There is no mistaking the purity of k.d lang's voice - it is as free and open as the Canadian prairies of her birth, and as sensuous, complex and layered as the woman herself.
Twenty-five years after she formed a Patsy Cline tribute band called the Reclines, a recent review called k.d. lang "the best singer of the planet."
Born in a Canadian prairie town, lang knew her future was in music when she won a singing contest as a child. She all but gave up on school and began singing in country western venues. By the early 80s, she was receiving good reviews, and in 1985 she earned a JUNO for Most Promising Female Vocalist. That first JUNO led to a collaboration with Dave Edmunds, and the release of Angel with a Lariat (1987). Roy Orbison chose her to record a duet of his standard "Crying," which one them the Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals in 1988.
lang has worked with a wide range of producers in an equally broad range of genres: country (Owen Bradley), pop (David Kahne), even rockabilly (Dave Edmunds). She has co-produced such discs as the 1992 Ingenue, which included the Grammy Award-winny "Constant Craving." The self-described musical nomad's early work could best be called postmodern country. She has eased comfortably from traditional country to mainstream pop and dance rock, landing solidly as an interpreter of standards.
lang has had more than a few turning points in her career, and in life. In 1992, she made the decision to announce that she is gay. She thinks it both helped and hindered her career. "I don't think Ingenue would have been a hit without me coming out; I wouldn't have got on the cover of Vanity Fair [photographed in a barber's chair being shaved by supermodel Cindy Crawford]. But at the same time, I'm different. "
After 18 long months of touring for Ingenue, lang was not only exhausted from being on the road but had also begun to become disillusioned by the trappings of fame. She retreated to her home and her dogs and began to explore Buddhism. "I felt like there were all these expectations on me? from my manager, from the gay community, from myself." Her next album was not a critical success, but she credits it for doing what she had hoped it might do? snap her out of it.
What followed was a celebration of songs by Canadian artists. Her 2004 Hymns of the 49th Parallel included songs by Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. Of this album, lang said, "We're all influenced by Neil and Leonard and Joni."
Passionate about social causes, lang believes we all have a moral obligation to the universe. Upon receiving an honourary degree at the University of Alberta this spring, lang made a visit to the Faculty of Education's new Institute for Sexual Minority Studies. She told the students, "Because we're coming from a peaceful place filled with compassion and acceptance, we have the opportunity as gay people to liberate spirituality. Step through as human beings and transcend all labels." A champion of sexual minority rights who is committed to the celebration of diversity across all areas of human difference, lang is also a member of Artists Against Racism. She worked with Annie Lennox on the charity record Sing, released on World AIDS day in 2007, to raise awareness for Treatment Action Campaign, an HIV/AIDS organization in South Africa that campaigns for greater access to HIV treatment.
With the release of her most recent album, Watershed (2008) , lang added another dimension to her accomplishments as a singer, multi-instrumentalist, composer and actor - the role of producer. lang feels this was the perfect time to take total control of her music. "I've always co-produced my music. I may not be a great musician, but I know what my songs need, and I'm a great collaborator. These songs needed to be intimate and lush at the same time, and by working at home I was able to capture the perfect essence of each first performance, the emotional magic and the honesty." The title for the album isn't by chance; lang considers Watershed a turning point in her life and career. lang has won a total of four Grammys and eight JUNO Awards, and in 1996, was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
lang's voice has long been lauded as strong, pure, honest and free. Her voice clearly reflects the spirituality, honesty and freedom of the woman - the artist - and the activist.
k.d stands for Kathyrn Dawn.
k.d lang's favourite pastimes include cooking, painting, abstacts and spoiling her dogs.