Vikki Carr's diverse and dynamic voice made her one of the first Hispanic artists to bridge the cultures of the United States and Latin America through her English and Spanish language recordings. Her success paved the way for some of today's top crossover artists.
"I always wanted to be the bridge between the United States and Mexico," Carr said. "I wanted Mexico to see what a Mexican-American performer was like."
Carr continues to reinvent herself and her concert performances with innovative and fresh ideas to keep her fans in awe. One of her concert stops is The University of Texas-Pan American, where she will perform Thursday, Aug. 23, as part of the prestigious U.S.-Mexico Border Summit.
Her performance, A Retrospective of Vikki Carr, is a tribute to her musical career from her greatest and latest English and Spanish hits. The concert is part of the Border Mayors' Gala Fiesta at 7 p.m. at the UTPA Fieldhouse, and proceeds will benefit student scholarships.
"I'm very excited to be going (to the Rio Grande Valley), and I'm happy there is excitement," Carr said. "People have been really wonderful to me (in the Valley) and wanted me to come and perform."
Born Florencia Biscenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona in El Paso, Texas, Carr has always been proud of her Mexican heritage, and her pride is best expressed in the songs she records and performs in both languages for audiences worldwide. She garnered three Grammy Awards for her Spanish albums Simplemente Mujer in 1985, Cosas del Amor in 1992 and Recuerdo a Javier Solis in 1995.
Though her singing career began by singing English hit songs like "It Must Be Him" and "With Pen In Hand," she said she will always hold a special place in her heart for Spanish, the first language she ever spoke.
"My dad and my Anglo audience wanted me to do a Spanish album, and I told them they would not be able to understand the words. But, they told me, 'When Vikki Carr sings, we all understand it,'" she said. "That is when I discovered music was a universal language."
After 43 years in the entertainment business, Carr is still going strong and keeping audiences mesmerized with her sultry voice and outstanding on-stage performances.
Her international success spans four decades, and she has released 59 best-selling recordings, including 17 gold albums. She also has received six Grammy nominations.
A platinum selling recording artist, Carr was raised in the San Gabriel Valley of California. She began performing at age 4 by singing to her father's old 78s of big band music and favorite Spanish recording artists. By the 1950s, she had turned professional and was performing six shows a night at a Las Vegas hotel.
In 1961, she signed with Liberty Records and recorded and released "He's a Rebel, " which went to No. 1 in Australia. Her follow up, "It Must Be Him," soared to No. 1 in England. A year later, the song was released in the United States and earned her three Grammy Award nominations.
Throughout her musical career, Carr has performed for five U.S. presidents (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton), the Queen of England, wartime soldiers in Vietnam and sold-out audiences worldwide from Germany to Japan.
Her career also expands to radio, television, film and theatre. She was the first female to regularly guest host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show in the '70s and appeared on numerous television shows, including the Mod Squad, Fantasy Island and a recent guest appearance on Baywatch.
And off the stage, Carr's humanitarian accomplishments are just as impressive.
In 1971, she established the Vikki Carr Scholarship Foundation with $10,000 she received from a commercial endorsement she did for the American Dairy Association. The Foundation provides college scholarships for Hispanic students in Texas and California to combat the negative stereotypes of Hispanic youth. It has already awarded more than 300 scholarships, and the recipients have dubbed Carr "La Madrina."
"In California, I was so tired of hearing about the negative things that one day a wonderful woman I know said to me, 'If you don't like it, then do something about it,'" Carr said. "That (scholarships) is just my way of giving back and saying that Hispanic kids deserve an opportunity and an education."
Carr also devotes herself to charities such as The Muscular Dystrophy Association, St. Jude's Hospital and The American Lung Association. She even holds an annual concert to benefit Holy Cross High School in San Antonio.
Throughout her career, Carr has received numerous awards and recognitions. She was given the 1998 Imagen Foundation Humanitarian Award, 1996 Hispanic Heritage Award and 1986 Hispanic Woman of the Year. In 1981, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
As for the future, Carr would like to do more television and film, maybe tapping into the genre of spiritual music and Latin-jazz oriented sound.
"I'm at a point in my life where I just want to have fun and enjoy it," she said. "There just comes a time where you have done everything for everyone else, and now I just want to do something for myself."
For more information on the U.S.-Mexico Border Summit, visit www.bordersummit.com or contact The University of Texas-Pan American at 956/381-3361.