Canadian singer Alannah Myles opens up about career, health issues

By Todd Kaufman and Alejandro Melgar

Canadian singer-songwriter Alannah Myles, best known for her sultry hit “Black Velvet,” is opening up about her recent health battles and her quest to reclaim her music.

Myles is in the midst of a handful of projects at various stages, including a blues album, an opera, and maybe even a children’s album.

But she spoke with CityNews while dealing with complications brought on by a broken leg suffered just over five years ago as well as an auto-immune disease called ankylosing spondylitis, an indirect result, she says, of a chiropractic injury suffered in her 40s.

Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that can cause some of the spinal vertebrae to fuse together over time.

As a result, Myles’s spine is less flexible. Over time the ribs can get involved, which can make it difficult to breathe.

She says she admittedly allowed the chiropractor to make adjustments that her body rejected, but she was also forced to deal with financial hardships as her mobility was greatly decreased.

Her spondylitis has affected her ability to do normal everyday things, including sitting and standing or even performing.

“Now I have issues with being able to sit. That’s why when you see me in concert, you see me on a chair. I’m sitting upright. It’s painful for me to sit down, so I can’t really go anywhere,” Myles explained.

“I can’t sit in a wheelchair. I can’t go to a concert, party, or even medical visits without a padded stretcher. I have no life now as a result of not being able to get myself up independently which makes it only worse… I can get up to walk, but I need help doing it.” she told CityNews’ Todd Kaufman in a phone call.

The Toronto-born musician says she is doing what she can to get back on stage, but she also feels remorse for not sharing what has been going on in her life.

“I’ve felt guilty that I’ve been in my bed saying nothing for five years, waiting for someone to produce some kind of results in my life, and nobody is… ” Myles said.

That feeling of guilt that came from not sharing updates with her fans was accentuated when Celine Dion recently felt compelled to tell her fans the truth about her own health problems. Myles says at the same time, she was impressed by Dion’s courage and wanted to reach out with words of encouragement for her.

Alannah Myles poses for a photo portrait

Alannah Myles poses for a photo portrait. (Courtesy of Alannah Myles. Photo by Robe Doda)

‘Black Velvet’ and record disputes

In addition to talking with CityNews about overcoming some of her struggles, she reflected on the success of her self-titled album, “Alannah Myles,” released in 1989, and what it was like to “make it big.”

Myles also talks about her big hit, “Black Velvet,” which was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2021. The song won her a Grammy for Best Female Rock Performance and multiple Juno Awards.

David Tyson and Christopher Ward co-wrote the song for Myles’ album. It was released as a single in 1989, hitting mainstream rock charts by early 1990.

Despite her success and fame, she holds some disdain with record companies, particularly her former record label, Atlantic Records, which she cut ties with in 1997.

The contract she signed forced her to repay millions in expenses. As a result, her financial success didn’t match the awards she brought in over the years.

At that time, royalties were few and far between for the singer, as everyone was getting paid except for her at the time, saying she was “up to my eyeballs” in debt just 10 years ago.

She says she claimed her first royalty cheque of US$5,185.06 on June 2, 2008.

After she departed from Atlantic, the record company made her aware of a clause that said she could not rerecord her first album for 12 years.

“So, in about 12 years and 13 minutes, I recut the song,” Myles said.

She got together with all the same musicians and the same producers and reclaimed her music.

This included Tyson and Ward, with the latter saying he thought it was better and from a “more experienced vocalist.”

“When I sang the first song, the first time I sang it about 555 times. And this time, I sang it in one take — one, two and three, and used most of the first take. So there’s a difference in terms of fluidity,” she said.

“It’s just a little more skilled, richer, more adult. I know what I’m doing. I’m doing three checks, not 555.”

She also signed up all her music videos with VEVO on YouTube and says she is finally making money from her music after her Atlantic deal years prior.

Meanwhile, Myles’ lawyers have served Atlantic Records termination notice for the US rights to her first U.S. record after 36 years, in 2024.

With everything going on with Myles, she also shares what an upcoming record would look like, along with some tidbits from her childhood.

Nancy Simons, Tony Duggan-Smith, and poet Robert Priest are all working with Myles to release another record, which features songs from “really bad, bad, bad cassette tapes.”

“It’s like, little funny, little songs that have hooks to them anybody can sing. And they’re fun… They’re only going to be two-and-a-half to three minutes long. All bluesy,” Myles said.

“I’m thinking the way I did while recording my first record, I wanted my music not to sound like everybody else and still get noticed.”

She says it is influenced by “Carole King’s ‘Tapestry’ meets Robert Johnson” and Johnny Cash’s posthumous album “American V: A Hundred Highways.”

“It’s a very spiritual record,” Myles said.

Myles rerecorded “Black Velvet” in 2007, and readers can listen below.

CityNews edited the story further to correct information about Myles’ injury.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today