Cyndi Lauper joins Dr. John in brining the roots of rock and soul to town
Girls just want to halve funds?
Cyndi Lauper is splitting concert receipts this month with New Orleans piano master Dr. John. The freshly minted duo joined for a 15-date blues tour, "From Memphis to Mardi Gras," that arrives Saturday at the Taft Theatre.
For Lauper, celebrated in the '80s as the henna-haired singer of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," "Time After Time" and "True Colors," the true colors are all shades of blues these days. Last year she made a studio album, "Memphis Blues," teaming with B.B. King, Allen Toussaint and Ann Peebles. This week, she released a concert DVD called "To Memphis with Love," recorded at the blues capital's Warehouse nightclub.
We spoke to her by phone as she was preparing for the current tour.
Can a girl from Queens sing the blues?
"Well, I'm doing it. We're all singing the blues. Blues was the birth of rock, a very American genre. It's the basis of everything I've done. I started in a Janis Joplin cover band."
Did you worry that the traditional blues crowd might see you as - I hate to say - dilettante?
"Dilettante? Upstart? Yeah, that's something new. What do I care? What are you gonna do? The proof's in the pudding when you open up your mouth and sing."
How's it been, working with Dr. John?
"I've always wanted to work with him. I always want to work with better people."
And Allen Toussaint?
"Mr. Toussaint is really magical. It's such an honor to play with him. He is so gracious. All of them were. I sang with Ann Peebles, I've gotta say I was crying. We were at the same microphone - I still have that microphone, and I'll have it forever. At the Grammys, I got to sing with Mavis Staples. And Buddy Guy - when he answered me I thought, 'Oh my God, that's Buddy Guy'."
How's the autobiography coming?
"Writing it is a long process. I didn't want to just sling it out there. It's a real-life 'life story.' It explains what it's like to be a celebrity. I don't have to worry if my socks are funny, or about whatever bugs straight people."
So tell us about the new album.
"Oh my God, yes, this is what I was supposed to talk about. I wanted to do it in Memphis but the theater had bed bugs. So we went to a place called the Warehouse, and it was a party. This is a homage to Memphis."
How'd you like the town as opposed to the idea of Memphis?
"It's a great town. It was the middle ground for the blues, and it turned to hot-blooded soul and rock. It has delicious, fattening food."
You've been known to set fashion trends. What are you liking lately?
"I love glamour. I love looking at things from 1910."
You promoted pro wrestling in the 1980s. Do you keep up with wrestling? When was the last time you talked to Rowdy Roddy Piper?
"You know, I try to keep in touch with Roddy."
You've done fairly steady work as an actress over the years ("Vibes," Disney's "Life with Mikey," TV's "Mad About You"). Film success seems to be a rough transition for singers - Madonna, Mariah Carey.
"I got clobbered too. But now, it's not like that for singers. It's a different climate."
You're the mother of a teenager (son Declyn, 13), and now you're a hockey mom like Sarah Palin?
"Not like Sarah Palin. Yeah, he broke his kneecap but he's going back. It's an interesting age. At 13, the world is your oyster. Then you start thinking about other things."