Singer k.d. lang on letting 'your freak flags fly'
Her Canadian Music Hall of Fame acceptance speech the talk of Juno Awards gala
After learning that she would be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame on Sunday night, singer k.d. lang did some pondering on what the honour might mean.
"I didn’t want to personalize it, make it overly emotional. It’s a shared, interdependent situation. It’s not about me, it’s about the people that put me there," she told CBC News Sunday night after her appearance during the Juno Awards ceremony.
Anne Murray, a singer who lang idolized, was chosen to pay tribute to the Edmonton-born star, who has earned four Grammy awards in her 30-year career. Murray recalled her first impressions of lang, appearing in a short cowboy skirt as lead singer with a Patsy Cline tribute band in 1983.
"She made me smile and she could sing," Murray said and told the story of lang’s 1985 acceptance of the Juno Award for most promising female artist. Lang wore a wedding gown, in one of many idiosyncratic costume choices throughout her career.
"I loved her sense of fun, her spunk, her gumption, and she could sing," Murray said. "She went on to show that a great voice could sing anything it wants. She defies labelling."
Lang’s career has ranged from country to pop to contemporary and back to country and her 1992 coming out seemed to have no effect on how well her Canadian fans accepted her. That’s one of the reasons she’s proud to be Canadian, she told CBC News.
A special place
"I just really think that Canada’s a special place. Not very many people would allow people like myself, Rita [MacNeil], Stompin’ Tom to become national symbols," she said. "Even though Canada passed gay marriage eons before other countries have, Canada’s a progressive country, it makes me very proud to be a part of it. "
That sentiment infused her acceptance speech during the Junos gala, which had the crowd at Regina’s Brandt Centre on its feet.
"Thank you so much for all your support over the years.I think the fact that I’m standing here receiving this award actually says more about Canada than it does about me," she said.
"Only in Canada could there be such a freak as k.d. lang receiving this award. Only in Canada could there be people like Stompin’ Tom Connors and Rita MacNeil. I want to tell you my friends and my countrymen that it is OK to be you. "
"It is OK to let your freak flags fly and embrace the quirkmeister that's inside of all of us. And I'm not even just talking artists, I'm talking every single person in this nation has the right to be themselves, live life ... I love you Canada, thank you so much."
Lang has never hesitated to let the "freak flags fly" and her big personality has endeared her to fans, rather than earning her outsider status. Over the years, lang has appeared on stage with bare feet – a quirk she picked up from Murray, adopted the style of a female Elvis and sung with stars from Tony Bennett to Neil Young to Murray herself.
Hallelujah at the Vancouver Olympics
She says performing Hallelujah at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver was one of the highlights of her career – many fans agree it is one of the most moving live performances they’ve seen her give.
Adam Cohen, the singer son of Leonard Cohen, had high praise for lang's interpretation of his dad's tune.
"She does a song called Hallelujah great, great justice. She does one of the most stirring renditions and Constant Craving is no small shakes either," said Cohen.
Royal Wood, who was nominated for the adult alternative album Juno won by Serena Ryder, said lang's induction into the Canadian Hall of Fame is overdue.
"I mean it sounds so pedestrian to say but she's an iconic Canadian and she's the real deal. There's no autotune, there's no correction, she's a talent. She deserved to be there a long time ago."
With files from The Canadian Press