The praise doesn’t come any loftier when none other than John Lennon soys you ore his favourit e singer and Led Zeppelin icon, Rober t Plant,
soys you ore one of rock ‘s best voices. Both ore talking about Burton Cummings. Few singers in pop music inspire the Hash-recall of recognition like that of Cummings. Soy the nome and it con1ures up the monster hit,American Woman, or the soJlful song,These Eyes, or t he solo hit,
Cummings Is per haps best identified wit h t he success o1The Guess Who – with whom he starred for about 10 years until his departure in 1976 to pursue a solo career. That direction hos also been singular: Stand Toll was his first million-seller and a 1979 album, Dream of a Child, sold more than 300,000 copies – the first such Canadian album
to achieve trrple-plotinum status. His Up Close and Alone album, released in 1996,went platinum
1n less thon six months. He hos won several Junos (best mole singer twicel and been a concert headliner around the globe.
Born In Winnipeg, Burton orginolly ployed keyboards and saxophone with a group called The Devrons. In the mid-1960s,he replaced Chad Allon in the bond that later become the powerhouse group,The Guess Who.Combining
with Rondy Bachman, he wrote or co-wrote some of the bond’s biggest songs, including American Woman,a No. 1 song m the United States and
Canada. The two were the creative sources behind other big hits,such as These Eyes, No Sugar Tonight and No Time.
The bond’s name sprorg from a tongue-in-cheek 1oke to stir interest in the bond,at the time the British Invasion was washing over the continent. Bock In the mid-1960s,several Winnipeg musicians,including Chad Allon, hod trouble getting air ploy with their songs. So,a plain album cover went out, containing the words.
Guess Who? Some people thought they hod a new British bond on their hands. The promotional gimmick worked – disc jockeys ployed the bond and the name stuck.
The group really Rew upon release of Its Wheat field Soul album,and its Cummings-rich These Eyes vo1cet rock. The song reached No. 3 in the United States and – In the days before Canadian content regulations – forced Conod1on DJs and record promoters to pay attent ion. These Eyes
eventually sold 1 million copies and got the bond onto Dick Clark’s American Bandstand show.
But It was Amerrcon Woman that really mode the bond’s reputation: the song rocketed to the top of the char ts and hung on to No. 1
for three weeks. Its lyrics suggested a strong anti-American theme but Cummings hos said the words were more streom-ol-consc1ousness: “Vietnam was a bit of a factor but It was never meant to be pol1t1cal Bachman said later the
words orrginolly come together m a lengthy jam the bond was involved in at o dance. The Guess Who – minus Boehman,who lef t in 1970 – was invited to perform in the White House before
on audience thot included Prince Charles. But Pot Nixon,wile of U.S. President Richard Nixon, asked the bond not to perform its incisive classic.
Burton continued tolead the bond for another five years as new members entered The Guess Who lineup. He wrote other hits, such as Albert Flasher, but finally left the group In 1976 to pursue other musical ambitions. That new path
led to such songs as Stand Toll,I’m Scored, and the lush IWillSing a Rhapsod y. The first two were heard more than 1 m1ll1on times on radio.
Cummings headlined In concerts and also opened for other acts. He 101ned ex-Beatie Ringo Storr s All-Storr Bond,in which he did some of his own songs. He reunited off and on with Rondy Boehman,the duo touring together In 1983.
He picked up o screen credit m o Conodion feature film, M elonie, and was inducted into the Canadian Music Holl of Fame. Four of his LPs hove sold more than 200,000 copies each.
In 1987, the orrginol members of the group
- Cummings, Boehman,Garry Peterson and Jim Kole – reunited for a notionaltour that resulted in a concert video and l<ve album. The same year, the bond entered the Canadian Recording Arts and Sciences Holl of Fame.
Other credits come in the form of awards. Cummings earnedlour Junos,including one in 1980 for his best-selling album,Dream of a Child. He received the William Harold Moon lo former president of BMICanada) International achievement award nine years later. In 2001,
the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada honoured Burton for three songs and also recognized him and Boehman jointly for their work on These Eyes and No
Time. A new generation of music lovers heard Cummings anew when Sony Music Canada reissued his firstlour solo albums in CD format in 1999.
It was in that year the hometown boys stood toll once again as The Guess Who when they ployed at the Pon-Ame rican Gomes in Winnipeg. A lso, in 1999, Lenny Kravitz covered their signature hit,American Woman,and the applause come roaring bock. Reunion tours followed across North America. Cummings, the native son, hod
on old vaudeville theatre and community centre named ofter him in the Manitoba capitol and was invested In the Order of Manitoba. Both he and Rondy Boehman received the Governor General’s award in 2003.