Anne Murray said Cape Breton singer-songwriter Rita MacNeil will be remembered as "just a really good soul, a really good person who just happened to be a supremely talented singer-songwriter."
"Everyone was very proud of the fact that we finally had a Nova Scotian and a woman speaking for us and putting into words how we all felt as Nova Scotians, as proud Nova Scotians," Murray said. "And she did it so beautifully, she was a very talented songwriter.
"She had such strong feelings about Cape Breton as I do about Nova Scotia and Cape Breton too. And I could feel that and she wrote about it so eloquently. Whatever she wrote just seemed to touch me because I knew all of those places.
Murray has recorded two of MacNeil's songs over the years — "Flying On Your Own" and the Christmas song "This Season Will Never Grow Old." MacNeil returned the favour by covering Murray's signature tune "Snowbird."
She also remembered MacNeil as a very shy person offstage.
"To know Rita, even just to meet Rita, was to love her because she was such a shy, timid, humble person," Murray said. "She was very real, what you saw on stage was exactly who she was. She was just that very sweet, almost innocent."
MacNeil was on tour last winter with Frank Mills as part of a "Sharing Christmas" Canadian trek, a nod to her famous Christmas specials, which toured through the Maritimes, Ontario and Saskatchewan. She performed earlier this year as part of the East Coast Music Awards with Symphony Nova Scotia. In fact MacNeil's last tweet was to send condolences to the family and friends of Jay Smith, the guitarist in Matt Mays' band who passed away in late March.