Katrina Elizabeth Leskanich is an American musician, author and former lead singer of English pop rock band Katrina and The Waves whose song "Walking on Sunshine" was an international hit in 1985 and in 1997 won the Eurovision Song Contest with the song "Love Shine A Light".
Katrina was born in Topeka, Kansas. Her father was a Colonel in the United States Air Force, and Katrina and her five siblings (four sisters and one brother) moved frequently as children. After she was born, they moved from Kansas to New Mexico, and then California, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Stuttgart, in Germany, and the Netherlands before arriving in Norfolk, England, in 1976. Katrina has lived in the UK since 1976, moving to London in 1998 where she currently lives. Her ancestors emigrated from Ireland, Germany and Slovakia (Leškanič) to the United States.
Career with Katrina and the Waves:
In 1978, Leskanich and her then-boyfriend, Vince de la Cruz, formed the cover band "Mama's Cooking", based in Feltwell, England. In 1981, after some lineup changes, the band titled themselves "The Waves" and began playing original music. In 1982, after yet more lineup changes, the band changed their name once again to Katrina and the Waves, with Leskanich as the lead vocalist; by now they were based in the city of Cambridge.
The band had several international hits, including, most notably, "Walking on Sunshine" in 1985. Their song "Sun Street" was also a minor hit in 1986. They also received a Grammy Nomination for Best New Artist. The hits continued with "Do You Want Crying", "Que te Quiero", "Rock and Roll Girl" and "That's The Way" which reached No. 16 in the U.S.A.
In 1997, after having somewhat faded into obscurity, the band won the Eurovision Song Contest 1997 for the United Kingdom with "Love Shine a Light". Reacting to the win, Leskanich said it was the second landslide victory in a week; the song won by a record points margin, and Tony Blair had won the 1997 British general election two days previously. The song won by a then-record margin of 70 points over the Irish runner-up. The song went to No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart (becoming the band's biggest-ever hit) and Katrina and The Waves performed an unprecedented four weeks running on the BBC One TV show Top of the Pops.
Katrina and the Waves broke up in 1999.
When Hurricane Katrina and its storm surge devastated much of the US Gulf Coast in September 2005, the MSNBC news program, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, dubbed its coverage of the hurricane, "Katrina and the Waves"; the name also appeared in numerous headlines and blog postings. A New York Times reporter contacted Katrina Leskanich, who said: "The first time I opened the paper and saw 'Katrina kills 9,' it was a bit of a shock. ... I hope that the true spirit of 'Walking on Sunshine' will prevail. I would hate for the title to be tinged with sadness, and I will have to do my own part to help turn that around."
After the Waves broke up in 1999, Leskanich launched a solo career, first as a DJ for BBC Radio 2 and then in 2001 she played the lead role in the musical Leader of the Pack. She released her first solo CD, Katrina Leskanich, through Universal Records in Britain in 2005. And the single - Leskanich's cover of Kirsty MacColl's "They Don't Know" was played on Radio 2. In 2005 she also participated in the Swedish selection for the Eurovision Song Contest (Melodifestivalen 2005) with the song "As If Tomorrow Will Never Come". In 2005 Leskanich (with Renars Kaupers) hosted Congratulations - 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Copenhagen.
Katrina covered a Clash song, "Hitsville UK" for a compilation album put together by Jimmy Guterman, which is a tribute to The Clash Sandinista! album and was released on 15 May 2007 in the United States.
Katrina performed in the 1980s show Gylne Tider which toured Norway in the early summer of 2007 and transferred to the Christiania Theatre in Oslo from October to December 2007. Katrina's cover of "They Don't Know" was included in the compilation Gylne Tider 2 which was released in 2007 and went platinum.
Katrina also appeared in the Countdown Spectacular 2 concert series around Australia between late August and early September 2007. She performed her hit "Walking On Sunshine".
From 27 January 2008 to 9 March 2008, Katrina was one of three jury members for Eurosong 2008 in Belgium, the pre-selection for the Eurovision Song Contest.
On 1 March 2008, she performed a remix dance version of her 1997 Eurovision winning song, "Love Shine A Light", on the BBC Eurovision song selection show.
To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of "Walking on Sunshine", Leskanich released her first live album - THE LIVE ALBUM in July 2010. The album includes a live version and a blues version of "Walking on Sunshine". "I have performed 'Walking on Sunshine' for so many years in so many different countries that it's become the one constant in my life and the one thing I can count on to bring happiness to myself and others." said Leskanich. In September 2010 Katrina re-released her solo album 'Turn The Tide' with a couple of bonus tracks - club mix of 'They Don't Know' and the Espirito mix of 'Walking on Sunshine'.
In November 2010, Katrina was a guest coach on the Austrian TV show Helden von Morgen on ORF1. All her contestants went through to the next round including Lukas Plochl who sang a rap of Love Shine A Light.
In May 2011, Katrina released an EP 'Spiritualize' "In 1999 I wrote, collected and compiled some songs I thought would come together for an uplifting and spiritual type of album. I thought I'd try to make this a bit more personal," said Leskanich.
In 2012 Katrina formed a new line up of her band and played the Acoustic Festival of Britain, The Ultimate 80s Festival and then Gig in the Park in Suffolk. Katrina has also played at festivals around Europe this year including the Rewind Festival in Scotland with Go West, Limahl, Village People, ABC, etc., Keitelejazz festival in Finland and Here and Now at Ascot with Bananarama, Rick Astley, Belinda Carlisle, Midge Ure. Katrina also teamed up with Ben Crabbé from the Belgian band De Kreuners and Dany Lademacher from The Radios and Herman Brood and His Wild Romance to form Katrina and The Romance which toured festivals in Belgium in the summer of 2012.
Katrina Leskanich published her first book - "Peggy Lee Loves London - My London Guide" (2013) - a quirky photographic guide book about London.
In July, 2013, Katrina and her new band performed at festivals in the UK and Europe including the San Fermín festival in Pamplona in Spain on Plaza del Castillo and the Steinegg Festival in Italy.
Earlier in 2014, Katrina Leskanich, a vegetarian and firm believer of animal rights, supported 'Wildlife Rocks' with an acoustic performance. Other performers included lead guitarist of Queen (band) and founder of Save Me (animal welfare), Brian May. The event raised awareness for some vital wildlife projects and was attended by several Members of Parliament.
August 2014 sees the release of Katrina Leskanich's second solo album, 'Blisland' - inspired by the genre of music from her formative years - I wanted to record an album that reflected my love of all the genres of music I grew up listening to, from Peter Frampton Live to Neil Young's Harvest. I fell in love with the South West of England, the beautiful beaches reminded me of California and a little village called Blisland not only had a fantastic little pub but also gave me the perfect name for my new album.'
August 2014 also marks Katrina's first North American tour since the late 1980s. The Retro Futura Tour starts in NYC on August 21st 2014 with Thompson Twins' Tom Bailey (musician), Howard Jones (musician), Midge Ure and China Crisis.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license