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Who is Burton Cummings?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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Burton Cummings is a Canadian singer, songwriter and pianist. He was born 31 December 1947 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Burton Cummings is best known as the lead singer of The Guess Who.

Burton Cummings played piano as a child and sang in high school productions of Gilbert and Sullivan musicals. He played the saxophone and keyboards for a local band called the Deverons. In 1966, Burton Cummings replaced Chad Allen as the leader of the Canadian band, The Guess Who.

Burton Cummings and Guess Who guitarist, Randy Bachman, wrote hit songs for the band such as "American Woman" and "These Eyes." "American Woman," a political song about the United States and not about a woman, hit number one on the American charts in 1970. It even stole the spot away from the Beatles. "These Eyes" was number one in Canada in 1968 and number three in the United States in 1969.

Burton Cummings remained with The Guess Who until 1975. He began a solo career in a big way with "Stand Tall," a song that was a huge worldwide hit in 1976. Burton Cummings kept rolling out solid Canadian hit songs every year such as "My Own Way to Rock" in 1977, "Break it to Them Gently" in 1978, "I Will Play a Rhapsody" in 1979 and "Fine State of Affairs" in 1980.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Burton Cummings opened concerts for the likes of Alice Cooper and was featured in Canadian concerts in venues such as Toronto's CNE Stadium. He would often host or co-host Canadian music awards shows and was featured in television music specials. In 1982, Burton Cummings starred in the Canadian motion picture, Melanie, about a woman deemed an unfit mother who fights for custody of her son.

The Guess Who reunited in 1983 and the Burton Cummings/Randy Bachman reunion tour in 1987 was a big success. Burton Cummings' song, Take One Away, on the album Plus Signs was a popular Canadian hit in 1990. In 1996, Burton Cummings recorded Up Close and Alone, an album with Burton Cummings solo on piano. He later toured Europe as a pianist for Ringo Starr in the All-Starr band.

In 1999 through 2001, Burton Cummings continued to perform reunion tours with Randy Bachman. He won many music awards and has a community center and theater named after him in his Winnipeg, Manitoba hometown. Burton Cummings was included in the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.

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