Marie-Lynn Hammond. Singer-songwriter, guitarist, playwright, b Montreal 31 Aug 1948; BA English (Carleton) 1968. Marie-Lynn Hammond studied violin as a child, taught herself to play the guitar in her teens and began her career as a folksinger in Ottawa coffeehouses. In 1971, with Bob Bossin, she founded Stringband in Toronto. Stringband enjoyed a cult-like following across Canada, due in part to Hammond's strong vocals and deeply personal songwriting in both English and French. With Stringband, Hammond toured Japan, Mexico, France, Great Britain, the former Soviet Union, and the US.
Despite Stringband's popularity, Hammond wanted more artistic freedom and took a sabbatical from the band 1978-80, but at first had only moderate success as a solo performer. She made her first LP, Marie-Lynn Hammond (1978, Black Tie BTR-1001), then returned briefly to Stringband until the band ceased touring. Three other solo albums followed - Vignettes (1983, RCI 562/Black Tie BTR-1002), Impromptu (1985, Black Tie BTR-1003, cassette), and Black & White... and shades of grey (1990, Aural Tradition ATR-303, CD and cassette). Hammond's solo career, which overlapped with Stringband's intermittent activities during the 1980s, took her to clubs and major folk festivals across Canada. Her lyrics became progressively stronger with maturity, and she developed a coterie of devoted fans.
Playwright and Broadcaster
In 1985 Hammond turned a collection of songs about her family - including 'Elsie,' 'La tête anglaise, le coeur français,' 'Flying/Spring of '44,' and 'La jeune mariée' - into the bilingual play Beautiful Deeds/De beaux gestes. She served as the play's narrator and sang additional original songs. The play was co-produced by Théâtre du P'tit Bonheur (Toronto) and the Manitoba Theatre Centre (Winnipeg). A 1987 production was seen at the Persephone Theatre (Saskatoon), at the National Arts Centre, and elsewhere. Hammond's second play, White Weddings (without music), was premiered in 1990 by the Home Free Theatre (Montague, PEI).
For CBC radio Hammond was the summer host in 1987 and 1988 for 'Dayshift' and host 1989-91 for the weekly series 'Musical Friends'.
Activities After 1991
Since 1999, all five of Hammond's solo albums have been re-released on three CDs by Los Angeles-based Vignettes Media. In 2001, in celebration of 30 years in Canadian folk music, Stringband reunited for several radio and live performances, and released a double CD collection of favourite songs. Among these were Hammond's 'Omaha' and 'All The Horses Running.' In 2003 Hammond released the CD Pegasus (Vignettes Media VM7884-2). She continues to make occasional concert appearances, but has primarily turned her creative energy to freelance writing. She has published four plays and more than 50 articles and radio essays.
Musical Style and Influence
Through her work with Stringband, Hammond served as a role model for an emerging generation of women in Canadian folk music during the 1970s. Her songs, in English and French, range from the autobiographical ('La tête anglaise, le coeur français,' 'All the Horses Running') and the love-lost ('Nobody Knows What's Happening to Love,' 'Shades of Grey') to the political ('I Don't Sleep with Strangers Anymore,' an early feminist song from the Stringband repertoire) and the satirical ('Canadian Love' and 'Not Another Benefit'). Her lyrics are insightful, personal, often wickedly funny, and provocative. Hammond's lyrical and emotional concerns are drawn together by her consistently personal perspective and by a clear, forthright vocal style made distinctive by a disarming tremolo.
'Why can't anybody write songs any more?' Toronto Star, 13 May 1989
'Three sirens of the absurd: making music the Canadian way,' This Magazine, vol 24, Aug 1990
Other articles for the Canadian Composer
'Peace at Last,' Chatelaine, Dec 2001
Other articles for Chatelaine