k.d. lang: An 'Immortal' Voice, Patiently Preserved Tony Bennett once said k.d. lang is in a league of singers who are "blessed with a destiny." Twenty-five years later, that destiny is celebrated with a retrospective album called Recollection. But she didn't get that voice without discipline.
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k.d. lang: An 'Immortal' Voice, Patiently Preserved

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k.d. lang: An 'Immortal' Voice, Patiently Preserved

k.d. lang: An 'Immortal' Voice, Patiently Preserved

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During the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics tonight in Vancouver, you're likely to hear the voice of k.d. lang. She is a Canadian, and rumored to be one of tonight's surprise performers.

This year, k.d. lang is also celebrating a silver anniversary - 25 years of recording. And to mark it, she's releasing a retrospective. Songs, music videos and live performances make up the package, called "Recollection."

NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports that k.d. lang's soaring vocal range comes from discipline and deliberate choices.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: Way back in 1994, k.d. lang was a surprise guest on "Tony Bennett: MTV Unplugged." When Bennett introduced her, he said she was in a league of singers that were blessed with a destiny.

(Soundbite of "Tony Bennett: MTV Unplugged")

Mr. TONY BENNETT (Musician): Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf, Hank Williams. It goes beyond success. It becomes immortal. This is one of the artists that will go up on the shelf with them.

BLAIR: It's company k.d. lang deserves to keep.

(Soundbite of song, "Hallelujah")

Ms. K.D. LANG (Singer): (Singing) I heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord. You don't really care for music, do ya? Well, it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift. The baffled king composing hallelujah...

Speaking) I always think of my voice as kind of like a fruit tree, you know? It has its natural tendency to create fruit, but at the same time there's ways to, you know, to protect it from the frost or to, you know, fertilize it, or to prune it at the right time.

BLAIR: K.d. lang says she practically builds her life around keeping her voice in shape.

Ms. LANG: I don't sing anything that hurts my voice. The way I eat, the way I sleep, what I drink. I mean, I don't even like going to parties because it's too loud and I have to talk too loud. I'm not crazy. I'm not sleeping in an oxygen chamber or anything like that, but I just try to just live a really natural, kind of simple life because I think obviously, life has an impact on your voice.

BLAIR: That kind of discipline is something k.d. lang learned a long time ago from her mom, who was a second-grade teacher determined to give her four children music lessons.

Ms. LANG: And every week on Thursday and this is in the middle of Alberta in the winter she would work all day, and then drive four kids 60 miles one way through blizzards, and then sit there for two hours while we each had our half-hour lesson or something, and then drive back. We wouldn't get home 'til like, 7 o'clock. And she did that for maybe 20 years.

BLAIR: And for the next 20 years, k.d. lang's popularity skyrocketed. Her new retrospective spans more than 20 years. Remember k.d. lang as the cowgirl/performance artist?

(Soundbite of song, "Western Stars")

Ms. LANG: (Singing) I watch, I wait, my heart is bound to break tonight...

BLAIR: There's also a song she wrote and recorded just a few months ago.

(Soundbite of song, "Beautifully Combined")

Ms. LANG: (Singing) The alchemy of inner worlds, can I possibly explain it?

BLAIR: Brave girl - alchemy, in a song.

Ms. LANG: It doesn't sing that well. I'm going of warn the young songwriters of America: It doesn't actually sing that well.

BLAIR: But if you're k.d. lang, you make it work. Let's face it: k.d. lang was born with a beautiful voice that she doesn't take for granted.

Ms. LANG: It's something I take a big responsibility in looking after.

BLAIR: Responsibility, discipline, natural talent - k.d. lang can add to that list endurance. Her first career retrospective, called "Recollection," comes out this week.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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