RS: Absolutely, being a scientific person and a musician I have never heard the relationship between physical and spiritual explained so clearly, that's wonderful! With that broader picture in the background, let's talk about your CD. How did you choose you songs for At Last?
Cyndi: I choose songs from the 50s and the 60s because I thought it suited the sound of my voice. But when I was actually singing the songs, I realized that there are many places and things that I could experiment and find. I remembered when I first heard those songs, the time period and what it felt like. If it was light out or dark out, what it smelt like outside. Was it fall, was it winter, was it spring, was it summer? Was it on a car radio or sitting on the beach listening from somebody's transistor as they went by? The grownups all had their music spilling out of their apartments in to their backyard, and the first thing I always got to see was from these grownups was their love for music and their love for fashion and glamour.
I think the neighborhood that I grew up in and the people that raised me were a gigantic influence, but not just an influence- also an inspiration. I always viewed them as kind of Shakespearian, kind of happy, nutty, sad; all the worlds wrapped into one as well as fashionable because everybody had a look. Even the Italian ladies on 101st Avenue with the red lipstick and the really red dyed hair wearing tight straight black skirts and with no sleeves and the flip-flops. They drank at the laundry like that, with a cigarette going and it was an interesting look, although, personally, I think cigarettes are wrong. I would look at these people and the music that they listened to and that was part of the inspiration. When I started to sing these songs there were stories with them and I remembered the way people looked, the way they were, what they liked and didn't like and when they would do when they sing this song. Was I looking though my Aunt Gloria's latin music or my cousin Linda's 45s, and is that exactly how "Stay" sounded? It was all of that. Within these cover songs were these other amazing stories and they became the backdrop of me writing all these other stories and listening to others who were telling all these other stories. I think I tell them, but I don't necessarily write them, they just happen.
I was doing all these songs with all these moments like La Vie En Rose. As a kid I would go to confession on Saturday, I'm a recovering Catholic of course, and I would check out the line, see which priest was moving them right along, and how long the penance was. While I was doing that I would see this lady there, always dressed in black, a widow, crying with the rosary. I would actually be waiting, watching and thinking to myself what could she have done and which priest did she go to, because I'm not going there. Then I would sit and think well, what could possibly make her so sad? Then I remembered that on Ed Sullivan there was another lady in a black dress, in black and white, Edith Piaf, and she sang like she was crying. I would put them both together, I knew I thought that lady was a widow and maybe Piaf was singing about something lost like that. Of course it was in French, so who the hell knows! English was tough enough and with the broken Italian I'd hear in the house. So I kind of put them together, and so when I sang La Vie En Rose it took on a whole other story, you know what I mean?
RS: Yes, I grew up listening to Edith Piaf and George Brassens because my father's French.
Cyndi: Did he teach you French or was it like for his privacy?
RS: It was the music he loved and he would explain to me the songs were about, be it a crazy donkey or someone dying. My mother listened to ABBA and Helen Reddy, so that probably explains more about me than you would ever want to know
Cyndi: Come on, ABBA is so great. You know at the end of a long signing, like at a record store, if the people just keep coming, I make them put on ABBA. It's pretty funny, I had a road manager once who was a big biker kind of guy and had a really husky voice, and it was great when he would do the sensitive thing and sing Fernando.