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        THIS SUMMER'S SINGING SENSATION

                                    by: Lorrie Lynch

       30-year-old Lilith Fair leader Sarah McLachlan plugs into the issues of her generation.

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    Sitting across from Sarah McLachlan, it's impossible to imagine her a gawky, anxious teen growing up in Nova Scotia. Considered the hottest ticket on the summer concert circuit, this polished professional just a dozen years ago was struggling with feeling "ugly and stupid," seeking peer approval big time. Today she's the leader of Lilith Fair, the all-female music tour, and the woman most likely to stand out when we look back at artists most important to '90s pop music.

    What a difference a decade makes. "It took me a long time to get over the 'you're ugly and stupid' thing," McLachlan confesses. "From age 13 to 18 it was consistent in my life from my peers. You want desperately to fit in, and I tried hard, but I didn't."
    Peer approval is no question now. On performance nights, exuberant crowds scream for encores. Two Grammy Awards and two multiplatinum albums, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and Surfacing, would be evidence enough that people relate to her folk-pop sound. But fans also say they love that in two sucessful summers of Lilith, McLachlan has proved girls can do what the guys always have done: play on the same bill and pack the house (last year's tour made $16 million.)

    McLachlan and her Lilith compradres are for Generation X what Joni Mitchell was for baby boomers. "Every generation needs its confessional singer-songwriter," says Entertainment Weekly music critic David Browne. "She's independent-minded but has this kind of frilly, girly side, too, and I don't mean that in a demeaning way. I think women and men in their 30s and 40s can relate to her."

    McLachlan taps into her generation's issues and life passages with dead-on accuracy; her themes --- finding one's identity, lost or unrequited love --- are universal. The affecting opening line from her current radio hit Adia, "Adia, I do believe that I have failed you," resonates for many. Some find her songwriting depressing, but McLachlan says, "One of my biggest motivators in life is that quest for happiness, because so much purity and truth comes out of that."

    She's on a happiness high at the moment, even on a dark tour bus. The road has been her life, but she owns a three-bedroom house in Vancouver, British Columbia. When the 57-date tour ends this month, she and her husband of less than a year, drummer Ashwin Sood, 31, plan to say put for awhile. Another Lilith, pared down, is in the works for 1999, and with any luck a pregnacy will follow. "With unconditional love and an amazing husband, you want to finish things off, y'know?

    Colleagues describe McLachlan as gracious and welcoming. She writes personal notes and sends gifts to the ladies joining Lilith. She talkes with ease, laughs raucously and doesn't hide the fact that she's in charge.

    "I have a great sense of myself that I've never had before," she says. "A lot of things came together for me in the last year --- getting married, finding somebody I really believe I'll spend the rest of my life with. Because I did have that Cinderella thing growing up. You think you deserve to find somebody who really, really loves you."
    Feeling well-loved has freed her, McLachlan says, to write songs about emotions she once kept at bay. "At some point in your life you start to question, 'Oh, geez, maybe this is as good as it gets.' But you know there's something better. Then when you find it, it becomes blatantly clear."

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