Today we honor and celebrate an award-winning musician and activist, the talented k.d. lang. Born in November 1961 in Edmonton, Alberta, Kathryn Dawn Lang grew up in Consort on the Canadian prairie. She attended Red Deer College where she got her first exposure to the music of the late Patsy Cline. Fascinated, lang started her first band in 1983, a Cline tribute group wittily called the Reclines.
The band quickly outgrew the direct tribute and became a strong musical unit in its own right although still drawing clear influence from Patsy’s work). Their first album, 1984’s A Truly Western Experience, got strong reviews and led to a Juno for Most Promising Female Vocalist. Angel With A Lariat followed quickly, recorded in Nashville for major label Sire. After a strongly received duet with Roy Orbison on a new recording of his classic hit Crying, lang scored another coup landing famed Nashville producer Owen Bradley — the architect of Patsy Cline’s sound — for her third album. Over the course of a dozen albums ranging from country twang to meditative pop, lang has demonstrated an amazing musical breadth and won eight Juno awards and four Grammys.
k.d. lang was also one of the first singers to come out relatively early in their careers. Announcing she was lesbian in 1992, she has been a stalwart supporter of LGBT issues for the past two decades. She has campaigned for AIDS awareness and research and donated recordings to a number of albums to raise funds. She is also an animal rights activist and an activist for improved human rights in Tibet. Although she had already begun the transition from country to pop when she came out, she has retained her ties to Nashville and worked hard to improve the country music environment for LGBT performers and fans.
Despite living in the U.S. for many years, lang is also very proud of her Canadian heritage. She recorded an album, 2004’s Hymns of the 49th Parallel, featuring her take on songs by her favorite Canadian writers. Her powerful version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah led to her being part of the opening ceremonies at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver where she performed the song. The singer recently moved a bit closer to her roots, leaving Los Angeles for a new home in Portland, Oregon, TSM’s home town. Welcome to the Rose City, k.d.!