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Who: Martha Johnson, 68, musician; Mark Gane, 65, musician

Relationship status: Not married since 1981

Location: Toronto

From band mates to life mates

Martha: We were in the band for a couple of years before we got together romantically. I was recently divorced at that point.

Mark: We were trying to work out what Martha and the Muffins was, so I don’t think romance was on either one of our radars. We wrote songs separately and didn’t spend much time together at first.

Mark: In 1981, we did an interview for Maclean’s magazine. That was maybe the first time we’d been just the two of us. I think you invited me up for tea afterwards.

Martha: Tea or a drink. By that point there had been a couple of incidents while we had been in England touring – the brush of a hand, the massage of a neck. So when we were finally in a room alone together…

Mark: We kept it secret for a while. There was a nervousness about whether a relationship would interfere with the band.

Martha: And I had recently said that I didn’t think there should be any relationships within the band. That was when I had thought Mark and one of the other women were going to get together.

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Life’s an (echo) beach

Mark: The first time we wrote together was on an album called Danseparc. We have a Lennon and McCartney thing where we split the song-writing credits down the middle.

Martha: Mark’s background was a little bit different musically. His interest were slightly more avant-garde whereas I was very motown. We brought those two points of view together to create our sound.

Mark: And we’re still writing together all these years later. It has been a crazy ride and one of the bedrock things for us is being in it together. The music business is insane and crazy and unpredictable. We were lucky with the success of Echo Beach – we never got rich off of it, but it allowed us both to never have to get jobs.

Martha: Mutual respect has been very important. In the early days, Mark could be a little overbearing. He’s a firstborn male, so there was a bit of that.

Mark: I definitely had some maturing to do.

The soundtrack of our love

Martha: We never did get married. Mark was anti, and I was been-there-done-that. We’re not big on public displays of affection. Our bond is more about music. That’s how we communicate. A lot of couples don’t have their passion in common. Maybe that works for them but for us it all comes back to this very deep, emotional thing that we share. That and our daughter.

Mark: Martha was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2000, so of course that has been difficult. And we have both been through cancer. Through all of the challenges, having that songwriters’ relationship has probably saved us. It’s the spine of our lives that holds it all together.

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