Friday, 27 September 2013

Luba: Everytime I Hear That Voice I Cry

One of the forgotten treasures of the '80s was one of the best female voices I have ever heard – and she was Canadian. She was: Luba.

Only in Canada, you say?
Only three female performers have won three or more best female Junos: Anne Murray, Celine Dion, and Luba.

Yet, Luba has been lost in the mists of time. As popular as she was in Canada, she was like so many Canadian performers who could never crack the American market. Read here Blue Rodeo and The Tragically Hip as two other examples.

"She was awesome"
The first time I ever heard about Luba was in first semester of Grade 10, the fall of 1984. I was sitting in German class one day a few minutes before it started, when Bill, one of my classmates, strolled in a few minutes early.

"How was the concert?" Andy, another classmate, asked.

Bill had gone to see Platinum Blonde in Lethbridge earlier in the week.

He nodded and smiled.

"It was good. Luba was awesome."

She had opened for Platinum Blonde, and clearly made an impression on Bill. I had no idea who she was.

A year later that had all changed.

Every time I hear your voice I cry 
Luba's break came with the single "Every time I See Your Picture" in 1983. A year later she released her first full-length album, entitled "Secrets and Sins", which produced two great singles: "Storm Before the Calm" and "Let It Go".

I first heard "Let It Go" when Luba performed it at the Junos that year. It was 1985 and she would go on to win her first of three female vocalist of the year Junos. "Let It Go" would also appear in the 1986 American movie "9 1/2 Weeks" starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger.

In 1986, Luba released, "Between the Earth and Sky", which produced the singles "How Many (Rivers to Cross)", "Innocent (With an Explanation)", and "Strength In Numbers". She won her second straight Juno as female vocalist of the year in 1986 for her efforts.

I remember so well how Luba was always on the radio, as much a function of her popularity as the Canadian content rules. That did help though. But I do remember her best in that 1986-1987 period.

Then, in 1987, she released "Over 60 Minutes With Luba", which contained her rendition of "When A Man Loves a Woman" by Percy Sledge, the most popular charting single she released in Canada. It propelled her to her third straight Juno for female vocalist of the year in 1987.

She closed out the 1980s with the album, "All or Nothing" in 1989. By then I had gone on to university and did not listen to the radio regularly. Yet, the album did have three recognizable singles: "No More Words"; "Giving Away a Miracle"; and "Little Salvation". According to Wikipedia, that was her last shot to break into the U.S. market. She didn't so her label dropped her.

Parting thoughts
I will never understand what makes some artists, such as Bryan Adams, Corey Hart, and even Glass Tiger, hit it big in the States while others, like Blue Rodeo, The Tragically Hip, and Luba just don't catch on.

What I love about Luba is the passion and strength in her voice. She always seemed to give it everything she had, and that was just infectious. She remains one of the most popular Canadian female singers of all time, and she has three consecutive Juno awards to prove it.

For all those people in the United States, and around the world, who never heard Canada's forgotten treasure they just missed out. They truly did.

(P.S.: Her last name, as I recently discovered is Kowalchyk)

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