A Conversation With Murray McLauchlan
By Eric Alper.
Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer and 11-time JUNO Award-winning artist Murray McLauchlan challenged himself to look within before tabling conversations on systemic racism, privilege, and economic disparity in this, his new double-single, “The One Percent / I Live On A White Cloud”.
“In the aftermath of the public killing of George Floyd in the U.S., a massive wave of revulsion against systemic racism swept the world,” the Toronto-based McLauchlan prefaces of “I Live On A White Cloud.” “It prompted many of us, myself included, to look honestly into our hearts and not flinch from what we might find.
“I remember thinking, ‘well, I’m not to blame!’” he continues. “But then I thought about my friends who had been stopped for ‘driving while black’... And I thought about the experiences of the First Nations people....
“And I thought, ‘if I watch all this go down, and shake my head but say nothing, I’m just as guilty as anybody else.’ I recognized my life has been easier — even in its difficulty from time to time — because of what I am.”
When it came to the second single, “The One Percent,” it was McLauchlan’s pointed perspective of the rapidly widening chasm between those with outsized resources and the rest of the world’s population.
“A while ago, when ‘Occupy Wall Street’ demonstrations happened, many people scorned the demonstrators for being unable to articulate what they were there for,” McLauchlan recalls. “I remember thinking, however, ’this isn’t going away.’
“As the accumulation of great wealth has increased for the very few, the vast majority of people have seen the opposite.”
Murray McLauchlan has 19 albums and countless songs, honours, and awards to his credit — including 11 JUNO Awards and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. A singer/songwriter, painter, author, actor, and radio host — plus an Honorary Doctor of Laws and appointee to The Order of Canada — he’s long-lauded as one of Canada’s most regarded artists throughout his 48-year career.
“I’m just a songwriter,” he lays plainly. “That’s the only voice I have, other than my vote.
“But I do know this: If we can’t find a way to make the world a more equitable place for everyone, our future is in question.”
Murray McLauchlan began writing songs and performing them in his late teens. After playing at major music festivals, such as The Philadelphia Folk Festival, where he appeared alongside Jim Croce and John Prine, and Mariposa where he gave up half of his concert time so Joni Mitchell could play, he began to attract wider attention on the club circuit, playing such well known rooms as The Riverboat in Toronto, The Bitter End in New York, The Main Point in Philadelphia, and the famous Earl of Old Town in Chicago.
Before Murray had actually recorded an album of his own, his “Child’s Song” was already well known after being recorded by American folk star Tom Rush. Live versions of his song “Honky Red” were performed by Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and Bobby Neuwirth. He received early song cuts by country music star George Hamilton IV.
Now, thirty odd years later, Murray has eighteen albums to his credit on both True North Records and Capitol Records. His songs have been covered by many other artists as well as being featured in high school text books. He has played, both solo, and with bands in every major hall in Canada, from Massey Hall in Toronto, to the Orpheum in Vancouver and all the Jubilees in between. His band “The Silver Tractors” is still remembered fondly from the TV special “On the Boulevard” for CBC and playing Maple Leaf Gardens with Gordon Lightfoot’s Olympic Team benefit in 1976. It was a very loud band.