Hương Lan was born Tran Thi Ngoc Anh, on May 9, 1956 in Saigon. The eldest of 5 children, and daughter of Huu Phuoc. Her name is derived from the stage name of the ancient king of Thanh Huong and the queen of Ut Bach Lan. She first appeared on the stage of the Great Music Festival in 1966 performing "Ai Ra Xứ Hue" by musician Duy Khanh. Someone once described her singing " as beautiful as pink velvet, which is sun-dried in the wind and sun, the shadow is blurred, and the light is shimmering and changing according to each wave." Even from a young age, she specialized in performing the "ancient music" of Vietnam.
She emigrated to France in 1978, and then to the USA in 1985. Huong became the first overseas Vietnamese singer to perform in her home country in 1996. Since then, she has often travelled between Vietnam and the US for performances. "What I find most satisfying about my singing career is being able to sing to audiences in my home country," she said. "I have performed on state-of-the-art stages in many countries to wealthy audiences, but no one has brought tears to my eyes like a poor elderly woman I met after a show in Can Tho City in 1997. She had to sell some bushels of rice to have enough money to buy a ticket to see my show and she had to walk a long way to see me perform." Huong Lan's motto is 'honour your audience'.