Getty Images Today (March 27), Fergie and Jessie J both celebrate their…
- Posted on Aug 25th 2010 3:30PM by Mark Wigmore
Neilson Barnard, Getty Images
Pretty surprising for a girl who had most of her fun back in the 1980s, but think for a minute about her career: those decade-defining pop singles,' her involvement with Hulk Hogan and professional wrestling and more recently her stint on 'The Apprentice,' and the True Colors Tour in support of LGBT rights and awareness. But the artist has now taken up a new challenge: singing the blues.
"The blues had a baby and its name was rock'n'roll," Lauper tells Spinner from New York City, where she's preparing a tour to support her latest record, 'Memphis Blues.' "When I first started singing I was singing Janis Joplin covers. I was in a Joplin tribute band and I got bored with myself. For Joplin it's a whole different thing -- she studied the blues and then developed her own thing and sound.
"Everything is based on the blues, it's all 1-4-5. There's jazz, [but the] blues was first."
Her argument is supported by the 13 traditional blues covers on her new record, which was recorded in Memphis and is laden with legends of the genre, including B.B. King, Allen Toussaint, Charlie Musselwhite, Ann Peebles and Johnny Lang.
Lauper truly took charge of the project, not only singing but arranging and producing the songs herself. She chose who she wanted to duet with and which songs she wanted to sing. And she resisted the temptation to make a glossy pop/blues hybrid designed for radio play, instead paying homage to the genre's deep roots.
"I don't go half way," she explains. "I do things for real."
This isn't the first time Lauper has teamed up with a cast of talented musicians on record -- her 2005 record, 'The Body Acoustic,' welcomed names from all points on the musical spectrum, from Shaggy to Sarah McLachlan. But the name she mentions most when talking about the new album is New Orleans singer/piano-man Allen Toussaint, who appears on several tracks on 'Memphis Blues.' "It was so fun. I realized that Allen could play these songs and be natural."
Guitar prodigy Johnny Lang also makes two appearances on 'Memphis Blues,' making a distinct impact on the Robert Johnson classic, 'Crossroads.' The song has famously been covered by Cream, Jimi Hendrix and John Mayer, but Lauper is sold on the babyfaced guitarist.
"He's still only 29 -- come on, [he's] a wonder kid!" she says. "He's awesome, he's plays incredible and sings so well -- [he's] the whole package there... We spoke about 'Crossroads' and getting a feel closer to what that time period was, but making it modern, and that's tricky."
Lauper is near the end of a 30-date tour to show off her bluesy side, something she tested on tens of thousands in Toronto during LGBT Pride festivities in July. "I was like, 'Holy cow, now we are going to do this blues thing to a crowd that's ready to rock and dance.' I turned around to the group, looked at the audience and said, 'Here we go!' And then I hit hard, and I kept hitting them and hitting them and I wouldn't let them breathe. At the end we did versions of the old songs but in a blues way -- it was fun.
"I really think I was born to sing this stuff."