Home Music All Hail Cyndi Lauper, She’s Got the Blues

Cyndi Lauper is a savvy survivor. Of course, she’s not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And it’s a scandal. Lauper is the real deal. Not only does she have the hits, she’s also a multi talented musician and composer who constantly reinvents herself.

On Wednesday night, she showed off her latest invention: the blues. Her new album, “Memphis Blues,” is the genuine artifact, made with loving care and the actual musicians. In concert at Town Hall, she brought along not only legendary Charlie Musselwhite but also the great Allen Toussaint as guest stars. You’ve never seen Madonna do this before a show started: Lauper, eyes welling up, introduced her amazing band and then said what an honor it was to play with them.

It’s really a tribute to Lauper that she’s been able to adapt to the blues. The audience still wants “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” But that’s from more than 25 years ago. If you haven’t stayed in that time warp, then you know Cyndi has moved on constantly. Her albums, particularly 1993’s “Hatful of Stars,” are beautifully crafted gems that long ago jettisoned the kitschiness of her first record and videos for something far more complex.

Her show is still a hoot, though. Mixed in with the blues are rambling anecdotes and Lauper asides. Her natural sense of humor cannot be denied. She tells a disarming story, and gets serious. “Go on Google and look this music up,” she advised the audience about the blues. It’s an educational two hours. She’s like Gracie Allen: kooky on the outside, brilliant on the inside. (If you’re too young to get that, Gracie Allen was married to George Burns. Look them up on YouTube.)

Toussaint stayed for just two numbers–“Early in the Morning” and “Shattered Dreams.” If Lauper hadn’t already had a keyboard player, maybe Toussaint would have stayed for the best number of the night, “Mother Earth.” He’s featured on all three on the album. Even without him, “Mother Earth” — sandwiched between a couple of Cyndi’s pop hits–is a masterpiece. It’s as if they were archeologists discovering the Lost Ark. When they’re finally forced into “Girls,”  and “Change of Heart,” the band reimagines them with Musselwhite wailing away on his harmonica. “True Colors,” the finale, which Lauper plays on dulcimer, and which you thought you’d heard enough, sends shivers down the spine.

All hail Cyndi Lauper. And for god’s sake, get her into the Rock Hall already. Unlike Madonna, she’ll actually perform at the ceremony.

Photos c2010 Ann Lawlor

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
13 replies to this post
  1. Sorry Crispycandance, but Madonna did not deserve her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame…she is a POP artist, not a rock artist, and while her music was catchy and danceable and commercial, it was neither rock & roll or influential on rock music (like some of the blues and soul artists that have been inducted).

    That being said, while I’ve been a Cyndi Lauper fan since day one, she doesn’t belong in the R&RHF either. While an incredibly talented singer, Lauper is not a rock artist…though if she keeps singing the blues as well as she does on her new album, she might become one yet! Kudos to Cyndi for going to Memphis and getting real bluesmen like Charlie Musselwhite and B.B. King to contribute to her album.

    No need to Google the blues…check out http://blues.about.com!

  2. A “scandal” that Cyndi Lauper is NOT in the Wenner HOF? Yes, Roger, and it’s a 9/11-level tragedy that Huey Lewis and the News aren’t in either, by that standard of “thinking”…

  3. You are right Lisa, her name is spelt Cyndi not Cindy. Maybe if Cyndi’s impact on the music industry was truly big, like Madonna’s was, I’ld remember how to spell her name correctly. After all, Cindy, sorry Cyndi was only truly successful for a couple of years nearly 30 years ago. We do remember Cyndi Lauper, but she is also easily forgotton.
    And Vince, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the highest award an artist can recieve. It is not purley about sales, it is about the contribution an artist has made to the music industry. If you don’t want Cyndi there, that is fine. It would be without a doubt Cyndi’s loss, not the hall of fame’s loss. In the meantime the Janet and Whitney fans will support their stars and get them in. On top of that male singers from the 80’s like George Micheal etc… will have their fans supporting them. In a few years time, the likes of Maraih, Celion will qualify and before you know it, Cyndi will have missed her opportunity. Her three years may not stand up to the competition that came afterwards. She may never get in. Cyndi Lauper is at the risk of being “Easily Forgotton”.

  4. So the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is purely about sales and not artistry or being able to sing? WHAT A SHAME! PLS, DON’T PUT CYNDI THERE!

  5. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” wasn’t Cindy’s biggest hit, her biggest hit was “Time After Time.” This is when Cindy was at her peak.
    At Cindy’s peak, “Time After Time” was knocked off the number one position by a song called ‘Like a Virgin” This was in 1984.
    After this, Cindy Lauper never had the same success ever again.
    Once Madonna arrived, she instantly created a throne for a Queen (as the music industury at that time only had thrones for Kings) and sat on it. To this day, Madonna has never got off the Queen’s throne she created. Cindy Lauper very quickly became a thing of the past.
    “True colours” in 1987 showed that the Cindy Lauper days had long gone. It was all about Madonna.
    In reference to the Hall of Fame, Madonna does deserve to be there. She has been successful for three decades, not three years like Cindy Lauper was.
    Does Cindy belong in the Hall Of Fame? She has potential, but so does Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston (Both artists, like Cindy, had their first hit more than 25 years ago. I think Whitney was 24 years ago) However Janet and Whitney did have longer and more successful careers than Cindy in the end.
    Madonna, Cindy, Janet and Whitney were without a doubt four of the strongest women in the music industry in the 80’s, however when comparing, it is easy to put Cindy, Janet and Whitney on the same level. Madonna was on a level of her own, far far far above the others.
    Madonna definatly deserves Hall of Fame status.
    Cindy, Janet and Whitney all have potential to. (I would like to see all of them in the hall of fame, but out of them all, Madonna deserves to be there the most)

  6. Couldn’t agree more. Lauper is the real deal; Madonna is simply slick packaging and PR.
    Great to hear about her new record; I plan on purchasing it.
    As for the Hall of Fame, what else could we expect from Jann Wenner?

  7. Roger,

    Thank you for your posting. I saw Cyndi some years ago in NYC at a tribute concert for a woman music executive who had died (regretfully, I forget her name). She followed some big names at this event, and when she got on stage something happened I’ve never witnessed before. People were sitting in their seats throughout the entire concert placidly and politely and within 15 seconds of Cyndi’s first song, people rushed the stage and the place really lit up. That was when I first became a fan, when I saw her live. The charisma, stage presence and voice were almost overwhelming. She was on the Howard Stern show a few weeks ago with Johnny Lang (sp.?) and sang a few songs from the new blues CD just in front of a mike, no mixing, no nothing, and her voice was supernatural. Really truly an amazing singer who – putting aside her talent – does so much charitable work. I look forward to seeing her live again. She did a version of “Rainbow” on Howard Stern a couple of years ago that raised the hair on the back of my neck, seriously. Thank you for this post, Amy

  8. Speaking of inventions in the “Blues” dept check out the personsable, playable FlashHarp harmonica USB flash drive Gizmodo calls “4gbs of musical goodness.” Its preloaded vid lesson is by me. Ships free. Facebook fans save 20%! Best of all it’s haute to tote and a hoot to toot. I’m the inventor and “soul” purveyor, btw.

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