They had one child together, Lisa, born in 1970. In 1978, she married Louisiana oilman Harold "Spook" Stream III, with whom she had two children. Stream and Anderson divorced in 1982.
Anderson was sentenced to two days in jail for contempt of court for cursing her two children during a court-approved visit. "This kind of conduct on her part has got to cease," Circuit Judge Muriel Robinson Rice said when she sentenced Anderson. Rice stayed the sentence pending appeal. Rice eventually awarded custody of the children to Anderson's ex-husband, Harold Stream. The hearing concerned whether Anderson cursed her 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter in private during a court-approved visit with the children. Anderson, 43, and Stream, 42, were divorced in 1982 after four years of marriage. Anderson originally had custody of the children, but Stream won temporary custody while authorities investigated his allegations that his former wife had physically abused her children.
Anderson had a self-professed issue with alcohol and had a list of run-ins with the law which included an arrest on December 2, 2004, in which she was charged with driving while intoxicated in Denton, Texas. A driver following Anderson called the police after noticing her car weaving in and out of lanes. After failing a field sobriety test, Anderson was arrested and released on bond. On January 24, 2005, a short time after her last arrest, Anderson was accused of shoplifting a Harry Potter DVD from a local supermarket in her hometown of Taos, New Mexico. Upon her arrest she punched the arresting officer. She was charged with shoplifting, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer. The assault charges were later dropped. Her next arrest was on May 3, 2006, when she was arrested on a second driving under the influence of alcohol charge following a minor traffic accident near Espanola, New Mexico. According to police, Anderson failed a sobriety test and refused to take a breathalyzer test after her car hit the back of another car. No one was injured in the collision and she was again charged and released on bond. Her last arrest occurred on September 11, 2014, after being involved in a minor traffic accident in Nashville, Tennessee, on West End Avenue. Anderson was arrested after she admitted to drinking alcohol and taking prescription medication. She was booked on DUI and released on a $5,000 bond. Anderson later went through rehabilitation at the Betty Ford Center.
Lynn Anderson lived in Nashville and at the time of her death she had been in a relationship for 26 years with songwriter and producer Mentor Williams.
Anderson died on July 30, 2015 at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee from a heart attack at the age of 67. She had been briefly hospitalized due to pneumonia after vacationing in Italy.
Major awards and honors
|1967||Academy of Country Music Award||Top Female Vocalist|
|1971||Grammy Award||Best Female Country Vocal Performance|
|Country Music Association Award||Female Vocalist of the Year|
|1974||American Music Award||Favorite Female Country Artist|
|1975||People's Choice Award||Favorite Country Artist|
|1980||Record World||Artist of the Decade: 1970–1980|
- 1967 - Ride, Ride, Ride
- 1967 - Promises, Promises
- 1968 - Big Girls Don't Cry
- 1969 - At Home With Lynn
- 1969 - Songs That Made Country Girls Famous
- 1969 - With Love From Lynn
- 1970 - I'm Alright
- 1970 - No Love At All
- 1970 - Stay There 'Til I Get There
- 1970 - Uptown Country Girl
- 1970 - Rose Garden
- 1971 - How Can I Unlove You
- 1971 - You're My Man
- 1972 - Cry
- 1972 - Listen to a Country Song
- 1973 - Keep Me in Mind
- 1973 - Top of the World
- 1974 - Smile for Me
- 1975 - I've Never Loved Anyone More
- 1975 - What a Man My Man Is
- 1976 - All the King's Horses
- 1977 - I Love What Love Is Doing to Me/He Ain't You
- 1977 - Wrap Your Love All Around Your Man
- 1978 - From the Inside
- 1979 - Outlaw Is Just a State of Mind
- 1980 - Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
- 1983 - Back
- 1988 - What She Does Best
- 1992 - Cowboy's Sweetheart
- 1999 - Home for the Holidays
- 2004 - The Bluegrass Sessions
- 2015 - Bridges