Catching up with. . . Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper was one of the defining stars of the 1980’s. Her debut album “She’s So Unusual” sold over five million copies and gave Cyndi four Top Ten singles including her signature, a song known as well today as it was then “Girl’s Just Want To Have Fun”. 

Born in Queens, New York and raised in Brooklyn, Cyndi dropped out of High School to pursue her singing career. After singing in several local cover bands, in 1977 Lauper began writing material with keyboardist John Turi. Together they became Blue Angel and over the next few years developed a loyal following in New York. 1980 saw the release of Blue Angel’s first and only album. It’s lackluster reception lead to the dissolution of Blue Angel and Lauper began singing in area restaurants and clubs. In 1983 her boyfriend/manager David Wolff secured a recording contract with Portrait Records that lead to the release of the album that would come to define the 80’s.

While her music has not since seen the success of her debut solo effort, the unusual girl has never slowed down. Be it music, Broadway, or TV, she’s still going strong. Her current tour in support of her newest music offering “The Body Acustic” lands Lauper in Texas this weekend.

I caught up with Cyndi on the road . . .

SL: You burst upon the scene in 1984 with music and a style that would come to define the 80’s. Tell me about your start, and how you handled so much success so fast?

CL: My life really stayed the same it just got a lot bigger. I always worked a lot and I just started working more. I had the same friends, hung out in the same places. I got to see the world, which I would not have been able to do before the fame and money. I met a lot of people that I probably never would have met in music because of the success– great artists too numerous to name. 

SL: Almost immediately young women began to copy your unique style in hair and dress. Is this why you seem to constantly reinvent yourself?

CL: It was amazing because for a long time I was made fun of for what I wore. To see people emulating my style was liberating.

SL: So many artists that emerged around the time that you did would be candidates for Where Are They Now? Yet be it music, the stage, or screen your career has not stopped. To what do you attribute your staying power?

CL: I’ve had a healthy career. I am still making music, still touring, been on Broadway, I am in development for my own TV show. I have outlets for my creativity and that is all one can really ever hope and dream for. 

SL: Looking back over your career, what project or accomplishment are you most proud of? Why?

CL: Everything from music to TV to acting. I am proud of everything in my life. 

SL: As you are well aware, you have a tremendous Gay following. You have been very active in supporting both the community and its causes. What has our community meant to you?

CL: I have always had a strong connection with the gay community. It is my family too. I have been involved in many charities and in recent years I have been heavily involved with PFLAG and the Matthew Sheppard Foundation. I think it’s my music, it speaks to the outsider, it speaks to “being an individual” and also to embracing people for who they are.

SL: So many listen you your music, if we were to peek into your CD changer, who would we find there?

I have so many. Everyone from Janis Joplin, Marianne Faithful, Etta James, Louis Armstrong, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Billie Holiday to Jimi Hendrix. 

SL: Your latest project “The Body Acoustic” is while a visit to your roots, is also a departure in that it is a more simple production that offers a pure and simple feel. How did this project come about?

CL: I was going to make a blues CD. I’ve always wanted to. But it never came together. So in the end the record company and manager were in conversations and somehow it came up that I had never done an unplugged CD. I thought it would be interesting to be able to play and sing at the same time. I was playing little benefits like that and never recorded anything so I thought it would be something I would be proud of. So I did. And I tried to make it into a celebration by inviting some friends.

SL: Looking at a track listing one might think this is a greatest hits compilation, but it is not. How did you select the tracks for this project?

CL: The idea of the track selections stemmed from live shows. To cut back on costs for the charity events, I always cut back on production and usually play acoustic and certain songs took on a new face and I wanted to show it. Also I wanted to see what songs lived in that dulcimer world.

SL: The dulcimer is at the heart of this project. For those who don’t know, tell us about this instrument and how it has become such a central part of your music.

CL: I’ve always wanted a hammer dulcimer, but I play a mountain dulcimer. I saw it in a shop one day and bought it along with a dozen other instruments that I couldn’t play. But I love tinkering with them. I also bought a Mel Bays book (Bless Mel!) I can learn much easier with a picture. Then I met my teacher David Schnaufer who bought me my first good dulcimer. I started to write on it and wrote Kindred Spirit. Then I just started playing more with my wonderful band and studied with David a little. The Dulcimer opened me up again. I love it. It’s simple and beautiful all at once. I love the drone of it. 

SL: You worked on this CD with a who’s who of the music industry. Sarah McLaughlin, Jeff Beck, Vivian Green Ani Difranco, and Shaggy among others. Years down the road when you reflect on this project, what will you remember most?

CL: I chose artists that I have always admired and wanted to work with. And a lot of the artists on my wish list said yes. Sarah McLachlan is fantastic. She sings like an angel. How could you not love her voice? It was so much fun to work with Sarah. As for Vivian Green, she has so much heart.

SL: The last time you and I talked you were promoting Sisters in Avalon, you were very pregnant, and gave birth just days later. How is motherhood treating you?

CL: I love it. My son is eight now. And I do the best I can. Someone told me once I’ll have to let some things like house cleaning go and spend as much time as I can with him. I guess I won’t be baking a lot of cookies and things like that. But I do make homemade sauce for him sometimes.

SL: You arrive in Texas next week on your new tour. What can we expect?

CL: Everything. Come to one of the shows in Texas and you will see. I love Texas. Always have fun when I am there. The video for “Money Changes Everything” was shot in Houston. I can’t wait .

SL: You have done almost everything. What’s next for Cyndi Lauper?

CL: After this tour, I am going back to the studio to begin work on a new album of which will feature dance leaning tracks. I’m always writing so I am looking forward to recording the songs. I should have an album out in Spring 2007. I am also launching the “True Colors” tour in 2007. Erasure will be headlining the tour with me. The tour will be from Memorial Day to 4th of July 2007. 

More on Cyndi at www.cyndilauper.com