Legendary singer/actress Vikki Carr, born Florencia Bisenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona in El Paso, Texas, skyrocketed to superstardom as an American pop singer in 1962 with "He's a Rebel" followed by "It Must Be Him" in 1967 and "With Pen in Hand" in 1969. In the 80s and 90s her Spanish recordings brought her three Grammy Awards, and she set the precedent for cross over artists becoming successful in both English and Spanish. Now in 2012 she returns to the Sony label with a new album Viva la Vida, released on September 25. In our chat she talks about the album, the charity that is closest to her heart and how she feels about being a Mexican-American in show business.
Congratulations on 50 years in the business!
Thank you, it's already 53!
I guess I was counting from 1962.
Well, I went on the road in 1959.
That's a milestone, Vikki. Congrats!
Thanks so much.
I listened to the first three tracks of Viva la Vida and your voice sounds better than ever!
Oh, thank you Don! Thank you so much!
Did you record this over the last several months?
Oh no, that album Viva la Vida was going to be my anniversary album and a thank you to all of Mexico and to all of Latin America for all the success that they have given me over the years...to tell them that as long as God continues to bless me with my voice that I will be there for them. But it was one of those things that when you're not with a record company... and my husband said "You've got to sing. You're singing better." So I invested in myself, and what better investment can you have? I worked and worked and said to my manager Carol Peters, "I'm trying to get a record label." Everything was done...the recording...I co-produced it with Jose Hernandez. I oversaw everything, the photographer, the whole thing. It was just so frustrating, Don.
How long ago was this?
Three years ago. And it turns out that they heard it....Sony. Carol presented it to them, and these young people...I call them young compared to the old gang that used to run the companies. They were raised with my music, and when they heard it they said, "Oh, we want to release it", yada yada... and I just got back from doing an incredible promotional tour throughout all of Miami and LA. They are just so excited. Since its release in September, it's gone from #49 on the Latin charts to #16. It's a best seller.
Fabulous! That's great!
You know, this can open the door for me to do other things. I've been doing concerts. My whole thing is trying to present who I am, a Mexican American who had success in English, and thanks to that success, I was able to record the first all Spanish album. It turns out that when I came back from Mexico...they all asked, "Is she going to do a Spanish show or her English show?" It's been such a struggle. I want to do the show of who I am. I'm able to, thank God, draw all kinds of people to my concerts. It's the whole thing Are you an entertainer? Can you tell stories? Can you make people laugh? Do they feel it? Do they cry with you? (she chuckles) Now, at this stage of my career, my whole idea is I'm going to be who I am and have always been, not having to apologize for it.