Cyndi Lauper, Dr. John bring true color to Kleinhans
blog by Ben Kirst • October 22, 2011 @ 8:15am
If you were born after—I dunno, 1980?—you may not realize just how integral Cyndi Lauper was to late-20th century American pop culture.
Back to Lauper—although she kicked around the music industry beginning in the early 1970s, the Queens native saw her star ascend in 1983 when her solo album She’s So Unusual captured the zeitgeist of a nation whose girls did, indeed, just want to have fun. Lauper, with her multicolored tresses, wild outfits and raw New York attitude, suddenly rocketed to mega-stardom and was seemingly part of everything ‘80s—MTV, the WWF, The Goonies, USA for Africa, Ms. Magazine. She’s So Unusual topped out at number four on the Billboard Top 200 and sold over 6 million copies in the United States.
Her success continued with the 1986 album True Colors, which also hit number four on the Billboard Top 200 and sold over 2 million copies. She starred in a bad feature film (Vibes). She sang the theme song to Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. She was poised to take over the world…
...but didn’t. Hey, tastes change! Lauper continued to make critically-acclaimed records, but the American public stopped paying attention. Over the next two decades, Lauper reinvented herself as a successful, Grammy-nominated blues artist and LGBT activist and is now kind of an elder stateswoman in the music world. She is certainly more than just another Celebrity Apprentice guest.
Dr. John is one of those backbone guys in rock ‘n’ roll—he’s had a few hits, but he is really a musician’s musician, a guy who has worked with tons of big stars (Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, Lou Reed, Aretha Franklin, among many others), someone whose work is so ubiquitous—from Popeye’s commercials to movie soundtracks—that you know Dr. John even if you never heard of him.
An insanely talented pianist and arranger, Dr. John combined psychedelia with jazz, blues and creole folk to create (alright, let’s roll out the typical cliches) a spicy gumbo of New Orleans rock. Back in the day, Dr. John would play the role of Cajun madman to the hilt, wearing elaborate headdresses and costumes—kind of a backwoods Elton John. Nowadays, he’s more likely to roll out in a sharp white suit than a water buffalo helmet, but hey, you never know! He is a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer and a helluva fun performer in concert. Worth checking out on a Tuesday night.