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Biography & Autobiography Entertainment & Performing Arts

I'm Not What I Seem

The many stories of Rita MacNeil's life

by (author) Charlie Rhindress

Formac Publishing Company Limited
Initial publish date
Oct 2016
Entertainment & Performing Arts, Composers & Musicians
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2016
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2016
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2017
    List Price

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Rita MacNeil has long been recognized as one of the East Coast's great singer-songwriters. As a young girl with the dream of becoming a singer, she overcame a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and achieved success by believing in herself and refusing to give up. A trailblazer, Rita played an integral role in the women's movement in Canada and forged a path that was unique to her, paving the way for future generations of east coast musicians.

Charlie Rhindress first came to know Rita as he collaborated with her on his play Flying on Her Own, incorporating more than twenty of her songs into a script that told the story of her life. For this new biography, Rhindress did extensive research and interviewed many of the people who worked with her and knew her best. The story of a strong, sensitive, complex woman emerged and the result is a powerful and moving portrait of a unique woman and important artist of her times.


About the author

Charlie Rhindress is a co-founder and former artistic director of Live Bait Theatre in Sackville, New Brunswick. All eight of his full-length plays have premiered at Live Bait. The Maritime Way of Life has been produced in all four Atlantic Canadian provinces and was nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award as best new play in 2000. It was also published in Marigraph: Gauging the Tides of Drama from New Brunswick/Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island (Playwrights Canada Press), an anthology of Maritime plays. After premiering at Live Bait, Flying on Her Own was produced by Neptune Theatre, and Home and Away, a musical about hockey co-written with Dean Burry, played at Theatre Orangeville. In addition to his full-length plays, Charlie has written over thirty dinner theatres with Karen Valanne and two plays for teens, which have been produced throughout North America. Charlie has also worked as an actor in film and at theatres across the country. He has directed at a number of East Coast theatres and served as director and dramaturge on Cathy Jonesâ??s one-woman show, Me, Dad, and the Hundred Boyfriends. Charlie is the father of four incredible children.

Charlie Rhindress' profile page

Editorial Reviews

An eloquent, moving and revealing biography of one of Canada's greatest songwriters, Rita MacNeil. Born to a very poor working class family in Cape Breton, Rita went to Toronto as a teen and was part of the women's movement of the 1970s. She went on to prove you could become a worldwide star while staying home in Cape Breton. Author and actor Charlie Rhindress worked with Rita on an earlier play incorporating her songs and life story.

Canada's History

Like her songs, her story is not solely her own, it's the story of countless Maritimers who have dealt with financial hard times, leaving home, returning home, finding your place in the world and proving your worth.

Chronicle Herald

"His book takes MacNeil from her troubled youth through the glorious peaks of her career to her sad later years of financial difficulty"


"I'm Not What I Seem: The Many Stories of Rita MacNeil's Life by Charlie Rhindress takes these facts and many more about MacNeil's life and fleshes out the stories beneath them. Rhindress takes a chronological approach, from MacNeil's birth (she arrived with a badly cleft palate, and her father prayed for her death), through her struggle to find her place on the musical stage, to the ebb and flow of her career, to her death. Rhindress relies on his own interviews and conversations with MacNeil and those who knew her, along with archival material..."

Atlantic Books Today

Other titles by Charlie Rhindress