The Great Canadian Road Trip: Song #32/250: Let It Rain by Amanda Marshall

Not the clearest photo but here is Jeff Healey jamming with a young Amanda Marshall in 1990.

I was blown away the very first time I ever listened to Amanda Marshall sing. That voice! So rich, deep and powerful. When she was barely out of her teens, Marshall was discovered by guitarist Jeff Healey. He took the Toronto native under his wing and helped introduce her to a larger audience. The first time I ever saw her perform was on Much Music when they were doing a segment on Healey. The segment was supposed to be about him, but instead, he made it about her by asking her to sing while he played backup. Marshall stepped up to the microphone…all hair and a huge smile…and began to sing “Let It Rain”. The voice that exploded out of her mouth made me sit up and take notice. It was soulful, almost Gospel-like. The sound was coming from deep within her. She appeared to be having the time of her life. To my way of thinking, I was watching the debut of Canada’s next big star.

Amanda Marshall

In 1995, she released her self-titled debut album. It was one of the biggest selling albums of the year and spawned an incredible total of six hit songs that found their way onto the Canadian charts: “Let It Rain”, “Birmingham” (which made it all the way to #3 in the US and helped earn her the opening act slot on Whitney Houston’s European tour that year), “Beautiful Goodbye”, “Fall From Grace”, “Dark Horse” and “Sitting On Top of the World”. After co-writing many of the songs on her second album called Tuesday’s Child, she was nominated for a Juno Award as Songwriter of the Year. She had the looks. She had the charm. But most of all, she had real talent. That lady could sing like no one else on the Canadian music scene. I was so convinced that Amanda Marshall was going to be as big a star as Shania Twain or Sarah McLachlan or Celine Dion that I used to daydream that Lorne Michaels wanted me to host Saturday Night Live and my one condition before agreeing to appear was that Amanda Marshall had to be my musical guest.

And then it all went south.

Amanda Marshall’s first two albums featured music that can best be described as soulful rock. With a voice that seemed similar to Janis Joplin or to today’s star, P!nk, Marshall seemed perfectly suited to be belting out songs with strength and passion and personal conviction. But, as sometimes is the case with singers and bands, after completing album #2, Amanda Marshall had used up her inventory of songs that she used to play with Jeff Healey in the bars that dot the city of Toronto. For her third album, she decided to write most, if not all of the songs herself, from scratch. For inspiration, she turned to the story of her own life. Not many knew this about her when she first burst onto the Canadian music scene, but Amanda Marshall identifies as being black. She is the only child of a bi-racial marriage. Her mother was from Trinidad and, in her words, her father was “Canadian”. Marshall claimed that she had grown tired of being a black person who most people thought was white. So, she channeled her energy into writing songs that explained how she felt about being racially mis-identified and about some of the adversity she has had to deal with, along with her family, because of racism. In writing these songs, Marshall embraced a part of her background that had, up until then, been kept under wraps, and she created an R&B album all about race. Even in a multicultural hotbed such as Toronto, Marshall’s music came off as being preachy. Her fans did not know what to make of her new sound and subject matter. Consequently, album sales for her third album tanked. Behind the scenes, Amanda Marshall and her record label began to argue about the musical direction she should be following. Those arguments led to disputes about financial matters to do with royalties and profits. Before too long, Marshall had fired her entire management team. They, in turn, took her to court. To this day, she remains entangled in lawsuits that have effectively ground her career to a halt. Just like with the story of singer Irene Cara in the U.S. (you can read about what happened to her here), because of these lawsuits Amanda Marshall remains unable to record new and original music. She still sings at music festivals and in clubs and local bars but the only “new” album of her music that has been released in the last two decades has been one Greatest Hits album consisting of the songs from her first three LPs. That’s been it.

In interviews, Amanda Marshall remains firm in her conviction that she is in the right and that she will prevail and be making new music again soon. I hope that this is the eventual outcome of her legal disputes because I, for one, would love to hear her return to the airwaves once again. Regardless of what the future holds for Amanda Marshall, as listeners we have been blessed to still have her early work to listen to and enjoy. While “Birmingham” was her most successful hit song as far as chart success and U.S. market penetration goes, “Let It Rain” was always my favourite of hers, so that is what I have chosen to go with in the links below. The sun may still shine one day on the musical career of Amanda Marshal,l but for now, “Let It Rain”.

The link to the video for the song “Let It Rain” by Amanda Marshall can be found here.

The link to the official website for Amanda Marshall can be found here.

The link to the official website for singer/guitarist Jeff Healey can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this blog post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2023

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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