Neil Young/k.d. lang:  Helpless

Quiz by Sharon Michiko Yoneda

"There is a town in north Ontario."

artist:  k.d. lang

songwriter:  Neil Young

date released:  1970 by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; 2004 by k.d. lang

"Helpless" was written by Canadian singer-songwriter, Neil Young, while he was a band member for the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  

The "town in North Ontario" is presumed to be Omemee, Ontario, which is just west of Peterborough, now considered southern Ontario.  Neil Young himself qualified this reference by: "Well, it's not literally a specific town so much as a feeling.  Actually, it's a couple of towns, Omemee, Ontario, is one of them.  It's where I first went to school and spent my formative years.  Actually, I was born in Toronto..."

The song, "Helpless" was a simple song as recorded by CSN&Y.  At it's core was a simple repetition of one melody with the theme of helplessness.  It became one of the most revered song in the CSN&Y album, "Deja Vu."  Young performed the song with The Band and Joni Mitchell in the film, "The Last Waltz."

k.d.lang successfully covered "Helpless" with a lusher string for her album, "Hymns of the 49th Parallel."

Katherine Dawn Lang was born in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1961.  Her family moved to the rural town of Consort, Alberta, where her father was a drugstore owner. He left the family when lang was twelve, and her mother remarried with the principal of a school in Consort.

After lang graduated from high school, she attended Red Deer College and the country singer, Patsy Cline, became her muse.  Singing and performing at country and western venues with her newly adoped name, k.d.lang, she received some very critical reviews which prompted her to win at 1985 Juno Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist.  Since her early recognition, she has gone on to win seven more Juno Awards.  In 1986, she was wooed to Nashville, Tennessee, to record album, "Angel with a Lariat" with an American producer.

U.S. audiences began paying attention to k.d.lang while she was touring with the great Roy Orbison. In 1989, Orbison chose her to sing their now famous duet, "Crying."  

Singing duets features strongly in k.d.lang's career.  She paired with the American jazz singer, Madeleine Peyroux, to record a Joni Mitchell composition, "River" in 2006.  Later she would win a Grammy award for her duet with the legend, Tony Bennett, for the song, "What a Wonderful World".

In addition to her many Junos, our Albertan won four Grammys out of the five nominations she has received in her life.

An activist for gay rights causes and HIV/AIDS care and research, k.d.lang has recently begun to support Tibetan human rights issues.  At the 2008 Beijing Olympics torch relay, lang joined the pro-Tibet protesters.