Pioneering singer-songwriter Shona Laing was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in 2013. Her four decades in the music business began in 1972 when the 17-year-old won notice on TV talent show New Faces, with ‘1905’. Check out the forerunner for Lorde and Kimbra performing that song, alongside classic clips (Glad I’m Not a Kennedy, Soviet Snow), and a gem of an interview where the smoking Hutt High student crushes on Henry Fonda, sings ‘Killing Me Softly’, and muses that she “probably will carry on with the singing”.
Initially avoided by New Zealand radio stations — who in the same period, showed as little interest in playlisting Crowded House classic 'Don't Dream It's Over' — this became Shona Laing's biggest international single, in a career notable for stylistic change. '(Glad I'm) Not a Kennedy' got to number two in NZ, and number 14 in the US rock charts. Here, the acoustic songbird of 1905 is recast as serious synth-pop singer, in a clip which mixes native beaches, brutalist architecture and poignant archival footage of the ill-fated US president.
Shona Laing's long musical career began with '1905', a song dedicated to Henry Fonda. At 17 years old, Shona took the song to second place on talent show New Faces in 1972. Early the following year it rose to number four on the NZ top 10. This short live clip, thought to be filmed at Christchurch Town Hall, captures Shona in extreme close-up, serving to magnify the emotional intensity of the song. Don't be fooled into thinking this is a mimed performance; her voice is absolutely spot-on, and the crowd reacts with rapturous applause.
This NZBC profile finds singer/songwriter Shona Laing as a 17-year-old in the seventh form (now year 13) at Hutt Valley High, distracted from study by an impending music career. Laing had shot to national prominence with her performances on the Studio One talent show, had a hit with her Henry Fonda-inspired single '1905' and supported American singer Lobo. She is already a guarded interviewee while her school mates are unsure what to make of her success. Lobo is effusive in his praise and there are performances of '1905' and Roberta Flack's 'Killing Me Softly'.
The fall of the Iron Curtain was still several years away when Shona Laing wrote her first APRA Silver Scroll winner 'Soviet Snow'. The world had been "teasing at war like children" over decades of the arms race and Cold War brinksmanship and the threat of nuclear winter was very real. The video is a suitably chilly but dizzying montage that marries Russian iconography and Soviet imagery to the song's urgent synthesised beats. Laing later stripped 'Soviet Snow' of its synthpop trappings in an acoustic version on her 2007 album Pass the Whisper.
Shona Laing's career began as a teen, when she performed her song '1905' on talent show New Faces. In 1973 it reached number four on the local charts, and Laing won several music awards, including Best New Artist. During seven years in London, she spent time in Manfred Mann's Earth Band. Back in New Zealand by the mid 1980s, Laing explored a synthesiser-based sound on albums Genre and South. Single '(Glad I'm) Not A Kennedy', got to number two in the NZ charts, and sold globally. Later albums included New on Earth and the live Roadworks. In 2013 Laing was inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame.
Singer Jackie Clarke attends the NZ Smokefree Composing Women’s Festival to find out what goes on there, and find the guidance and inspiration to write a song for the first time. Made for TV ONE’s Work of Art slot, the documentary mixes interviews with performance footage covering a wide range of musical styles, from classical to rock. Among the singer/songwriters appearing are Moana Maniapoto, Shona Laing, Hinewehi Mohi, Mahinarangi Tocker and Jan Hellriegel, plus sometime film composers Janet Roddick and Jan Preston.