Born in Canada, Sarah McLachlan was adopted by a family in Nova Scotia and raised to pursue her passion in music. She learned classical piano and guitar, played in a band throughout high school, and was offered a contract by a Vancouver record label shortly after graduation. Her debut album, Touch, was released in 1988, and earned her much acclaim within her native Canada. She began to pave the path on her road to superstardom. 1993’s Fumbling Towards Ecstasy helped McLachlan to break through to international audiences, setting up her most successful work to date, Surfacing. Featuring songs like “Building a Mystery,” “Angel,” and “I Will Remember You,” the album was an immediate and enormous success. Her music dominated the radio airwaves and she earned two Grammy Awards.
Although Surfacing helped McLachlan to become a household name, her most influential and important works were still to come. Against all odds, she brought women’s issues to the forefront of the public attention by creating the Lilith Fair Tour, the most successful all-female music festival in history. Alongside artists like Paula Cole, Jewel, Tracy Chapman, and Emmylou Harris, McLachlan brought over ten million dollars to various women’s charities in just three years. The festival sent a message to club and festival promoters everywhere that female musicians can attract and excite an audience just as well as male lineups.
At the peak of her fame, McLachlan took nothing for granted. She spent several years under the radar to raise a family and craft her next album. Although she has only released two albums in the past ten years, all of McLachlan’s works have received critical acclaim. She lent her voice in collaborative works with artists such as Annie Lennox, Stevie Nicks, and Randy Newman.
With her 2003 follow-up release, McLachlan donated almost the entirety of a $150,000 music video budget to charity. If music is her first passion, her philanthropic efforts must come in at a close second. She has contributed music to benefit projects for AIDS awareness, tsunami relief, and music education programs. She has emerged as the face of the ASPCA, helping to raise over $30 million in support of animal welfare issues, and is an outspoken supporter of PETA. Her work with organizations like Save the Music have strengthened the foundation of youth music education in North America, ensuring that the gift of music will be a birthright to children for generations to come.
Many of the musicians who reached McLachlan’s level of success in the 1990s disappeared as quickly as they emerged. She has proven time and time again that she has the talent, vision, and drive to make a difference through her songwriting, work ethic, and generosity. Through both her voice and her activism, McLachlan has fought to make the world a kinder, more respectful, and more beautiful place.