By JESSICA A. BOTELHO
NEW BEDFORD – After performing to a sold out crowd at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center last year, singing sensation Cyndi Lauper is returning to New Bedford, Mass., on July 27th and will be playing songs from her new covers album, “Memphis Blues.” With over 25 years as a pop artist under her belt, Lauper said she yearned to branch out a bit and made a blues album.
“I had wanted to do a blues record for eight years,” Lauper said. “I’m glad I waited. It would have been a good record years ago, but it would have been different. I’m grateful to be able to do it now.”
Lauper said she was fortunate to share vocals with blues legend B.B. King on “Early in the Morning,” while guitarist Johnny Lang appears on “How Blue Can You Get” and “Crossroads.” Soul singer and songwriter Ann Peebles also made a cameo on the track “Rollin’ and Tumblin.’”
“Oh, my God, I sang on the same microphone as Ann Peebles,” Lauper laughed. “Do you know how awesome that was? I can’t even believe it.”
Another artist Lauper said made a big impact on “Memphis Blues” was the multi-talented musician Allen Toussaint.
“When Allen Toussaint sat down and played, ‘Shattered Dreams,’ it was like Voo-Doo,” Lauper said. “When we were doing it, I really felt like I fell into a dream. It was a great experience. They are all incredible players and I was blessed. Charlie Musselwhite was great on the album and he actually plays with me live. He’s awesome.”
As eager as she was to do a blues recording, Lauper said she still had some reservations about how her fans would receive the music.
“It was hard at first, but I decided to do it and it’s actually going over pretty good,” she said. “I kept going and I kept trying and I felt that I needed to experience this and this was the right time. I wanted to sing the blues to the people, but with humor.”
She said she believes the songs she selected to cover on the album all have just the right attitude she was searching for.
“I wanted to sing music that was uplifting because the best parts of the blues are uplifting,” said Lauper. “That was really the motivation in choosing the material. These are all wonderful, old songs that really spoke to what is going on today. They relate to what’s going on now. That’s the timeless thing about the blues. These songs have courage and spit and vinegar because that’s how we get through.”
In addition to performing songs from her new album, Lauper said she plans on playing some of her old songs, too.
“I wouldn’t not play ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’,” she laughed. “It would be rotten if I didn’t.”
Most recently, Lauper has joined forces with another female artist that just wants to “have fun.” Lauper and Lady Gaga have been appointed as spokespeople for the 2010 MAC Viva Glam Campaign in order to raise money for AIDS research and treatment. The campaign also seeks to educate woman about HIV/AIDS around the world.
“I wanted to be a Viva Glam Girl since the first time it came out,” Lauper said. “They told me I’d be doing it with Lady Gaga. I met her once and I thought, ‘well, she’s great. I love her work.’ I think she’s a great performance artist.”
Lauper said one of the main reasons she and Gaga were chosen for the campaign is because AIDS is an epidemic in women of their age brackets. The highest new rates of infection are in women between the ages of 17 and 24, and between 39 and 60.
“When I did the Viva Glam Campaign, I learned a lot about AIDS,” Lauper said. “AIDS has no discrimination. AIDS is the leading killer of African American women in our country. 100 percent of the proceeds (of the campaign) goes to fight AIDS. Spend $14 and give a tube of lipstick to your kid sister and tell her to protect herself.”
Another organization Lauper is affiliated with is the “Give a Damn Campaign,” a movement she designed in order to support the gay community.
“I did, ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ to raise awareness on the civil rights problem in our country in the LGBT community,” she said. “The money I raised from there I used to start, ‘giveadamn.org.’ It’s been extraordinary to be a part of.”
Lauper originally began her unofficial work as an advocate for civil rights in 1986, when she wrote and recorded the song, “True Colors,” in honor of her homosexual sister. Lauper also said her family has encouraged her music through the years, especially her husband and her son.
“I think getting married and having a child made my music deeper and better,” she said. “I was proud to join the ranks of the many women who came before me who were mothers and artists.”
As a female musician, she said the release of her hit song, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” was a milestone and a huge success for both her career and for women everywhere.
“I only hoped it would do what it does now and it did,” she said. “It’s better to spend your life energy working on projects that are bigger than yourself.”
One project Lauper recently worked on was with Mattel. The toy company made a line of Barbie Dolls called “Ladies from the 80s” and they released a Cyndi Laiper doll.
“Who do you think they worked with on the outfits?” Lauper laughed. “I wanted the outfits to look like the cover of the single sleeve. I couldn’t get the earrings, though.”
As flattering as having a doll made after her is, Lauper said the most memorable moments for her life over the years have been hearing other performers cover her music.
“I really loved it when Miles Davis covered ‘Time After Time’ or when Patti La Belle sang it right in my face,” Lauper joked. “I thought to myself, ‘it don’t get any better than that.’ But, it does. Everyday, I pinch myself.”