Penny Lang, Canadian Folk Legend

“Ain’t Life Sweet” video

Penny Lang was a fixture of the 1960s folk scene, but did not break through into mainstream popularity, perhaps due to her unwillingness to follow musical fashion. When MCA Records approached her to do a recording of Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne, she declined because they insisted on electric instruments being part of the arrangement. (Judy Collins would later record the song and boosted both her–and Cohen’s–fame.)

Lang (July 15, 1942-July 31, 2016) began her career backing up her father on rhythm guitar. They played Legion halls in Montreal, prisons, hospitals–wherever their variety act could get gigs. As a young woman, she went solo and performed in many folk clubs in both Canada and the US, including Montreal’s Café André, New York’s Gerdes Folk City and the Bitter End, Toronto’s Riverboat and Ottawa’s Le Hibou. She also appeared at major folk festivals such as Mariposa and the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

As folk gave way to rock in the 1970s, Lang took a hiatus, but returned to performing, writing and recording in the late 1980s-early 1990s. Beginning in 1989, she recorded nine albums with the She-Wolf and Borealis labels.

“Gather Honey” on Spotify