Talking with Cyndi Lauper

“PEOPLE ALWAYS GET THE WRONG IMPRESSION OF ME,” says Cyndi Lauper, who has just turned 40. “After they’ve seen me live, they come up andsay ‘I didn’t know you could sing.'”

Not only that, there’s a thoughtful person under that platinum bob; “These are heavy times we’ve just lived through,” she says, “and I wasn’t going toignore that.” Last year’s Republican “family values” crusade troubled Lauper and she sympathized with Anita Hill: “I’ve had sexual harassment on thejob when I was 17, and when you ain’t got no money you’d be surprised what you put up with.”

Lauper decided to make her political points through the characters in her songs. She was encouraged by her husband, actor David Thornton, to whomshe was wed in 1991 with vows read by Little Richard. (She and Thornton both appear in the new Michael J. Fox comedy, Life with Mikey.)

At the same time, Lauper decided to take more control over her career. On her last album, 1989’s A Night to Remember, she remembers, “I was doingsongs by people who were writing about their new car or the new extension on their garage. I don’t do anybody else’s songs anymore.'”

In the meantime, she says she’s untroubled by the diminishing sales of each of her records. She’s So Unusual sold nearly 5 million copies; TrueColors (1986) only a million; A Night to Remember (1989) less than 500,000. “I don’t need to have zillions and billions of dollars,” she says. “I just wantto do work that I’m really happy with.”

Cyndi Lauper breaks new Ground

Nearly 10 years ago, Cyndi Lauper broke new ground as a zestful, zany pop diva with her hit packed debut, She’s so unusual, Now, with her forth, and most ambitious album, Hat Full of Stars , a more serious Lauper has returned with a fresh sound that mixes 60s soul, 70s funk, and 80s pop and 90s hip-hop, as well as bits of folk and ethnic music. And her multi-octave voice has never sounded better, hitting highs, lows and everything in between.

Sonically, Hat full of stars, has a richness that results from its imaginative combination of rootsy instrumentation (dobro, accordion) and R&B staples (organ, saxophone), underpinned by dance-music mainstays (drum machine, key-boards, samples). Laupers expressive voice meets the challenges of the various songs – from throaty belting (That’s What I Think) to sassy testifying (Like I used to) to plaintive crooning (Who let in the rain).

Lauper joins forces on Hat with former writing partners Eric Bazilian and Ron Hyman (of the Hooters), as well as song doctor Allee Willis, co-producer Junior Vasquez, Tom Gray (who wrote Laupers 85 single Money Changes Everything and singer/songwriter Mary-Chaplin Carpenter and Nicky Holland. Except for the maudlin Rain and the exuberant, Celtic-tinged Feels like Christmas, Lauper has left behind affairs of the heart. Instead, she offers personal insights into such subjects as racism (A Part Hate), illegal abortion (Sally’s Pigeons), incest (Lies), and wife bashing (Broken Glass)- its heavy-duty, but not heavy-handed.

The albums pensive title track depicts Lauper herself as an older-but-wiser survivor: “Im trying to live in the present/but I keep tripping on the past/ finding out reality, well, clarity/ comes in dribs and drabs”. On Hat Full of Stars, the past and present, reality and clarity all come in equal-and powerful-doses.