Thursday, 23 June 2011


kd lang headlines Salle Wilfred-Pelletier on June 27 at the Montreal International Jazz Festival  (Photo courtesy FIJM)

(June 23) It's true that one photo can change everything. Take Vanity Fair’s historic August 1993 cover shot of bathing-suit beauty Cindy Crawford giving the suit-clad kd lang a shave. That one snapshot launched the 1990s lesbian-chic era that climaxed with the public coming out of Ellen DeGeneres.

"I’m very proud of that picture," kd lang told me a couple years ago. "It stands the test of time."

These days lang is back in the news, cross-promoting her new album Sing It Loud on a tour that brings the Canadian crooner back to the Montreal International Jazz Festival on June 27 (she last performed at the fest in 2005 with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal). Lang gives few interviews today, though when she performed two nights at Montreal’s Olympia Theatre back in 2008, she told me, “I love that I’m still a Canadian citizen [and] I still try to travel to Canada as much as possible."

Lang – who performed at the inaugural 2006 World Outgames opening ceremony in Montreal, as well as at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver – is also proud she was part of the pop culture that led Canada to become the gay-positive nation it is today. After all, Canadians still remember that the butch lang accepted her 1985 Juno Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist wearing a wedding dress!

"I think being queer was an asset," lang says. "Being very alternative was my secret weapon prior to coming out."

Over in America, Nashville wanted little to do with lang or her cow-punk ways until Owen Bradley, the producer of lang’s idol Patsy Cline, produced lang’s 1988 breakthrough album Shadowland. "I was going into unfriendly waters. But at the same time I truly respect country. When you try to fuck something up, it’s an aggressive policy that doesn’t work."

Then came lang’s historic August 1993 Vanity Fair cover. Says lang, "The Vanity Fair cover is one of my proudest moments. I didn’t suffer as much as Cindy did. Vanity Fair is an icon of pop culture, and to be on it at that time is an indelible mark in the evolution of gay culture. But at the time of the shoot, [photographer] Herb Ritts was a friend of mine, and we had a very gay life in LA. We were having fun and we didn’t think about [that photo] having a lasting impact."

Today lang bemoans the violence against LGBT people at Pride marches in Eastern Europe, in cities like Moscow. “I can remember some early Pride marches in Edmonton and they weren’t much different," lang recalls. "It’s really just a matter of education and integration.”

As for the digital revolution that has up-ended the music business, lang – whose lead single from Sing It Loud is the song I Confess (you can watch music video above) –  she tells me, “You know, I’m all for downloading. I love not having to go to a record store anymore. But you definitely have to pay the musicians. The way the music industry is today, I tell you what it all boils down to: It’s all about how good you are live in concert. If you can’t do that, you have no career. At least not a long one. So I’m happy I’m still going strong."

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