Despite insulting Paddy when I first met him by implying that he had never heard of Townes van Zandt, we quickly established a musical connection and we went to a Lyle Lovett concert together at The Town And Country Club in Kentish Town on June 17th 1989. I do remember that the support act was someone called kd lang. Even Paddy, with his extensive musical knowledge, had never heard of kd lang. I remember asking him if he knew whether or not kd lang was male or female – neither of us knew. It’s embarrassing to report that after the first few songs, we were none the wiser. After a costume change, it was much clearer and she played a dynamic set. This would have been around the time that she released her third album “Absolute Torch And Twang” which was definitely in the “new country” genre.
When Roo and I got together a few years later, we both loved kd lang’s albums and were particularly fond of “Ingenue” when it came out in 1992. We went to see her at The Hammersmith Odeon, probably around May 1992. It was a unique concert in my experience. I went to a boys Grammar School. I played cricket and rugby at school and University and continued playing at club level when I moved to Harlow. When I first started teaching, every member of the Maths department was male. I liked watching live sport and in those days the majority of cricket and football spectators were male. When I went to the kd lang concert with Roo, it was one of the first experiences I had where 90% of the people around me were female. I’m not saying that I didn’t like the experience, I’m not saying I was uncomfortable but it was a real eye opener for me. Many members of the audience screamed whenever kd lang said anything between songs. At one point, a pair of knickers was thrown onto the stage. This was before kd lang had come out as gay but it was generally assumed that she was. At one point, she announced that the time had come for her to tell the truth. She had thought long and hard about whether or not to say this but she felt that we were the correct audience to receive the news that “I am a Trini Lopez fan.” The volume of the screams that followed this announcement had to be heard to be believed. I didn’t understand the significance then and I still don’t. There’s no evidence that Trini Lopez was a gay icon.
kd lang’s first album “Angel With A Lariat” was produced by Dave Edmunds. Soon after its release, she performed in front of a huge audience when she sang “Turn Me Round” at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Alberta in 1988. She was born in Alberta and she was introduced as “The Alberta Rose.”
Roy Orbison got to hear of her and chose her to perform a duet with him on his song “Crying” . Their performance won a Grammy in 1989. This song became a show stopper for kd lang and the audience would go noisily berserk as she hit a succession of high notes at the climax of the song.
Two more albums followed “Angel With A Lariat”. “Shadowland” was an album of torch songs produced by the veteran Nashville producer Owen Bradley. “Absolute Torch And Twang” had a more traditional “new country” sound. In 1992 she released “Ingenue” which became a huge seller and showed very little country influences. Obviously Greg Leisz featured heavily on pedal steel guitar. Two singles were released: “Constant Craving” got to Number 15 in the UK Charts.
kd lang came out as a lesbian a few months after Roo and I saw her in 1992. Several US radio stations subsequently banned her songs from the airwaves and when she turned up to the 1993 Grammy awards, she was confronted with protesters. (She won a Grammy for best female pop performance). A magazine called “Chatelaine” chose kd lang as “Woman Of The Year”. On “Ingenue” she recorded a song called “Miss Chatelaine” and to accompany this song she released a ridiculous video in which she appears, according to Wikipedia, in an “exaggeratedly feminine manner, surrounded by bright pastel colors and a profusion of bubbles.”
Since “Ingenue” was released in 1992, kd lang has released seven albums including a collaboration with Niko Case and Laura Veirs in 2016 although there has been nothing since. She remains politically very active lending her support to many worthy projects, the last one being a performance of “Hallelujah” at the “Fire Fight Australia” concert in early 2020.
Let’s finish with a quote. “Look. Art knows no prejudice, art knows no boundaries, art doesn’t really have judgement in it’s purest form. So just go, just go.”