Katrina Leskanich

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Katrina Leskanich
Katrina Leskanich performing in 1986 at a concert
Background information
Birth nameKatrina Elizabeth Leskanich[1]
Born (1960-04-10) April 10, 1960 (age 58)
Topeka, Kansas, United States
GenresNew wave, pop rock
Occupation(s)Singer, rhythm guitarist, actress, Radio DJ, TV Presenter, author
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
Years active1981–present
LabelsCapitol Records, Universal Records, Virgin, Warner Bros. Records, BMG, EMI, Katsweb
Associated actsKatrina and the Waves

Katrina Elizabeth Leskanich (born April 10, 1960) is an American musician, author and former lead singer of British pop rock band Katrina and the Waves whose song "Walking on Sunshine" was an international hit in 1985 and who in 1997 won the Eurovision Song Contest for the United Kingdom with the song "Love Shine a Light".

Early life[edit]

Leskanich was born in Topeka, Kansas. She is of Irish, German and Czech ancestry. 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 (then) West Germany, and the Netherlands before arriving in the United Kingdom in 1976.

Career with Katrina and the Waves[edit]

Early days (1975–80)[edit]

The band's earliest incarnation was as The Waves, a group that played in and around Cambridge, England, from 1975 to 1977 and featured guitarist Kimberley Rew and drummer Alex Cooper. This incarnation of the Waves never issued any recordings, and broke up when Rew left to join the Soft Boys.

A more direct ancestor of Katrina and the Waves was the band Mama's Cookin', a pop cover band hailing from Feltwell, England. This band, founded in 1978, featured American Katrina Leskanich on vocals and keyboards, her then-boyfriend (and fellow American) Vince de la Cruz on vocals and lead guitar and Marcos de la Cruz (aka "Dr Sod" of "Dr Sod's Backyard Landscaping Services" in Orange County California) on drums. By late 1980, Alex Cooper had joined the band on drums, with Bob Jakins on bass. Mama's Cookin' proceeded to gig steadily in England over the next two years, specialising in covers of songs by American acts such as Heart, Foreigner, Linda Ronstadt, and ZZ Top.

Early days as The Waves (1981–82)[edit]

When The Soft Boys broke up in 1981, Rew contacted his old Wave-mate Cooper to see about renewing their musical partnership. Cooper convinced Rew to join Mama's Cookin', and the five-piece group (Leskanich/Rew/Cooper/de la Cruz/Jakins) was quickly renamed The Waves after the band Rew and Cooper had been in together in the mid-1970s.

The Waves were initially fronted by singer/songwriter/guitarist Rew, who brought a wealth of original material to the band. Leskanich, meanwhile, originally only sang lead vocals on the cover tunes in the band's repertoire. However, over the first year of the Waves' existence, Rew began to write material for Leskanich to sing, and she was soon the primary vocalist.

The Waves made their initial recorded appearances on a 1982 single ("Nightmare"/"Hey, War Pig!"); both tracks were included on the 1982 Rew solo album called The Bible of Bop. The Waves then issued their debut EP Shock Horror later in 1982. Around this time, bassist Jakins left the band. He was not replaced, as de la Cruz took over on bass and the band was rechristened Katrina and the Waves.

Early Canadian success (1983–84)[edit]

In early 1983, the fledgling band recorded—at their own expense—an LP of their original material designed to be sold at gigs. Rew wrote all the songs on this LP, while Leskanich sang eight of the album's ten tracks. (Rew sang lead on the other two.)

The LP was shopped around to various labels, but only Attic Records in Canada responded with an offer.[2] Consequently, although they were based in England, Katrina and The Waves' first album Walking on Sunshine was released only in Canada.

The album garnered enough critical attention and radio play (especially for the title track) to merit a Canadian tour. In 1984, the group released a follow-up album in Canada (Katrina and the Waves 2), with Leskanich now handling all the lead vocals. Rew was still the primary songwriter, but de la Cruz was also responsible for a few songs, including the Canadian airplay hit "Mexico".

Also in 1984, their song "Going Down to Liverpool" was covered by The Bangles, which added to their profile. With the group building a fan base with their recordings and extensive touring, major label interest began to build, and Katrina and the Waves eventually signed an international deal with Capitol Records in 1985.

"Walking on Sunshine" and international success (1985–89)[edit]

For the first Capitol album, the band re-recorded, remixed, or overdubbed 10 songs from their earlier Canadian releases to create their self-titled international debut album in 1985.

