The trend among Spanish-speaking recording artists the past several years has been to release an album in English in search of crossover success in the English-speaking market.
Ironically, when prolific U.S. pop singer Vikki Carr found her career sidetracked by an expired recording contract in 1974, the native of El Paso headed across the border to Mexico. Since signing with Columbia Records’ Mexican division in 1980, Carr (born Florencia Bisenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona) has released 15 albums in Spanish.
All have gone gold or beyond in sales and she has collected a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In addition, since 1985 she has won three Grammy Awards for her efforts in Spanish. This Saturday, the popular contralto will perform with her nine-piece band at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.
This year, Carr is preparing to release her first album in English since 1972. Also in the works: another record in Spanish, a Christmas album, and a variety talk show in Spanish, in which she also performs, for Fox television.
“It’s going to be the whole cross-section of music that they, meaning my fans, remember Vikki singing--some new things and of course things in Spanish,” said Carr from her home in San Antonio.
Carr is probably best known to English-speaking boomer-age audiences for her middle-of-the-road, lushly arranged pop vocals and ballads such as the 1967 hit, “It Must Be Him,” which reached a new generation 20 years later as the theme song of “Moonstruck.” The album received three Grammy nominations, but Carr had to wait until 1985 to finally take home an award.
That year her album of mariachi music or musica ranchera, “Simplemente Mujer” (Simply Woman), won best Mexican-American performance. And Carr was credited with aiding the resurgence of that style of music in Mexico.
Last year Carr again scored the award for her tribute CD, “Vikki Carr Recuerdo a Javier Solis,” (Vikki Carr, In Memory of Javier Solis). In 1992 Carr’s “Cosas del Amor” won the Grammy for best Latin pop album.
The win was sweet revenge. The singer 20 years earlier had to fight to convince her American record label to let her release a Spanish-language album.
“The very first Spanish album I ever recorded was not just because I wanted to do it or because it was something my parents wanted,” said Carr. “It was also a suggestion from my Anglo audience. I always used to sing songs in Spanish in my show and then tell the audience what the songs were about . . . and they asked me, ‘Why don’t you do an album all in Spanish?’
“I tried to overcome every argument that the record company had--and they had quite a few,” she said, including opposition to a foreign language.
In the end, Carr had to write out the lyrics. “So it was a sort of Spanish lesson for people. They could listen to the album, follow the lyrics in Spanish and then read the translation underneath,” she said.
It was ‘Vikki Carr en Espanol’ in 1972, said Carr, that really opened doors for her in Mexico and Latin America. “That’s really where I have been having my wonderful success in the Spanish market,” she said.
“I had a wonderful career . . . It’s kind of ironical that I would go back recording the first language that I ever spoke, which is Spanish, and that I would win three Grammys. I’m very proud of that.”
Whether Spanish or English, the bottom line for Carr is this, “It’s all just good music, beautiful arrangements and hopefully something that’s gonna touch their hearts in one way or another.”
* WHO: Vikki Carr performs songs in English and Spanish.
* WHERE: Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd.
* WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday.
* HOW MUCH: $42, $34.50, $29.
* FYI: All tickets from the original show date (Feb. 3) will be honored for Saturday’s performance.
* CALL: Tickets are available through Ticketmaster outlets or by calling the Civic Arts box office, 449-2787.