Kathryn Dawn Lang, OC (born November 2, 1961), known by her stage name k.d. lang, is a Canadian pop and country singer-songwriter and occasional actress.
Lang has won both Juno Awards and Grammy Awards for her musical performances; hits include "Constant Craving" and "Miss Chatelaine." She has contributed songs to movie soundtracks and has teamed with musicians such as Roy Orbison, Tony Bennett, Elton John, Anne Murray and Jane Siberry. Lang is also known for being an animal rights, gay rights, and Tibetan human rights activist. She is a tantric practitioner of the old school of Tibetan Buddhism. She performed Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" live at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Previously, she had performed at the closing ceremony of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Lang possesses the vocal range of a mezzo-soprano.
Lang was born in Edmonton, Alberta, the daughter of Audrey and Adam Frederick Lang. She is of English, Irish, Scottish, German, Russian Jewish, Icelandic, and Sioux ancestry. When Lang was nine months old, her family moved to Consort, Alberta, where she grew up with two sisters and one brother on the Canadian prairie. Her father, a drugstore owner, left the family when she was twelve.
After secondary school, Lang attended Red Deer College, where she became fascinated with the life and music of Patsy Cline and ultimately determined to pursue a career as a professional singer. She formed a Patsy Cline tribute band called the Reclines in 1983, and they recorded a debut album, Friday Dance Promenade at Sundown Recorders which was owned by Larry Wanagas who immediately dropped everything to become her personal manager. The first band featured Stu Macdougal on keys, Dave Bjarnson on drums, Gary Koligar on guitar and bassist Farley Scott. The Reclines regularly played the legendary Sidetrack Cafe, a local venue that featured live bands six nights a week. In 1983, Lang presented a performance-art piece, a seven-hour re-enactment of the transplantation of an artificial heart for Barney Clark, a retired American dentist.A Truly Western Experience was released in 1984 and received strong reviews and led to national attention in Canada. In August 1984, Lang was one of three Canadian artists to be selected to perform at the World Science Fair in Tsukuba, Japan (along with other performing and recording contracts throughout Japan).
Singing at country and western venues in Canada, Lang made several recordings that received very positive reviews and earned a 1985 Juno Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist. She accepted the award wearing a wedding dress and made numerous tongue-in-cheek promises about what she would and would not do in the future, thus fulfilling the title of 'Most Promising'. She has won a total of eight Juno Awards.
In 1986, Lang signed a contract with an American record producer in Nashville, Tennessee, and received critical acclaim for her 1987 album, Angel with a Lariat, which was produced by Dave Edmunds.
Lang first earned international recognition in 1988 when she performed, as "The Alberta Rose", at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.
Lang's career received a huge boost when Roy Orbison chose her to record a duet of his standard, "Crying, " a collaboration that won them the Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals in 1989. The song was used in the Jon Cryer film Hiding Out released in 1987. Due to the success of the song, Lang received the Entertainer of the Year award from the Canadian Country Music Association. Lang would win the same award for the next three years, in addition to two Female Vocalist of the Year awards in 1988 and 1989.
1988 marked the release of Shadowland, an album of torch country produced by Owen Bradley. In late 1988, Shadowland was named Album of the Year by the Canadian Country Music Association. That year she also performed "Turn Me Round" at the closing ceremonies of the XV Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, and sang background vocals with Jennifer Warnes and Bonnie Raitt for Orbison's acclaimed television special, Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night.
In 1990, Lang contributed the song "So in Love" to the Cole Porter tribute album Red Hot + Blue produced by the Red Hot Organization. In 1998, she contributed "Fado Hilário" to the AIDS benefit compilation album Onda Sonora: Red Hot + Lisbon produced by the same organization.
Grammy Awards and mainstream success:
k.d. lang won the American Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for her 1989 album, Absolute Torch and Twang. The single "Full Moon Full of Love" that stemmed from that album became a modest hit in the United States in the middle of 1989 and a Number 1 hit on the RPM Country chart in Canada.
In 1989 she sang a duet, "Sin City", with Dwight Yoakam on his album Just Lookin' for a Hit.
The 1992 album, Ingénue, a set of adult contemporary pop songs that showed comparatively little country influence, contained her most popular song, "Constant Craving. " That song brought her multi-million sales, much critical acclaim, and the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Another top ten single from the record was "Miss Chatelaine". The salsa-inspired track was ironic; Chatelaine, a women's magazine, once chose Lang as its "Woman of the Year, " and the song's video depicted Lang in an exaggeratedly feminine manner, surrounded by bright pastel colors and a profusion of bubbles reminiscent of a performance on the Lawrence Welk show.
