Singer brings bilingual hits to a show in ModestoSinger Vikki Carr used to wish her skin was darker so people would believe she was Mexican-American. While her father was olive-skinned and her grandfather had dark, Aztec features, Carr is fair, just like her mother.
"It was my forum to educate people as to who is a Mexican-American," the 71-year-old performer said in recent phone interview. "The Mexican-American was a mixture of many bloods. The roots go from France to Spain and then Mexico."
Carr, who was born in El Paso, will perform a mix of Spanish and English music at her concert Sunday at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto. The show celebrates Mexican Independence Day.
Carr said she will sing some new music from her upcoming Spanish album, "Viva La Vida," which comes out Sept. 25, as well as her hits andretro songs from Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Nat King Cole. The audience should expect a joyful concert. She realizes times are tough and she wants to give people hope that things will be better.
"I try to lift people's spirits and bring back memories of what things were like and how we got over it," she said. "I want people when they come into the show to come in smiling and maybe to leave singing and to be happy."
Born Florencia Bisenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona, the singer started using the name Vikki Carr in 1962 when she signed to Liberty Records. She began her career singing in English, recording a version of "He's a Rebel" that predated The Crystals' hit recording in the U.S. Her version became a No. 1 hit in Australia.
She got the U.S. hits she wanted with a series of sad songs 1967's "It Must Be Him," 1968's "The Lesson" and 1969's "With Pen in Hand." The first song was a lament about waiting for a certain man to call, the second was learning to deal with a broken heart and the third was a tear-jerker about divorce. Around this time, Dean Martin called her "the best girl singer in the business."
Carr said she's always tried to put her heart into her songs and tell a story. But she said she may have gone a bit overboard after she experienced her own divorce and continued to sing "With Pen in Hand."
"In essence, my audience suffered along with me," she said. "I thought that was so unfair for me to do to my audience. But as I got better, they thought to themselves, 'She went through this and look at her now she got through it and everything is fine. I know I'll be all right.'"
Carr had her biggest success singing in Spanish in the 1980s and 1990s. She won Grammys in 1986 for best Mexican-American performance for her album "Simplimente Mujer," in 1992 for best Latin pop album for "Cosas del Amor" and in 1995 for best Mexican-American performance for "Recuerdo a Javier Solis."
Her Spanish hits included "Total," "Disculpame," "Dejame," "Hay Otro en Tu Lugar," "Esos Hombres," "Mala Suerte" and "Cosas del Amor." Carr said it took her awhile to learn what type of music Latin audiences would like.
"They go more for the heartfelt, passionate songs," she said. "They're much more feeling. The Latins really make their feelings known."
Carr said she had to fight hard to get her first all-Spanish album released in the early 1970s. "The president of the company didn't want to do it he said, 'That's a foreign language,' " she said. "I said, 'We have people in the audience that love Spanish.' My Anglo audience was asking for it."
Carr said Anglos could get the gist of what she was singing by the feeling she put into her music. "They could tell if it was a love song, they could tell when I was angry."
She looks forward to seeing both her Latin and Anglo fans in Modesto this weekend. "I'm really looking forward to the Gallo Center," said Carr, who lives in San Antonio, Texas. "I understand it's beautiful. It's been awhile since I have been in the Modesto area."
WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Rogers Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto