Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What Ever Happened to Cindi Lauper?

I'd kind of forgotten about Cindi Lauper. There was "All Through the Night" and "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "Time After Time," and other hits, but these were all I ever knew of her, and she'd pretty much fallen off my radar until the other night. Thanks to a rather disturbing film I might've been better served to turn off rather than watch through to the end credits, I found Lauper's "Hymn to Love"--a haunting ballad that I wanted to hear again.

Google led me to
YouTube where I could do just that, straight through, first note to last. I listened, and then I listened again--and again. I'll leave out the sobbing part: that's a personal matter. Suffice it to say, I was hooked by it, and curiosity led me to I follow a couple of other links on the page. An Ellen something performed it to a piano accompaniment, and there was Edith Piaf, of course, singing her famed "Hymne a l'Amour" with a passion, in both French and English. But none of these moved me like Lauper's rendering, which I listened to probably 20 times in the subsequent 20 hours.

What it is about hers that reached in and touched me so deeply I don't know for certain. But I'll say it is a gift--that Lauper is gifted, the way Eva Cassidy was gifted: any song in that woman's mouth was recreated, reborn in her singing of it. It's one thing to sing a song--even to interpret a song or a piece of music; it is another to embody, to inhabit it.

One thing led to another, as the convenience of the world wide web would have it, and before long I was viewing video of Cindi live, performing--I should say belting out-- "All Through the Night." Even in that little four- by three-inch window on my computer screen, and with my nothing-special, treble-heavy resident speakers, her power was well evident: she was Wow. What a presence, what a conviction, what a range, what a mastery! I saw slight remnants of the Lauper of the punk days, but I might as well have been encountering her for the first time. The little I knew of her then was her hits, her radical and colorful hair and 'get ups', and yes, her distinctive voice. I liked her songs, and I always enjoy listening to them on the radio, but they never stopped me in my tracks like this one has, turning my vague and momentary wondering, "What ever happened to Cindi Lauper?" to a burning question. That led me to Wikipedia to "read all about it."

Assuming that all I read on Wiki was true, hers is quite a story. Not a wildly extraordinary story; kind of an average life story, actually. But that's just why I say "quite." Anyway, there is no ordinary life story, right? In any case, hers turned out, if not a superstar, certainly an icon. You can
read it for yourself, but here are some of the headlines:

--NY (Queens) born

--high school dropout
--early leanings toward music

--four-octave range (!)

--vocal chord injury

--'You'll never sing again'

--voice coach

--"Gold" 45's

and Emmys
--new album, spring 2010!

However iconic, Lauper's not the household name that Madonna has become. Why that is, I don't know. But I do know this: watching and listening to her music--as with Jane Siberry's and Eva Cassidy's-- moves me down deep in a way that Madonna's, say--much as I enjoy it--does not. Who can explain this? Madonna certainly has talents of her own. But whatever this "it" is that Lauper, for example, has (in my estimation), it seems to me a gift, this capacity to embody music, to reinvent it , as Cassidy did, and it occurs for me as extraordinary, inspiring, and a privilege to encounter. To experience this live is, for me, to be lifted up--raised up. I feel I am in the presence of Being, on purpose--that is, witness to one who is being exactly on purpose, or in other words, one who has found her place and is completely, wholeheartedly inhabiting it. I find this profound. It leaves me in quiet awe when I encounter it. And I am deeply grateful to each and every one who achieves this and, by demonstration, inspires countless other to do the same.

Thankfully, such embodiment cannot be faked: true, rooted, flesh-and-bone, body-mind/spirit authenticity rings...well, true. It is one of Life's unspoiled and reliable gifts, always ready for the taking.


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