EIGHTIES pop princess Cyndi Lauper is still a girl who just wants to have fun – even if these days that means singing the Memphis Blues, writes Graham Walker.
The chameleon post punk star with multi-coloured hair, outrageous frocks and a colourful personality to match, was the Lady Gaga of her generation.
Signature hits Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Time After Time and True Colours continue to attract new fans almost 30-years-on, as a staple of radio stations playing the enduring pop hits of a voice behind 11 albums, 40 singles and over 30 million record sales.
Now the effervescent Miss Lauper – at the age of 59 – has finally come of age with her latest album, called Memphis Blues.
It features blues classics by the likes of Muddy Waters, Albert King and Robert Johnson, with a Memphis backing band to die for – including BB King, Ann Peebles and harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite, said to have inspired The Blues Brothers.
This might sound like too much of an unexpected departure for the girl best know for hen party classics, who got her big break after a rock and wrestling collaboration with WWE.
But the buying public know best and kept it at number one on the USA Billboard Blues Album Chart for 14 consecutive weeks. Memphis Blues was also Grammy nominated.
That’s something she is immensely proud of, she says, as she prepared for her Memphis Blues Tour date at Sheffield City Hall.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch Graham Walker’s video chat backstage with Cyndi Lauper at the start of her UK tour.
AUDIO: Listen to their big phone interview by clicking on the External Link in the column on the right.
REVIEW: Read Graham Walker’s review of Cyndi Lauper’s Memphis Blues Tour - click on the story link below.
“I thought the music was very inviting, the musicians playing on it were so great and I’m glad I was instrumental in shining a spotlight on the blues,’’ said Cyndi, explaining the appeal of her latest work.
“Part of it I guess is because I don’t come from that world. But I thought we did a legitimate blues album.
“I like to do the arrangements on my feet. I don’t like stuff written out, except for the chords. I’m a ‘feel’ singer. I like to feel what I’m doing and figure it out from there.
“So it was an interesting process working with these extraordinary musicians who I listened to growing up.”
Lauper has worked with everyone from Sheffield’s own Human League to Cher and Tina Turner.
She branched out to Broadway, appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice, has had cameos on TV shows, including The Simpsons, is a tireless gay rights campaigner and is working on a forthcoming stage musical of Brit comedy Kinky Boots. She’s married to actor David Thornton and they have a 13-year-old son Declyn Wallace Thornton.
She’s certainly not stuck for words. Yet our all too brief chat becomes a history lesson in the blues – from vaudeville singer Morton Harvey’s first recording of a blues song, called Memphis Blues, to the inspirational women who drove the style, including Mamie Smith, Sophie Tucker and the mother of blues, Ma Rainey. She dedicates the album to her.
Lauper, who started out in the 1970s singing Janis Joplin songs in cover bands, admits she would be lynched if she didn’t include her biggest hits in every live show.
So, I ask, after all these years, is she still a girl who juust wants to have fun?
The New Yorker giggles: ”Well yes, who doesn’t? And if it isn’t fun, why do it?
“I took it seriously singing with these guys. But I also had a good time and I laughed a lot.”
UK Tour Dates
Mon 20th MANCHESTER BRIDGEWATER HALL 0161 907 9000
Thu 23rd GLASGOW ROYAL CONCERT HALL 0141 353 8000
Fri 24th SHEFFIELD CITY HALL 0114 2789 789
Sun 26th BIRMINGHAM SYMPHONY 0121 780 3333
Mon 27th BRISTOL COLSTON HALL 0117 922 3686
Tues 28th BRIGHTON DOME 01273 709 709
Thu 30th LONDON HAMMERSMITH APOLLO 08448 44 47 48
Fri July 1 CORNBURY FESTIVAL 0844 338 0000
* Theatre ticket prices £33.50 / £30.00 except £35.00 / £32.50 London – showtime 7.30pm except London 8pm
Official website: cyndilauper.com
Official Twitter: twitter.com/shebop_aka_cyn