Monday, 28 November 2016

Lana Cantrell - 1967 - And Then There Was Lana

 Isn't This A Lovely Day/I Will Wait For You/If You Go Away/ Let Yourself Go/I'm All Smiles/Stay/Nothing Can Stop Me Now/ I've Got A Penny/Breakfast At Tiffany's/Since I Fell For You/A Man And A Woman

Impassioned Australian singer Lana Cantrell, who found international success in the 1960s and 1970s, did not do things the easy way. A self-taught singer with no formal training, the tall, trim, shaggy-haired beauty entered the music industry and, for the duration of her career, remained true to her own vision and uniqueness every step of the way.

She was born on August 7, 1943, in Sydney, Australia, and grew up in a home filled with music. Her father, a jazz musician, was a tremendous influence and she displayed prodigious musical gifts from a very early age. Singing and playing the piano at the Sydney Town Hall by age 10, she became a viable entertainment name on the concert stage and TV by her late teens. Lana had ambitions, however, that extended far outside of her native Australia. At age 19, long before phenom Helen Reddy put Australia on the Billboard singing map in America with her #1 "I Am Woman" feminism, Lana was chartering American waters seeking her fame and fortune.

Her career began slowly in America, yet her determination and love for performing never wavered. Perhaps too quirky for mainstream stardom, she evolved into a popular marquee headliner especially on the night club and TV circuits. With the trendy, angular, slightly awkward looks of a Twiggy, with her boyishly cropped hair and large eyes, she was a highly emotive belter/chanteuse often compared to a Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, Eydie Gormé or Lainie Kazan. Lana played nearly every Las Vegas hotel on the strip during her prime and wound up appearing on Ed Sullivan's popular variety show a whopping 15 times. A foreign import favorite on a host of variety show formats including "Kraft Music Hall Presents" and Red Skelton's weekly series, she served as a vibrant opening act for such stars as Jerry Lewis on the road.

Lana moved strongly into the recording arena with seven albums/CDs recorded for RCA. With such titles as "Another Shade of Lana," "Lana!" and "Act III: Lana Cantrell," a number of her singles found status back in Australia, but her Billboard charting in America was not a success. One of her songs, "Like a Sunday Morning," reached #63 in 1975. Her taste was eclectic for the changing times yet each had her own personalized stamp on them -- "I'm All Smiles," "Since I Fell for You," "If You Go Away," "I Will Wait for You," 'I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise," "What Now My Love," "Steppin' Out With My Baby" and "When You Wish Upon a Star". For every nostalgic "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby" on an album, one could also find an odd, contemporary version of a rock song such as "The House of the Rising Sun". She wasn't ahead of her time or behind the times; she merely sang and swayed to her own beat and style, refusing to be pigeon-holed. Many would say that made her relevant for all times. 

Lana spread her wings to include musical theatre as well, playing the role of Dorothy in a 70s stage version of "The Wizard of Oz" alongside baritone star Alfred Drake. But she was at her best on the concert/festival circuits and she performed all over the world -- from New York's St. Regis and Waldorf-Astoria hotels to the Sydney Opera House.

The never-married singer is a dedicated yoga disciple and, sports-wise, was once the table-tennis champion of New South Wales. Never one to be pinned down to any single interest, Lana retired from singing in 1988 (age 45) to pursue a law degree. She now practices entertainment law in New York. In 1996 she made an isolated singing appearance at the Sydney Festival Club to much public clamor, and has since showed up on a rare occasion.

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