Interview: Cyndi Lauper
* Originally published at cherrygrrl.com, November 14, 2011 – Read the full text here
We challenge you to name a top-selling, high-charting female singer/songwriter in the 21st century not inspired by Cyndi Lauper. As a matter of fact, we challenge you to find someone who doesn’t know all of the words to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Go ahead, we’ll wait. Can’t do it? That’s right, and with good reason.
Cynthia Ann Stephanie “Cyndi” Lauper was the first female artist to have four top-five singles released from one album, and if you name an award, she’s probably got one. So, it was a great privilege for CherryGRRL to discuss success, LGBTQ activism, and her latest album–a blues project–with the Queens, New York native.
CherryGRRL (CG): When you reach a certain level of success, does breaking records or receiving awards become frivolous or boring?
Cyndi Lauper (CL): Never. It’s always nice to be recognized for your work. It’s a nice honor, of course.
CG: You are one of the best-selling artists of all-time. What does that mean to you?
CL: That I have the most amazing fans in the world.
CG: You’ve received numerous rewards; an Emmy, VMAs, more than one Grammy… Is it more important to be respected by an audience, or other artists?
CL: An audience, always.
CG: You have always been very outspoken regarding your LGBTQ fan-base and how much they mean to you. When did you begin to notice that your music—and your ideals—resonated with people?
CL: I’ve always had friends and family in the community. When I started putting out records, lots of my fans were of the community, so I wanted to show my support and love… Just like I’ve been given that support and love.
CG: At age 24, you damaged your vocal cords very seriously and were told by 3 physicians that you wouldn’t sing again. How did you overcome such a massive blow to your career?
CL: I took a year off, and just worked my hardest to regain it.
CG: The loss of your voice was one of just a series of obstacles you have faced in your career. What advice would you give to those who are struggling to find their foothold in a career, and/or life?
CL: Be true to yourself. Believe in yourself, and don’t give up!
CG: Your style is as iconic and well-known as your music; who and what inspire(s) your fashion?
CL: Everything around me inspires my fashion; from my music, to the people that I meet every day. I just love fashion… I always have. Since I was a kid, when I flipped through all of my mom’s glamour magazines. For the last 5 years, I have been working with Nikki Fontanella, a really talented New York-based stylist. We are a team.
CG: “Time After Time” has been covered over 100 times. As an artist who began singing in a “cover band,” is it strange to know your music is how people are beginning to sing?
CL: It’s not strange at all. I am just thrilled that I can still connect, and that I can still do what I love to do!
CG: You were always political in your music. Did Ellen’s [Lauper’s sister] experience coming out motivate you to discuss homophobia or same-sex relationships in greater detail in your music?
CL: I’ve always been friends and family of (the community). Naturally, it’s just a part of my life to be involved.
CG: Where did Memphis Blues come from? Did you always want to create a traditional blues album?
CL: This is an album I’ve wanted to do for 8 years. I wanted to do a blues cover project back in ’04, when I was still at Sony, but it didn’t work out. That’s okay, because it would have been a different journey, a different outcome. I am very proud of Memphis Blues. I have always been a fan of blues, because as Muddy Waters is quoted, “If blues gave birth to a child, that child would be rock and roll…”
I guess I first “discovered” the blues when my favorite rock bands from the late 60s and 70s would talk about how the blues influenced their music. I heard the names Robert Johnson, Big Momma Thorton, and BB King for the first time. I wanted to hear what these musicians did to influence those bands. It opened up a whole new world for me.
CG: Tell me about “We Give A Damn” campaign. What was/is your involvement?
CL: “We Give A Damn” campaign is to get straight people to stand up for the gay community, so all of us have civil rights and America can be the country it is supposed to be – where we are all treated the same. We started it because we wanted to help in the effort to build support in the straight community. If we want equality anytime soon, we have to bring our straight family and friends into the movement and start having conversations with them on a regular basis about how they can help. Check outwww.wegiveadamn.org.
CG: In a life so full of experience and opportunity, what continues to excite you about every day?
CL: My beautiful son.
Find out more about Cyndi’s Grammy-nominated blues record Memphis Blues, her current philanthropic efforts, and more info about the star on her website, and if you’re in the NYC area on Sunday, December 4th, purchase tickets for her benefit concert at New York’s famed Beacon Theatre HERE!