The Katrina and the Waves album was a substantial critical and commercial success, and the group had a worldwide hit with the song "Walking on Sunshine," (No. 9 US, No. 8 UK, a completely re-recorded, and substantially rearranged version of the song when compared to its initial 1983 Canada-only release). A Grammy award nomination for "Best New Artist" followed, as did constant touring, both of which helped to spur sales of new releases.

A follow-up single to "Walking on Sunshine" called "Do You Want Crying" (written by de la Cruz) also became a top 40 US hit, reaching No. 37 in the late summer of 1985. However, the band's follow-up album to Katrina and the Waves (simply entitled Waves) didn't meet with the same measure of success. The album did spin off a minor UK and US hit in the form of the Rew-penned "Is That It?" (No. 70 US, No. 82 UK), and "Sun Street" (a de la Cruz composition) was a UK Top 30 hit in 1986. However, Capitol dropped the band after the Waves album didn't perform to expectations. The band subsequently recorded a 1989 album for Capitol-distributed SBK Records called Break of Hearts, a harder, more rock-oriented effort than their previous releases. The album included "That's the Way" which reached No. 16 in the US (written by Leskanich and Rew).

Downturn and surprise comeback (1990–97)[edit]

Throughout the nineties, Katrina and the Waves recorded fairly steadily, though most releases were available only in continental Europe and/or Canada. They also recorded the song "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" with Eric Burdon for the TV series "China Beach" in 1990. 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.[3] The song went to No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart (becoming the band's biggest-ever hit)[4] 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.

Solo career[edit]

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 Renārs Kaupers) hosted Congratulations – 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Copenhagen.

In 2005, Leskanich reflected on sharing her name with a hurricane that devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast in late August and early September of that year, after the name "Katrina and the Waves" appeared on numerous news television shows, headlines, and blog postings that were covering her namesake hurricane. When a New York Times reporter contacted her about this, she 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."[5] She also stated that she hoped that "Walking on Sunshine" would become an anthem for the Gulf Coast's recovery.[6]

Leskanich 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 May 15, 2007 in the United States.

Leskanich 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. Leskanich's cover of "They Don't Know" was included in the compilation Gylne Tider 2 which was released in 2007 and went platinum.

Leskanich 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 January 27, 2008 to March 9, 2008, Leskanich was one of three jury members for Eurosong 2008 in Belgium, the pre-selection for the Eurovision Song Contest.

On March 1, 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, Leskanich 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, Leskanich 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 Leskanich 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. Leskanich 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. Leskanich 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)[7][8][9] – a quirky photographic guide book about London.

2013 Leskanich and her new band performed at festivals in the UK and Europe including the San Fermín[10] festival in Pamplona in Spain on Plaza del Castillo and the Steinegg Festival in Italy.

2014 Leskanich, a firm believer in animal rights, supported 'Wildlife Rocks' with an acoustic performance. Other performers included lead guitarist of Queen and founder of the Save Me organisation, Brian May. The event raised awareness for some vital wildlife projects and was attended by several members of parliament.

Leskanich released her 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.'

In August 2014 Leskanich joined the Retro Futura Tour and toured North America for the first time since the late 1980s. The Retro Futura Tour line up included the Thompson Twins' Tom Bailey, Howard Jones, Midge Ure and China Crisis.

In 2015 Leskanich joined Rewind Festival to tour South Africa which was followed by her second tour of North America in March 2015.

When the United Kingdom You Decide United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest 2016 aired on BBC Four with the six UK finalist battling it out for a place in the final, Katrina was on the judging panel and gave her advice to the finalists and then performed her winning Eurovision 1997 song "Love Shine A Light".

In May 2016, Leskanich performed at Let's Rock the Moor! in Cookham, Berkshire plus Let's Rock Bristol and Let's Rock Leeds. In July 2016, Leskanich toured Australia on the Totally 80s Tour with Martika, Berlin, Limahl, Men Without Hats, Paul Lekakis and Stacey Q.

Leskanich was the United Kingdom spokesperson for the jury vote at the Eurovision Song Contest 2017, as a tribute to the 20th anniversary of Katrina and the Waves' Eurovision win.

In May 2017, Leskanich released her first compilation album 'The Very Best of Katrina'. In July Leskanich performed at Let's Rock Southampton, Let's Rock Exeter and Let's Rock London and in August 2017 Leskanich joined the Retro Futura Tour for the second time and toured North America. The Retro Futura Tour line up included Howard Jones, English Beat, Paul Young, Men Without Hats and Modern English.




