Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

Inductee: Mary Margaret O’Hara

Reluctant genius: Mary Margaret O'Hara. Courtesy Bill Robertson/Apartment Hunting Productions.
Reluctant genius: Mary Margaret O'Hara. Courtesy Bill Robertson/Apartment Hunting Productions.

Reason for Induction:
For achieving international music legend status on the strength of one 17-year-old album, and for refusing to play celebrity.

Citation:
Strange for a musician, but silence has defined Mary Margaret O’Hara’s career as much as her fluttering, uncatchable song and dance. Of course, there has been noise, too: Michael Stipe declaring her “a national treasure”; Morrissey and Jane Siberry enlisting her talents on their records; Mojo, the influential, list-happy British magazine, naming her 1988 album, Miss America, one of the best 100 albums of all time.

But 1988 was a long time ago. And then silence. And then a Christmas record in 1991. And then silence. And then in 2002, a movie soundtrack. And now more silence.

For a certain kind of celebrity, obscurity perpetuates adoration. The J.D. Salingers and Brian Wilsons play hard to get, pulled by their demons towards privacy, shoving back at our hunger for their talents. Fandom is masochism, and we beg for more.

For 30 years, Mary Margaret O’Hara has kind of been ignoring us. She was a fixture on Toronto’s then-hipster Queen Street in the early ’70s, before the Gap and Club Monaco and their like began to clog the bar-and-restaurant artery. In vintage clothes, her long hair tumbling from clips, she was ridiculously arty, a student at the Ontario College of Art, painting, sculpting, designing. She appeared in photographer Robert Frank’s legendary film Candy Mountain. She created the lettering for the sign on the landmark Queen Street club The Rivoli.

Growing up in Toronto in a big Irish Catholic family, O’Hara and her two sisters, one of whom is SCTV-alumna Catherine O’Hara, would sing three-part harmonies together. Goaded by Catherine into taking the stage with a local band called Songship (later the Go Deo Chorus), she sang with a strange, polyrhythmic voice that sounded tiny and then ballooned into angry shouts, dropping back down to a girlish twitter. Sometimes the whole jazzy-experimental thing grates a little, let’s be honest; there’s a touch of Yoko in the woman. She dances like a tree sprite and says things like: “My instrument is the human body.”

But then again, there’s something hauntingly unique and timeless about her music; Mary Margaret O’Hara sounds like no one else. Virgin Records noticed, signing her in the ’80s, but it was a nightmare. After four years of recording, tinkering and fighting with the label, the album Miss America crawled out in 1988, battered and unpromoted, but music lovers nurtured it to life. She sings those first words, held up by just a tinge of guitar, almost reluctantly: “You take a walk…I’ll be your side…” So damned pretty and then the damaged, tear-jerking chorus: “I still feel for you…”

Body’s In Trouble was the single, a hiccupping pop song written nine years before the album’s release. In the video, O’Hara slaps her hips and weaves like a more poetic Joe Cocker. The phrasing is strange, the lyrics nonsensical, the song perfect.

What to do next? Something of a delicate soul – she rambles a bit in interviews – O’Hara reportedly felt scarred by the Miss America experience, and she retreated. In 2002, as a favour for a filmmaker friend, she recorded several songs for the soundtrack to a movie called Apartment Hunting (never content to be one kind of artist, she appeared in the film, too). Critics raved, but it was a comeback that came and went back.

Once in a while, O’Hara can still be spotted, usually unannounced, on Toronto stages. Often she appears backing some musician or other who worships her, and it’s always a pleasant surprise, a welcome recollection. Most recently, her distinct falsetto drifts in the distance on an album by a lovely young Toronto songwriter named Justin Rutledge, who’s not even 30. She is only willing to give this much of herself, and for now, that will have to be enough.

Katrina Onstad writes about the arts for CBC.ca.

Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

World »

Updated Gaza conflict: Palestinian death toll tops 1,300 as school, mall hit video
Israeli strikes hit a crowded shopping area in Gaza City Wednesday, hours after tank shells tore through the walls of a UN school crowded with war refugees in one of the deadliest days yet in the three week conflict.
Analysis The 100-year conflict that is the First World War video audio
It was a hundred years ago Friday when Europe's crumbling empires let loose "the guns of August" and plunged the globe into the First World War. As Brian Stewart writes, that reckless dance into the abyss set the stage for our times.
Ebola outbreak: Liberia closes schools, U.K. holds crisis meeting video
British officials have held a crisis meeting and warned of a potentially serious threat if the deadly Ebola virus spreads further, as Liberia closed schools across the country Wednesday, the toughest measures yet imposed by a West African government in a bid to halt the outbreak.
more »

Canada »

Supreme Court registrar won't seek repayment of Marc Nadon salary
The registrar for the Supreme Court of Canada says it's up to the justice minister to decide whether Marc Nadon should pay back nearly six months of salary he earned before the top court rejected his appointment.
Updated Toronto police Chief Bill Blair's contract won't be renewed video
Toronto's police board decided today not to appoint Chief Bill Blair to a third term, meaning that a search for his successor will soon be underway.
Rob Ford campaign video may have violated rules
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is brushing aside complaints he violated city election rules by filming a campaign video in the mayor's office.
more »

Politics »

Supreme Court registrar won't seek repayment of Marc Nadon salary
The registrar for the Supreme Court of Canada says it's up to the justice minister to decide whether Marc Nadon should pay back nearly six months of salary he earned before the top court rejected his appointment.
Stephen Harper says Hamas to blame after shelling of UN school in Gaza
Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated his government's criticism of Hamas on Wednesday, saying it is solely responsible for the death and destruction in Gaza following almost a month of fighting between Israel and Hamas militants. He also said there was "no doubt" China was behind a recent cyberattack.
Canada taking steps to guard against spread of Ebola video
The Public Health Agency of Canada says it's taking precautions to prevent the spread of diseases such as Ebola by screening passengers at key points of entry, while pointing out there have been no cases of the deadly disease in Canada.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

Marvel charts new frontier with Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy stars Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, the voices of Bradley Coopert and Vin Diesel. The movie hits theatres on Friday, Aug. 1.
Orlando Bloom reportedly tried to punch Justin Bieber in Spain
Canadian pop star-cum bad boy Justin Bieber has the rumour mill spinning again after reportedly getting into a scuffle with actor Orlando Bloom in a restaurant in Ibiza, Spain.
Quentin Tarantino, J.J. Abrams lobby to save Kodak film: report
A group of big-name directors has succeeded in pressuring Hollywood studios to buy motion-picture film stock from Eastman Kodak over the next several years, according to the Wall Street Journal.
more »

Technology & Science »

Octopus mom waits record 4.5 years for eggs to hatch
A devoted deep-sea octopus mom has broken a record for parental self-sacrifice after spending 4.5 years with her arms wrapped around her eggs until they hatched.
Microsoft Cortana goes international with Windows Phone update
Microsoft is rolling out Cortana, a digital assistant similar to Apple's Siri, in countries outside the U.S. as part of an update to Windows Phone 8.1.
Leak app lets you say what’s on your mind - anonymously
The truth can hurt, and nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news — which is precisely the idea behind a new web service called Leak that lets you anonymously email anybody about anything.
more »

Money »

TSX at record on strong earnings reports
The Toronto stock market advanced to a record close Wednesday, powered by solid earnings and an indication from the U.S. Federal Reserve that it is in no rush to raise interest rates.
Cenovus considers PrairieSky-style spinoff
Cenovus Energy Inc. has appointed a vice president of rail to its leadership team, as the major oilsands producer moves more of its crude by train.
Updated U.S. GDP grew at 4% rate in second quarter
After a dismal winter, the U.S. economy sprang back to life in the April-June quarter, growing at a fast 4 percent annual rate on the strength of higher consumer and business spending.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Live Commonwealth Games: Day 7 from Glasgow video
Watch live action from the Commonwealth Games all day Wednesday, including Canada's Brianne Theisen-Eaton and Jessica Zelinka in the conclusion of the heptathlon, plus diving and the men's high jump final with Canadian Derek Drouin.
Photos Commonwealth Games: Best of Day 7
Take a look at some of the finer moments from Day 7 of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where Canada won six more gold medals.
Commonwealth Games: Canada's medallists
The full list of medals won by Canadians at the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »