REGINA - K.d. lang brought the Juno audience to its feet Sunday with a rousing speech that encouraged Canadians to "let your freak flags fly."
The comment came after the "Constant Craving" crooner was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame by Canuck icon Anne Murray. Backstage, lang said her speech was inspired by life and "the fact that I know that everybody's a freak."
"I just really think that Canada's a special place," she said.
"I really think that not very many cultures would allow people like myself or Stompin' Tom (Connors) or Rita (MacNeil) to become national symbols. I think Canada, even the fact that they passed gay marriage eons before a lot of other important countries have, means Canada's a progressive, liberal country and it makes me very proud to be a part of it."
She later added: "I'm really, really proud. I'm really almost speechless to be here and to have received this award."
During the televised gala, Murray recalled her first impression of lang stomping around the stage in a cowgirl outfit.
"She made me smile and she could sing," Murray said onstage at Regina's Brandt Centre. "I loved her sense of fun, her spunk, her gumption."
She then added: "She defied labelling, and I cheered her on."
Lang emerged in the mid-80s as a maverick country crooner with an ironic sense of humour and a powerful voice.
She quickly distinguished herself as unique. At her first Junos in 1985, she accepted the trophy for most promising female artist dressed in a wedding dress and matching cowboy boots.
Juno attendees had high praise for the singer as they walked the red carpet Sunday.
"I think k.d. is the finest interpreter of song of our age," said Tom Cochrane.
"I think she's wonderful. I'm thrilled for her. When I received the Juno Award for 'Big League' back in '89, she performed 'Crying' and it was one of the finest performances I've ever seen anywhere by anybody."
Singer and songwriter Hannah Georgas raved about two lang songs in particular — "Constant Craving" and lang's version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."
"I actually saw her for the first time a year ago in Vancouver and she blew my mind," said Georgas. "I've always had lots of respect for her, but this experience a year ago, she's unreal. So I think she deserves everything and she seems like a wonderful woman."
Adam Cohen, the singer son of Leonard Cohen, had high praise for lang's interpretation of his dad's tune.
"She does a song called 'Hallelujah' great, great justice. She does one of the most stirring renditions and 'Constant Craving' is no small shakes either," said Cohen, adding that lang has held a "standard of greatness" through her career.
Victor Micallef of the Tenors lauded lang's 'impeccable' singing voice, adding that "whatever she touches turns to gold."
For his part, Royal Wood said lang's induction into the Canadian Hall of Fame is way overdue.
"I mean it sounds so pedestrian to say but she's an iconic Canadian and she's the real deal. There's no autotune, there's no correction, she's a talent. She deserved to be there a long time ago."