November 24, 2010 | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Hat full of blues

Cyndi Lauper (Photo by Ellen Von Unwerth)

Gays love La Lauper, ’tis no secret. And the feelings are mutual. In honor of her D.C. show Saturday at the 9:30 Club, she e-mailed her thoughts on the blues, her lesser-known albums, her inspirations and how it feels to be immortalized in Barbie doll form.

The new album is doing quite well — do you think this might become a regular genre for you (i.e. blues) where you may do several projects in this vein as Dolly Parton did with bluegrass when her “Grass is Blue” album sold solidly and spawned a trilogy?

I am not sure yet. Just living and enjoying this release right now. I am filming a live DVD in Memphis in a few weeks that will come out Spring 2011. Basically it’s the show we’ve been doing on the road since “Memphis Blues” has come out. It will include songs from “Memphis Blues,” my hits and a few new songs. We will see after that. Stay tuned.

You made some phenomenal albums like “Hat Full of Stars” and “Sisters of Avalon” that were largely overlooked. Hindsight is 20/20 (they say) — the material, songwriting and production were so good, why do you think they failed to catch on to the degree that your early albums did?

I honestly don’t know. I am very proud of those records and am often told by fans that “Sisters” or “Hat Full of Stars” is their favorite CD, so its nice to hear and I continue to perform songs from those CDs live so hopefully they can grow the old fashioned way on the road.

Did you overcut tracks for any or many of your ’80s and ’90s albums? Are there outtakes and alternate versions from the “Unusual” or “Colors” sessions just waiting for a box set someday?

No I didn’t. We didn’t do things like that back in ’80s and ’90s. Sony has put out so many, and in my opinion, too many greatest hits packages, something I have very little control over, and there are too much “greatest hits” packages, box sets, etc. out there already and I don’t think my fans need more of that. The only greatest hits I am proud of or had anything to do with was “12 Deadly Cyns.”

How would you summarize your philosophy of set list building? What makes an effective set list? Do you like doing covers or deep album cuts in concert to surprise the hardcore fans?

My set list is different with each show. As you can see, I love to mix some old into something new with each performance. You should hear how “Girl” sounds with this tour. I have to say it’s really good. Come to a show and you will know what I am talking about.

You’ve been such an outspoken proponent for gay rights in so many ways — was there any sense that you might come to be thought of largely for that?  i.e. was the new album in any way a chance to do something unrelated to gay activism and perhaps stretch some different creative muscles?

No, I never thought that. I thought I have to do something to help my family and friends who deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and most importantly as equal citizens. Here in the United States where everyone is supposed to be free and have the same rights as the person next to you, it angers me that people are still singled out and told they are less than the rest of us. So, if by my speaking up and using whatever celebrity I have to tell it like it is has garnered me a reputation, then it means it is working and shows others when you speak up you can make a difference. I wanted to do an album that spoke to the nation’s mood right now, and blue definitely sums it up. From the economy to the wars to the fact that people are still not treated equally on many fronts. Blues music is a genre that the gay community, for those who haven’t already, should embrace because blues is about telling uplifting stories through overcoming the obstacles in one’s life. It is a message that everyone can connect to, but I think gay and transgender people can benefit from it even more given the times we still live in.

What did you think of the Cyndi Lauper Barbie doll that came out last year? Do you think it looked like you? Did you have to give permission for that?

I love it. They did a fab job, right? Yes as I had a lot of creative input. Hope you like it.

There were some years where it seemed like you went eons between records but now it feels like you’re back in a pretty regular groove of writing, recording and touring. There are probably a million reasons for that but any overarching factors that led to that?

Nothing really. I get bored very easily. Love new challenges. Maybe that’s why I am doing something different all the time.

You’ve made a lot of specialty records — a standards album, a Christmas album, an acoustic record and now a blues record. Is it artistically or commercially rewarding to go into a project with some theme in mind versus doing a straight-up studio project?

I just follow my spirit. I have no idea what’s next. Maybe a new studio CD, maybe a specialty record.   Really the ideas for all of my albums have kind of come to me and then I focus and do the best I can each time out.

Is your relationship with your gay fans symbiotic? How so?

I have had a long standing love affair with the LGBT community. My relationship with the community has been one of the greatest things that has come out of my music. The community has been there for me throughout my career and I will be there for the community until the end. My commitment is undying and everlasting.

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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