She received a writing credit for the Rolling Stones song, "Anybody Seen My Baby?", whose chorus sounds strikingly similar to "Constant Craving". Jagger and Richards claimed to have never heard the song before and when they discovered the similarity prior to the song's release, were flummoxed as to how the songs could be so similar. Jagger then soon discovered his daughter listening to a recording of "Constant Craving" on her stereo and realized he had heard the song before many times but only subliminally. The two gave Lang credit, along with her co-writer Ben Mink, to avoid any possible lawsuits. Afterwards, Lang said she was "completely honoured and flattered" to receive the songwriting credit.
She contributed much of the music towards Gus Van Sant's soundtrack of the film Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and also did a cover of "Skylark" for the 1997 film adaptation of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. She performed "Surrender" for the closing titles of the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, having previously worked with Bond composer David Arnold on his album, Shaken and Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project.
In 1996, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
In 1997, Drag, an album of cover tunes dedicated to 'smoke' (specifically cigarette smoking) was released, although the album cover and booklet photographs show Lang in a man's suit, referring to crossdressing as another possible meaning of the word 'drag'. The songs on Drag include "Smoke Dreams, " from the '40s, Steve Miller Band's "The Joker, " "Smoke Rings, " the theme from the cult movie Valley of the Dolls, and 8 other smoke-themed songs.
In 1999, k.d. lang ranked No. 33 on VH-1's 100 Greatest Women in Rock & Roll, and she ranked No. 26 on CMT's 40 Greatest Women in Country Music in 2002, one of only eight women to make both lists. (The others were Linda Ronstadt, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Lucinda Williams, and Emmylou Harris).
In 2003, she won her fourth Grammy Award, this time for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for her collaboration with Tony Bennett on A Wonderful World.
On subsequent tours, critical acclaim continued to come her way. In 2004, Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote: "Few singers command such perfection of pitch. Her voice, at once beautiful and unadorned and softened with a veil of smoke, invariably hits the middle of a note and remains there. She discreetly flaunted her technique, drawing out notes and shading them from sustained cries into softer, vibrato-laden murmurs. She balanced her commitment to the material with humor, projecting a twinkling merriment behind it all."
In the same year, k.d. lang released Hymns of the 49th Parallel, which featured cover versions of songs by iconic English-speaking Canadian singer-songwriters: Bruce Cockburn, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Ron Sexsmith, Jane Siberry, and Neil Young. According to the Canadian Record Industry Association (CRIA), in April 2006, the album went platinum in Canada selling over 100,000 copies. In December 2007, the album reached double platinum status in Australia selling over 140,000 copies.
Also in 2004, she sang the song "Little Patch of Heaven" for the Walt Disney Feature Animation film Home on the Range.
On July 29, 2006, k.d. lang performed her hit "Constant Craving" at the opening ceremonies of the Outgames held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
In 2006, she paired with singer Madeleine Peyroux on a cover of the Joni Mitchell song, "River", for Peyroux's album, Half the Perfect World. That same year Lang was featured in Nellie McKay's second album, Pretty Little Head, singing with McKay in "We Had it Right". As well, Lang sang a version of The Beatles' "Golden Slumbers" for the Happy Feet film soundtrack. She also sang a duet with Ann Wilson on the Heart singer's solo album Hope & Glory covering the Lucinda Williams song "Jackson".
In 2007, she teamed up with one of her childhood idols, Anne Murray, on a remake of Murray's hit, "A Love Song", to be featured on Murray's album, Anne Murray Duets: Friends and Legends. The duet was recorded in Los Angeles, California.
On February 5, 2008, she released an album of new material entitled Watershed. It was her first collection of original material since the release of her 2000 album, Invincible Summer. An article in which Lang is interviewed states that "when she isn't working, Lang is mostly a homebody, living quietly with a girlfriend she refers to as 'my wife' -- they are not legally married -- and her two dogs."
On November 11, 2009, she entered into a domestic partnership with Jamie Price whom she had met in 2003. After separating on September 6, 2011, Lang filed for a dissolution of the partnership in Los Angeles County Superior Court in Los Angeles, California, on December 30, 2011.
k.d. lang's first complete greatest-hits collection was released on February 2, 2010, on the Nonesuch label as Recollection.
In 2010, she was in Nashville, working on a new album, titled Sing it Loud. The Nonesuch album was released by k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang in a spring 2011 release. The band toured North America in summer 2011.
In 2012, she moved from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon.
On April 21, 2013, during the 2013 Juno Awards, k.d. lang was formally inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. She is notable for praising Canadians and "letting your freak flags fly" during her acceptance speech.
