Tainted love

In the winter of ’68, in a drafty motel room in Port Huron, Mich., Anne Murray and I had a brief, doomed affair to the soundtrack of border-bound freight trucks rattling through the frigid dark beyond our desperate door.

And I am a better man for it — though Anne, soon to become a world-famous singer of gooey love songs, refuses now to acknowledge that I even exist.

OK, I’m sorry, really. But for that very last part, the whole tale was utterly cooked up, a lie bred of my soft heart’s being torn so asunder. I was actually only 2 years old in 1968, the year Anne’s dewy-eyed debut album, What About Me, was released. And I’ve never even been to Michigan.

But the Canadian star truly won’t talk to me. And Lord knows, I’ve tried.

I was initially told by Her People that a phone interview was likely in conjunction with Anne’s current Christmas-themed tour, which brings her next week to Asheville — that I could chat with Anne of snowbirds, Teddy bears, the tears she cried, chains of love, urban cowboys, what have you. I made it as far as the Inner Circle of her handlers, only to be abruptly — even coldly — dismissed, like some regretted former fling who drops by out of the blue to say hey, only to have the door slammed flat in his face.

And it hurts, Anne. It does.

Your songs — stitched across the AM-radio fabric of my briefly disingenuous youth — led me to believe so much more was possible between us.

The Grammy White Way

The Novia Scotia-born singer, now 58, has a full hearth of awards to dust back home in Toronto, when she ever gets off the road.

Four Grammies. Three American Music Awards. Two Country Music Association Awards. More than 20 Junos (Canada’s Grammy, as people like to call it). And in 1985, Anne was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, which is, apparently, a pretty big damn deal up there.

Too, she’s released about as many best-of/greatest-hits collections in her 35-year recording career as she has albums of new material. Plus, there’s that kids’ record (There’s a Hippo in My Tub, 1977; reissued 2001), and the holiday-music double-header What a Wonderful Christmas (2001), which Anne is again touring this December.

She’s long been one of the queens of adult-contemporary and soft-country radio — which means that most of us recognize more of her music than we probably think.

As an interpreter of others’ songs — the manner in which Anne has invaded most of our lives — she’s a tremulous mouthpiece of cheery thoughts and blushing, hand-holdin’ fun:

She needed you, and you were there.

She cried the tear; you wiped it dry.

You are her sunshine.

Heaven is that moment when she looks into your eyes.

She’d like this dance for the rest of her life.

The world will be a better place, just wait and see.

Anne is an avowed appreciator of Bob Dylan, and has even tackled his sublime “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” — a cover I have, gratefully, never experienced. Because I, too, am a Dylan fan.

But I have heard Anne’s takes on Eric Anderson’s “Thirsty Boots” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” What about well enough, I wonder, could not be left alone?

No, I cried the damn tear

So let me start over, completely honest this time.

To this day, that whole syrupy school of ’70s-sprung female singers (nay, vocalists) sparks in me the flight response: Helen Reddy (“Delta Dawn”), Debbie Boone (“You Light Up My Life”), Toni Tenille (“Muskrat Love,” with that blasted Captain).

And, above all, Anne Murray.

In particular, Anne’s perky 1973 hit “Danny’s Song,” written by saccharine soundtrack puffball Kenny Loggins, a candidate for hell’s own music hall of fame.

The tune will suddenly start dripping from the overhead speakers when I’m trapped in, say, a Wal-Mart, buying myself some Dr. Scholl’s Gel Insoles, maybe, or a pair of Dale Earnardt boxer shorts. And there’s no possible way I can ever outrun those first appalling verses:

People smile and tell me I’m the lucky one

And we’ve just begun; think I’m gonna have a son

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