NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Canadians Get The Blues Too: Witness Rita Chiarelli


Rita Chiarelli has been called "the goddess of Canadian blues" by CBC Radio One's Shelagh Rogers. With a JUNO Award - Canada's Grammy - plus 4 more JUNO nominations, it's hard to argue. But Rita is far more than a Blues singer.

Predictable is something she is not: Having done a successful album of Italian Folk songs and soundtracks for several films, including "Music from the Big House," a documentary that Chiarelli conceived which follows her on a pilgrimage to Angola prison in Louisiana to search out the roots of the Blues and perform for the inmates.

Rita Chiarelli was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, and at age 15 started her music career with the Hamilton band Tempest. After High School she toured Canada and the USA with the Rhythm and Blues group Battleaxe. Then in the 1980s she followed in the steps of several members of The Band by joining Ronnie Hawkins' band. Later she spent time in Italy, hence the Folk song album and began working on film soundtracks in 1989 doing music for "Roadkill."


Chiarelli's vocal range of 3 octaves is the envy of more than a few singers. Her voice has been described as "…a voice so blue it could make the angels weep" and "a voice that can growl at her demons or soar with the angels, a gift for lyric, an ear for melody and the heart to combine them."

Along with her JUNO Awards Chiarelli has received multiple Maple Blues awards, the Great Canadian Blues Award, the Hamilton Blues Society's Lifetime Achievement Award, the Maple Blues 'Blues with a Feeling Award' for Lifetime Achievement and more.


Rita Chiarelli tours frequently and plans to be spending a good deal of time in the United States in the near future. It would be well worth your time to catch her if you can.

Related Content