Film and television appearances:
In 1988 k.d. lang & The Reclines performed on Austin City Limits. Lang played the lead in the 1991 drama film, Salmonberries, and also co-starred with Ewan McGregor and Ashley Judd in Eye of the Beholder (1999). She had an uncredited role as a lounge singer in 2006's The Black Dahlia. She has also made guest appearances on the sitcoms The Larry Sanders Show, Dharma & Greg, and the famous coming out episode of Ellen. She appeared on the Christmas special of Pee Wee's Playhouse, where she performed the song "Jingle Bell Rock. " She also made a guest appearance on the "Garbage" episode of The Jim Henson Hour, and in 2008 appeared on Rove McManus' live hour show, Rove.
Lang performed with the BBC Concert Orchestra for an intimate crowd at 18th-century church LSO St Luke's in London on February 3, 2008. First aired as part of the BBC Four Sessions, the concert was released as a DVD entitled Live In London in 2009.
On February 12, 2010, she performed Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" at the Olympics Opening Ceremony in Vancouver, British Columbia. In early May 2010, Lang filled in at the last minute for Susan Boyle at the Australian TV Logie Awards to reprise her Winter Olympics performance of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", receiving an extended standing ovation. In 2010 she sang "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" with Matthew Morrison in a Christmas episode of Glee, and is featured on Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album. In February 2013, she appeared in Season 8 of the CBS sitcom, How I Met Your Mother, as herself.
In 2014, she appeared in the Season 4 finale of Portlandia as an exaggerated version of herself.
2014 and Broadway:
Lang made her Broadway debut as the "Special Guest Star" in Broadway's After Midnight, replacing Fantasia Barrino and to be succeeded by Toni Braxton and Babyface. She appeared from February 11 to March 9, 2014.
Lang, who came out as a lesbian in a June 1992 article of the LGBT news magazine The Advocate, has championed gay rights causes.
She has supported many causes over the years, including HIV/AIDS care and research. Her cover of Cole Porter's "So in Love" (from the Broadway musical, Kiss Me, Kate), appears on the Red Hot + Blue compilation album and video from 1990 (a tribute to Cole Porter to benefit AIDS research and relief). Her 2010 Greatest Hits album, Recollection, also includes this cover of "So in Love". Lang also recorded the song "Fado Hilario, " singing in Portuguese, for the 1999 Red Hot AIDS benefit album "Onda Sonora: Red Hot + Lisbon, " a traditional fado from Portugal.
She is an animal rights activist. Her "Meat Stinks" campaign created much controversy, particularly in her hometown, in the middle of Alberta's cattle ranching industry.
Lang appeared on the cover of the August 1993 issue of Vanity Fair photographed by Herb Ritts. The cover featured Lang in a barber chair while model Cindy Crawford appeared to shave her face with a straight razor. The issue contained a detailed article about Lang which observed that she had thought that she would be ostracized by the country music industry when she came out as a lesbian. However, Nashville was accepting, and her records continued to sell. When she appeared in an ad for PETA, Nashville was less impressed, owing to the relationship between country music and cattle ranching.
In April 2008, Lang spent time in Melbourne, Australia, as a guest editorialist for The Age. This was in connection with her support for the Tibet human rights issues. On April 24, 2008, she joined pro-Tibet protesters in Canberra as the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay made its way through the Australian capital.
In 2011, Lang was inducted to Q Hall of Fame Canada in recognition of the work she has done to further equality for all peoples around the world.
Eye of the Beholder
The Black Dahlia
Lesbian Bar Singer (uncredited)
Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special
The Larry Sanders Show
The Last Don
Special Guest Star
In November 2005, Lang received the National Arts Centre Award, a companion award of the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards. On June 3, 2008, it was announced that she would receive a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.
Awards and nominations:
Lang has been nominated for the following Grammy Awards and has won four to date:
Grammy Award--Best Country Vocal Collaboration for "Crying" (shared with Roy Orbison),
Grammy Award--Best Female Country Vocal Performance for "Absolute Torch and Twang",
Grammy Award--Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Constant Craving",
Grammy Award nomination--Song of the Year for "Constant Craving",
Grammy Award nomination--Record of the Year for "Constant Craving",
Grammy Award nomination--Album of the Year for "Ingenue",
Grammy Award nomination--Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Miss Chatelaine",
Grammy Award nomination--Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for "Moonglow" (with Tony Bennett),
Grammy Award nomination--Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for "What A Wonderful World" (with Tony Bennett),
Grammy Award--Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for "A Wonderful World" (shared with Tony Bennett),
Grammy Award nomination--Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for "La Vie En Rose" (with Tony Bennett)
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license