Friday, April 8, 2011

HOLA Legends: Vikki Carr

Vikki Carr (born Florencia Bisenta de Casillas Martínez Cardona on July 19, 1941 in El Paso, Texas, U.S.A.) is a singer of Mexican ancestry. She has performed in a variety of music genres, including jazz, pop and country, but has enjoyed her greatest success singing in Spanish.

After taking the stage name Vikki Carr, she signed with Liberty Records in 1962. Her first single to achieve success was "He's A Rebel," which in 1962 reached No. 5 in Australia and No. 115 in the United States. Producer Phil Spector heard Carr cutting the song in the studio and immediately recorded a cover version billed to The Crystals (featuring Darlene Love) that reached No. 1 in the United States. In 1966, Carr toured South Vietnam with actor-comedian Danny Kaye to entertain American troops there. The following year her album It Must Be Him was nominated for three Grammy Awards. The title track reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States in 1967. "It Must Be Him" sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. She had two other songs make the U.S. Top 40: 1968's "The Lesson" and 1969's "With Pen in Hand." Around this time, Dean Martin called her "the best girl singer in the business." Carr had 10 singles which made the U.S. pop charts and 13 albums which made the U.S. pop album charts.

In 1970, she was named "Woman of the Year" by the Los Angeles Times. She guest-hosted "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" in 1973. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1981. She also achieved the rare feat of singing for five U.S. presidents during her career: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

In the 1980s and 1990s, she had enormous success in the Latin music world, winning Grammy Awards for Best Mexican-American Performance in 1986 for her album Simplemente mujer; Best Latin Pop Album in 1992 for Cosas del amor; and Best Mexican-American Performance in 1995 for Recuerdo a Javier Solís. She also received Grammy nominations for the discs Brindo a la vida, al bolero, a ti (1993) and Emociones (1996). Her numerous Spanish-language hit singles include "Total," "Discúlpame," "Déjame," "Hay otro en tu lugar," "Esos hombres," "Mala suerte" and "Cosas del amor." The last song (a duet with Mexican singer Ana Gabriel) spent more than two months at No. 1 on the U.S. Latin charts in 1991, her biggest Spanish-language U.S. hit. Her Spanish-language albums have been certified gold and platinum in Mexico, Chile, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador.

In recent years, she taped a PBS TV special, "Vikki Carr: Memories, Memorias" (1999), in which she performed popular tunes in English and Spanish from the 1940s and 1950s. Her guests were Pepe Aguilar, Arturo Sandoval and Jack Jones. In 2001, she released a bilingual holiday album, The Vikki Carr Christmas Album.

In 2002, she appeared to great acclaim in a Los Angeles production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Follies, which also featured Hal Linden, Patty Duke and Harry Groener. In 2008, Carr hosted a PBS TV special, "Fiesta Mexicana," which celebrated the music and dance of Mexico. Later that year she was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Recording Academy.

Respected as both an artist and a humanitarian, she devotes time to many charities including the United Way, the American Lung Association, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and St. Jude's Hospital. For 22 years she held benefit concerts to support Holy Cross High School in San Antonio, Texas. In 1971, she established the Vikki Carr Scholarship Foundation, dedicated to offering college scholarships to Hispanic students in California and Texas. To date, the Foundation has awarded more than 280 scholarships totaling over a quarter of a million dollars.

# # # #

Singing "It Must Be Him" on Belgian television in 1967

Singing "Somos novios" on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" in 1972

Singing "Cosas del amor" with Ana Gabriel in 1991

No comments: