Born Katherine Dawn Lang, November 2, 1961 in Consort, Alberta, Canada; Education: attended Red Deer College.
Trying to maintain a creative existence on the edge of what was considered socially acceptable was never easy. Excelling and successfully thriving on the periphery of the popular music frontier was almost unheard of at all. For the critically acclaimed and award winning Canadian chanteuse KD Lang, the aforementioned scenario was just her modus operandi.
She was born Katherine Dawn Lang on November 2, 1961, in the tiny prairie town of Consort, Alberta, Canada. Lang was the youngest of the four children born to Audrey and Fred Lang. She grew up in a musical family, where her mother would drive the children to music lessons which were located in a town over an hour away, regardless of the weather. Desiring to study music and art, Lang left Consort in order to attend school at Red Deer College, which was located some 90 miles south of the province's capital of Edmonton. While there, Lang dabbled in performance art while increasingly growing disenchanted with her studies. She eventually dropped out of school in order to concentrate more fully on her musical performances.
Musically, Lang was drawn to country, she even claimed to be the modern day embodiment of Patsy Cline, the famous country crooner who had died in the early 1960s, at the height of her popularity. Stylistically, however, Lang defied categorization and conventions. Her costumes and stage appearances were an eclectic mix of punk and country with her short closely cropped hair, long square dance skirts, chunky boots, and bulky socks.
Lang got a job as the singer of an Edmonton based country swing band, in 1982. The group disbanded shortly thereafter. Undaunted, Lang decided to form her own band and called them the Reclines, in honor of Patsy Cline. In 1984, Lang and the Reclines released their debut effort, A Truly Western Experience, on the Canadian independent label Bumstead. She toured across Canada and managed to find a spiritual home in Toronto where audiences there loved her eclectic and quirky style of mixing rockabilly and country. Her appearance did not bother them at all. Lang's avante garde nature even managed to impress Seymour Stein of Sire Records who signed her and the band to a recording contract. Her first major label album, Angel With a Lariat, was released in 1986. It netted her a Canadian Juno Award for the Best Country Vocalist the very next year. Her sophomore effort, Shadowland was released in 1988. Both of the albums featured Lang and the Reclines funky "cowpunk" melodies and vocals that highlighted Lang's impassioned croonings and torch song stylings.
Increasingly, Lang began to amass a large fan base and win over critics. She won her first Grammy in 1988 for the Best Country Vocal Collaboration for her duet with Roy Orbison on the song "Crying." She won her second Juno Award in 1989 for the Country Music Entertainer of the Year. Despite all of the critical accolades, Lang was ostracized by the country music establishment in Nashville. Commenting on this, she told the London Observer's Alan Jackson that, "I guess they don't think a girl should look or act they way I do. Nashville is very much a white male Christian society, and if you don't play by its rules, you don't really exist."
Her third album, Absolute Torch and Twang was released in the summer of 1989. The following year, Lang won a Grammy for Best Country Female Vocal Performance for Absolute Torch and Twang. Later that same year, 1990, Absolute Torch and Twang was a certified gold selling album in America.
Despite all of the additional critical success Lang garnered for her music, the Nashville country music establishment continued to ignore her. As a result, Lang started to focus her attention and musical skills in other areas, most notably pop jazz and torch song crooning. Commenting on her change in focus, Lang told the New York Times' Michael Specter that, "country music was a part of my life. Now it isn't. We had a good relationship, really, but we wanted each other at arm's length. The people in Nashville didn't want to be responsible for my looks or my actions. But they sure did like the listeners I brought."
1992 saw Shadowland certified gold in America. It also marked the release of the first non-country influenced album by Lang. Ingenue was the first album wholly credited to Lang, not Lang and the Reclines. It was a lounge-tinged collection of torch songs and sweeping ballads. The pop cabaret stylings of Ingenue won Lang new legions of fans, especially among the adult contemporary music aficionados. Critics as well were fond of the album and the new incarnation of Lang.
Her new approach to music was amply rewarded in 1993 as Lang won the Favorite New Adult Contemporary Artist prize at the American Music Awards. She also landed her third Grammy for the Best Pop Female Vocal for the top ten adult contemporary smash hit single, "Constant Craving." Ingenue was certified platinum in America, in March of 1993. Lang also won Juno Awards for Album of the Year for Ingenue, Songwriter of the Year, and Producer of the Year. The video for "Constant Craving" earned Lang the 1993 MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video. Toward the end of that award winning year, Lang released the soundtrack for the film "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues."
Lang kept her profile relatively low key until early 1995 when she was named the Best International Artist at the BRIT Awards in London. In the autumn of that same year, she released her next album All You Can Eat. It was another two years before she released another album, the lounge and jazz inspired Drag. In 1997, Lang was bestowed with the honor of the Office of the Order of Canada. Discussing her success with the Chicago Tribune's Jack Hurst, Lang said, "I'm a living example of success via the media. I've never had radio airplay. I'm a media thing."
by Mary Alice Adams
kd Lang's Career
Formed KD Lang and the Reclines c. 1983; signed to Bumstead and released A Truly Western Experience, 1984; signed to Sire and released Angel With a Lariat, 1986; released Shadowland, 1988; released Absolute Torch and Twang, 1989; went solo and released Ingenue, 1992; released Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, (soundtrack), 1993; released All You Can Eat, 1995; released Drag, 1997.
kd Lang's Awards
Juno Award (Canada) for Best Country Female Vocalist, 1987; Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Collaboration for "Crying," 1988; Juno Award for Canadian Country Music Entertainer of the Year 1989; Grammy Award for Best Country Female Vocal for Absolute Torch and Twang, 1990; Gold certification for Absolute Torch and Twang, 1990; Gold certification for Shadowland, 1992; American Music Award for Favorite New Artist Adult Contemporary, 1993; Platinum certification for Ingenue, 1993; Grammy Award for Best Pop Female Vocal for "Constant Craving," 1993; Juno Award for Album of the Year for Ingenue, 1993; Juno Award for Songwriter of the Year, 1993; Juno Award for Producer of the Year, 1993; MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video for "Constant Craving," 1993; BRIT Award (England) for Best International Female Artist, 1995; received the Officer of the Order of Canada, 1997 .
- Selected discography
- with the Reclines
- A Truly Western Experience , Bumstead, 1984.
- Angel With a Lariat , Sire, 1986.
- Shadowland , Sire, 1988.
- Absolute Torch and Twang , Sire, 1989.
- Ingenue , Sire, 1992.
- Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (soundtrack), Sire, 1993.
- All You Can Eat , Sire, 1995.
- Drag , Sire, 1997.
February 8, 2004: Lang shared the Grammy Award for best traditional pop vocal album, for A Wonderful World with Tony Bennett. Source: 46th Grammy Awards, grammys.com/awards/grammy/46winners.aspx, February 8, 2004.
- Magill, Frank, ed. Great Lives From History: American Women Series , volume 3, Salem Press, 1995.
- Rees, Dayfdd, and Crampton, Luke, Encyclopedia of Rock Stars , DK, 1996.
- Chicago Tribune , February 7, 1988.
- Interview , September, 1997.
- London Observer , May 27, 1990.
- New York Times , July 23, 1992.