November 2, 1961
Consort, Alberta, Canada
Singer, Songwriter, Composer, Actor, Performance artist
Before she became an elegant chanteuse, k.d. lang (short for Kathryn Dawn Lang) was a wilfully odd performance artist: During her early days in Edmonton, Alberta circa 1982-83, she performed at least one staged heart transplant at a music club. At the same time she fell under the spell of Patsy Cline and her first band the Reclines were originally a purely cover band. By the time she debuted in America, with the Dave Edmunds-produced Angel With a Lariat in 1987, she'd had a five-year career in Canada and developed into a skilled country singer. Though the Edmunds album had its tongue-in-cheek moments, the next album, 1988's Shadowland was a sincere roots homage, produced by Owen Bradley who had worked closely with Cline. The same year she appeared on Roy Orbison's Cinemax special, A Black & White Night, doing a well-received duet on "Crying." At the time lang's spiky-haired, androgynous look was proudly out of sync with her traditionally-styled music; she came out as a lesbian in a magazine interview in 1992. She stepped away from country music with 1992's Ingenue, a romantic pop album that was her most successful (winning her a Grammy for Best Female Vocal Pop Performance) and in many fans' view her best. Its upbeat finale "Constant Craving" became her signature song, and also won a bit of notoriety when the Rolling Stones' 1997 single "Anybody Seen My Baby?" was deemed to have a similar tune; lang and cowriter Ben Mink ultimately shared the writing credit with Jagger and Richards. She followed Ingenue with a film soundtrack, for Gus Van Sant's "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" (1993), and a string of semi-conceptual albums: Cigarette songs on 1997's Drag, sunshine pop on 2000's Invincible Summer. She remained enough of a mainstream success that Tony Bennett invited her for a duets album, 2002's A Wonderful World, devoted to the romantic side of the Louis Armstrong catalogue. By now lang was gravitating to singer-songwriter material, often recording with other female artists (including Medeleine Peyroux and Jane Siberry). 2004's Hymns of the 49th Parallel was devoted to Canadian songwriters and included one of the first major covers of Leonard Cohen's now-ubiquitous "Hallelujah." She would later sing it at Cohen's memorial in Quebec in 2017. lang remained politically active, supporting animal rights and gay issues. 2008 brought Watershed, her first solo album in eight years and last as of 2018., though 2011's Sing It Loud found her fronting a new band, the Siss Boom Bang In 2016 she formed a songwriter's supergroup with Neko Case and Laura Viers. The trio's first album, case/lang/viers, marked her return to alternative country.