By: Ben Rayner Pop Music Critic, Published on Mon Apr 22 2013
REGINA—So, yeah, k.d. lang is pretty much the coolest gal on the planet.
Of all the high-wattage CanCon stars and starlets to cross the stage during Sunday night’s amiable Juno Awards gala in Regina, it was, perhaps Alberta-bred Kathryn Dawn Lang — this year’s inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame —who left the deepesst impression.
Not just on a musical level, either. That voice and that talent, turned loose late in CTV’s Juno broadcast from the Brandt Centre upon a stirring rendition of “Sing It Loud,” are undeniable forces, of course. But the 51-year-old lang scored extra points on Sunday for calling attention to some of the Canadianisms that make this nation a rather enviable place in which to live.
Graciously accepting her Hall of Fame honours from Nova Scotia songbird Anne Murray, lang — who was proudly “out” and messing with the Alberta beef industry back when it was international tabloid news to be gay and vocally vegetarian — reminded us that we’ve got it pretty good here over other spots where the likes of k.d. lang are often met with societal and institutional distrust.
“Of course, this one had a huge impact on me,” said lang onstage, gesturing to Murray. “Phys-ed teacher, bare feet — I had the biggest crush on her and I still do.
“I think the fact that I’m standing here receiving this award says more about Canada than it does about me because only in Canada could as big a freak as k.d. lang be receiving this award … It is OK to be you. It is OK to let your freak flag fly and to embrace the quirkmeister that is in all of us.”
Later on, backstage, lang elaborated on her comments, saying she was inspired to say the inspirational things she did by “life, and the fact that I know that everybody is a freak.” She also reiterated her earlier, heartfelt shout-outs to recently departed Canadian icons Stompin’ Tom Connors and Rita MacNeil, earning herself even more bonus points.
“I just really think that Canada is a special place,” she told the press corps. “Not many cultures would allow people like myself or Stompin’ Tom or Rita MacNeil to become national symbols. The fact that they passed gay marriage eons before a lot of other important countries have, Canada is a progressive, liberal country and it makes me very proud to be a part of it.”
Probed on the matter of whether or not she thinks this nation is in danger, under the stewardship of a conservative government and in the throes of increasingly theatrical animosity between the left and the right, of shedding some of the liberal qualities that make it somewhat unique, lang was guardedly optimistic for the future.
“There’s always the chance,” she shrugged. “The pendulum always swings between left and right all the time. But I think when the envelope is pushed a little further it will remain at that level, so I think we’re in good shape.”
Just a class act all around, that k.d lang. How many of us, after all, were worthy of getting a Stompin’ Tom tune named in our honour?
Rather than bask in the spotlight, however, lang made sure that we were left thinking about the broader implications of her Hall of Fame induction.
“I’m really, really proud. I’m really almost speechless to be here and to receive this award,” she said. “I spent a lot of time from the time I found out I was going to be receiving the award to the time that I was ready to come here pondering it and meditating on what it actually meant. And I realized that I didn’t want to personalize it, I didn’t want to make it overly emotional because it really isn’t about me. It’s a shared, interdependent situation. It’s not about me. It’s about people being themselves. I just wanted to make that clear.”
p.s from Paula: I remember watching an Anne Murray show some years ago. kd Lang was her guest and together they sang a duet, “I Want to Sing You a Love Song.” I was breathless at the way they looked at one another!! kd wrote Ingenue, a best selling cd, and she spoke about how an “unrequited love of a married woman” had been the impetus for writing and composing the songs.
Many people have wondered if the woman was Anne Murray? Anne has denied that she is a lesbian, so who am I to question her integrity?