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10 Sep 2015

Live Your Life Be Free: Belinda Carlisle Brings the Hits—and Perhaps Some Chants?—to Fantasy Springs

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Belinda Carlisle. Belinda Carlisle.

The Go-Go’s are considered by many to be one of the best all-female bands of all time.

Meanwhile, Belinda Carlisle—The Go-Go’s lead singer—has had a wildly successful career on her own. She’ll be performing at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Saturday, Sept. 12.

Before Carlisle and The Go-Go’s were riding the charts, she played the drums, using the moniker “Dottie Danger” in the Los Angeles punk band The Germs.

During a recent phone interview, Carlisle laughed when I brought up the subject of The Germs. She said she’s proud of her brief time with the band in 1977.

“I was really fortunate to be part of a movement that comes around every so often,” Carlisle said. “… I met Darby (Crash) and Pat (Smear) before the punk scene. I was actually the drummer who never played. I had mono, and I had to go back home to my mom and dad, because I was ill. Lorna (Doom) and I went to high school together, and then one of the other girls from our high school took over for me on the drums. But I was a Germs spokesperson, and I handed Darby his (performance props) broken glass, peanut butter and salad dressing. It was hysterical and super fun—a bunch of kids, and no one in Los Angeles knew what punk rock was at all. It was the beginning of something special, and we knew it was really special.”

In 1978, Carlisle and her bandmates formed The Go-Go’s. After seven successful years, during which The Go-Go’s helped bring new wave music into the mainstream, the group broke up in 1985 due to addiction issues and personality conflicts. (The Go-Go’s reunited in 1999, and have been touring off and on ever since.)

In 1986, Carlisle re-emerged as a solo artist.

“I knew that I had the opportunity to have a solo career,” she said. “I was enabled to work with musicians who respected The Go-Go’s. … Having it all laid on you, it was kind of a scary thing. That transition was a bit difficult. I can do either-or, and feel pretty comfortable now.”

Carlisle has seven solo studio albums under her belt, and she said there is one album she’s very proud of: Voila, an album of French covers and pop standards she released in 2007.

Voila is nearest and dearest to my heart. I didn’t think anybody would really listen to it. It became a critical hit around the world, but not so much a commercial hit,” she said. “That was the first time ever that I got to work and not really care if anybody heard it or not. I worked from my heart, and it was all about doing exactly what I wanted to do.

“I knew after that experience, I never wanted to work any other way. I’d always been on a hamster wheel, from age 17 to age 43, so this part of my career is interesting and a lot more fun. It’s very laid-back, and I have an amazing back catalogue that I can work from. I can do pretty much whatever I want to do, and I like it that way.”

Voila was partly inspired by the fact that she and her husband live in France part of the time.

“I was introduced to a lot of amazing artists, and a lot of great music comes out of France,” she said. “You have the icons Serge Gainsbourg and Edith Piaf, and I was introduced to Leo Ferre. I always felt there was a little bit of a diva in me, and I knew that it was something I felt very comfortable doing. When I demo-ed Jacques Brel’s ‘Ne me quitte pas’ to see what it sounded like, it was very natural. It was a project that was really fun for me to do.”

It’s no secret that some of Carlisle’s biggest fans are members of the LGBTQ community. In fact, she recently said to Advocate, “I love looking out in a crowded theater and seeing a sea of gay men.” She said most of her friends since she was 17 have been lesbian or gay.

“From the beginning, I’ve had a pretty big gay following,” she said. “I think for me, personally, it’s because I lost a lot of friends to AIDS. Of course, my son being gay made me think a lot harder about it. I know even though there’s been a lot of progress made through recent years, there’s still a lot of homophobia and a lot of fear. … I’ve always been around the community, and I’ve always felt really comfortable. I’ve been very blessed for them being big supporters of my career.”

Carlisle has been open about her struggles with drugs and alcohol. However, she beat her addictions in 2005 at the age of 47, she said; she has credited yoga and Nichiren Buddhism as the foundation for her sobriety. She’s also taken up Kundalini yoga and Kundalini chanting.

“Nobody really has any down time anymore, and that’s the one benefit: To be able to be reflective. I find that chanting puts you in the rhythm to whatever divine thing is going on out there,” she said. “I find that it puts me in the rhythm of nature and life, and I find it to be a mirror into yourself, and you really can’t escape yourself from yourself. When I got sober over 10 years ago, I had been chanting for about two years. I knew I had a big addiction problem, but I think (chanting) maybe made me confront it more and be more honest with myself about it. That part of my life was really difficult, and I was chanting four hours a day when I got sober. The life force it gives you is unbelievable and unquestionable.”

In fact, chanting will be the basis for her upcoming album, which she said she just finished.

“It’s a chant album. It’s put to a pop format, so they’re pop songs, but they’re for chanting,” she said. “It’s Kundalini yoga chanting, which I’ve been really into for 10 years. I thought I was ready this past year to actually do it.”

Belinda Carlisle will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 12, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $29 to $59. For tickets or more information, call (760) 342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

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