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The Girl is Still Having Fun

Cyndi Lauper comes to town with Dr. John October 25

It’s a typical weeknight, and a Tennessee couple welcomes several guests into their warehouse-turned-home for a night dedicated to the blues. Soon their spacious living room—frequently used as a Memphis entertainment venue—is bumpin’. Live musicians and studio musicians are doing a sound check, while in walk blues legends Allen Toussaint, Tracy Nelson, and Jonny Lang, all invited to perform by the party host and musical icon herself, Cyndi Lauper. “I wanted to go back to Memphis and have a little party and perform,” Lauper told me during a phone conversation last Saturday afternoon, speaking with a carefree “Hey, why not?”’ attitude. With 30 million in sales, 34 music awards under her belt, and boxes of hair dye later, it’s obvious that the musical icon, now 58 and a one-toned blonde, still knows how to have fun.

Currently on tour belting out new hits off her Grammy-nominated album, Memphis Blues, which reached number one on the Billboard blues albums chart for 14 weeks, Lauper organized the Memphis show as a celebration of her love for the blues genre and the city of Memphis.

“I wanted people to hear these peoples’ voices and hear who they are and what they do,” she said. “And it was awesome!” A live concert DVD documenting the show titled To Memphis With Love is set to release on Megaforce Records on October 25. That same night, Lauper will be coming to Kleinhans Music Hall with New Orleans funk and blues legend, Dr. John, as part of their current Memphis to Mardi Gras Tour.

“Within this genre, there are still all these great working musicians. BB King is working. Buddy Guy is working. Staples is working. And now I’m working with Dr. John, an American classic. It’s pretty extraordinary, come on!” she says, her passion for the genre oozing through her strong Brooklyn accent.

This won’t be her first time in Buffalo, nor her second, third, or fourth. She laughed, recalling her first time in Buffalo, playing with her first short-lived group, Blue Angel, back in the early 1980s, around the same time she was earning a small paycheck as a retail girl at New York City thrift shop Screaming Mimis.

“I saved some of my clothes so I know it really happened, so I could remember the time,” Cyndi says.

It’s easy to let Lauper take the lead in conversation. Speaking with her almost feels like that unplanned conversation you get into with a stranger on the subway or on the talking floor of a public library. You don’t know what you’re about to hear, but you know you’re going to remember it.

While I intended to ask her questions about career and personal highlights—how it was performing on “We Are the World” with Michael Jackson and a supergroup of performers in 1985, the inspiration behind her flamboyant style, her experience on Celebrity Apprentice, and her thoughts on bands like MGMT and yhe Killers doing arrangements of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun“—it was clear midway through the conversation that she had some matters of her own to discuss.

Briefly touching on her reality show in the works with executive producer Mark Burnett, the autobiography she’s working on, the music she’s been writing for the Broadway play Kinky Boots and her recent collaboration with Norah Jones on a Christmas song (to be released this holiday season), she saved most of her energy and enthusiasm for one of the most relevant things on her current agenda: her long-time commitment to equal rights for all.

In 2008, Lauper co-founded the True Colors Fund, a nonprofit organization for the advancement of LGBT equality. Last year, the True Colors Fund launched the Give a Damn Campaign, educating people about the LGBT community in an effort to prevent gay-bashing and bullying.

“Information is power,” she said. “We want to get the straight people involved. Forty percent of the kids on the streets are LGBT who were thrown out of their homes by their parents.”

With everything Cyndi has accomplished, she expressed much gratitude for her career as a musician and abruptly ended the conversation with a beautiful piece of wisdom for the young artist.

“You need to always be aware. Look around you,” she said. “See what’s going on. Listen to the beat of the street. Listen to the walk of the people. Your job is to capture that moment that you lived, that you know, and put that experience in a song so that time is remembered.”

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