  • They Don't Know digital release in 2006
  • They Don't Know Club Mixes – Katrina vs Sleazesisters digital release 2008
  • "Sun Coming Upper" digital release March 2015

Solo albums[edit]

  • Turn the Tide Limited release 2004
  • Katrina Leskanich released in 2006 – Universal Distribution
  • The Live Album digital release July 2010
  • Turn the Tide digital re-release with bonus tracks September 2010
  • Spiritualize digital release May 2011
  • "Blisland" digital release August 19, 2014
  • "The Very Best of Katrina" digital release May 3, 2017


Backing vocals[edit]

Katrina and The Waves[edit]


  • The Bible of Bop (Kimberley Rew) 1982 Armageddon Records
  • Shock Horror 1982 (The Waves) Aftermath Records
  • Walking on Sunshine 1983 Attic Records
  • The 2nd LP 1984 Attic Records
  • Katrina & The Waves 1985 Capitol Records
  • Waves 1986 Capitol Records
  • Break of Hearts 1989 SBK Records
  • Pet the Tiger 1991 Virgin Germany
  • Edge of the Land 1993 Polydor
  • Turnaround 1994 Polydor
  • Roses 1995 Polydor
  • Walk on Water 1997 Warner Music

Best of albums[edit]

  • The Best Of 1991 Attic Records
  • Anthology 1995 One Way Records
  • KATW/Waves 1996 BGO Records
  • Premium Gold Collection 1997 EMI
  • Greatest Hits of 1997 EMI
  • Walking on Sunshine 1997 Polygram Records
  • The Original Recordings 2003 BongoBeat Records


  • "The Nightmare" 1982 (The Waves) Armagedon Records
  • "Brown Eyed Son" 1982 (The Waves) Albion Records
  • "Plastic Man" 1984 Silvertown Records
  • "Walking on Sunshine" 1985 Capitol Records
  • "Red Wine & Whisky" 1985 Capitol Records
  • "Do You Want Crying?" 1985 Capitol Records
  • "Que Te Quiero 1985" Capitol Records
  • "Mexico" 1985 Capitol Records
  • "Is That It" 1986 Capitol Records
  • "Tears For Me" 1986 Capitol Records
  • "Lovely Lindsey" 1986 Capitol Records
  • "Sun Street" 1986 Capitol Records
  • "That's The Way" 1989 SBK Records
  • "Rock 'n' Roll Girl" 1989 SBK Records
  • "We Gotta Get out of This Place" 1989 SBK Records
  • "Pet the Tiger" 1991 Virgin Records
  • "Tears of a Woman" 1991 Virgin Records
  • "Birkenhead Garbage Pickers" 1992 Virgin Records
  • "I'm in Deep" 1993 Polydor
  • "Cookin'" 1994 Polydor
  • "The Street Where You Live" 1995 Polydor
  • "Honey Lamb" 1995 Polydor
  • "Turnaround" 1995 Polydor
  • "Walking Where the Roses Grow" 1995 Polydor
  • "Brown Eyed Son" 1997 Top Line records
  • "Love Shine a Light" 1997 Warner Music
  • "Walk on Water" 1997 Warner Music


  1. ^ "That's The Way - Katrina And The Waves - Custom Backing Track". Karaoke Version. Retrieved 2015-10-28.
  2. ^ Robin Schwartz (July 1985). How a postman, dishwasher, mortician, and a bowling-ball-hole-driller became Katrina and the Waves. Spin. p. 12. Retrieved 2010-08-22.
  3. ^ O'Connor, John Kennedy. The Eurovision Song Contest – The Official History. Carlton Books, UK. 2007 ISBN 978-1-84442-994-3
  4. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 297. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  5. ^ McElroy, Steven (1 September 2005). "Arts, Briefly". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  6. ^ Salkin, Allen (11 September 2005). "What's in a Name, Katrinas?". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  7. ^ Leskanich, K and Harper, S "Peggy Lee Loves London" Metropoodle Press 2013 ISBN 978-0-9575828-0-4
  8. ^ Isabel Choat. "Peggy Lee Loves London: a new guidebook starring a pet dog | Travel". theguardian.com. Retrieved 2014-01-23.
  9. ^ "Katrina Leskanich | Katrina – ex Katrina and the Waves | PressKatrina's Web". Katrinasweb.com. Archived from the original on February 3, 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  10. ^ "Katrina's Web". Katrinasweb.com. January 13, 2014. Retrieved 2014-01-23.

External links[edit]

Media related to Katrina Leskanich at Wikimedia Commons

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Republic of Ireland Eimear Quinn
with "The Voice"
Winner of the Eurovision Song Contest
(as part of Katrina and the Waves)
Succeeded by
Israel Dana International
with "Diva"
Preceded by
Gina G
with "Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit"
United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest
(as part of Katrina and the Waves)
Succeeded by
with "Where Are You?"