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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Cindy Bullens and The Refugees Are Back This Christmas

My grandmother and godmother ran a very successful New Hampshire summer camp for girls when I was growing up, and a number of minor celebrities either sent their children there or went there themselves as children. One such former camper was Cindy Bullens, a singer-songwriter best known in the late 1970s as a backup singer for Elton John. She also contributed three tracks to the soundtrack album for the hit movie GreaseBullens ultimately got a record deal of her own, and her debut album Desire Wire was released in 1978. The album got good reviews but sold relatively poorly. Her second album met a similar fate. Yet Bullens has kept plugging along these past 35 years, producing consistently strong records and playing clubs and other small venues in front of modest-sized groups of loyal fans. The last time I heard her play was during the summer of 2007, when she played before a few dozen people on the small island where my family's had a summer home going back five generations. Bullens sang after an island-wide community supper on the second floor of the island's common "casino." She started sometime around 8 pm and the sunset was breathtaking through the uneven panes of the century-old glass windows. It was the last night my Dad and I were on the island together, and while he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease at the time, he boldly approached Cindy after the show and told her I'd been a fan since high school not only because of the camp connection but because I genuinely liked her music. "I do, too," he added. It was the first time I'd known him to willingly listen to rock and roll. I was thrilled that he stayed for the whole show, and thrilled, too, that she closed with a tune by Bruce Springsteen. It was a wonderful, sublime evening.

The Refugees (l to r): Deborah Holland, Wendy Waldman and Cindy Bullens
Several years ago, Bullens teamed up with singer-songwriters Wendy Waldman and Deborah Holland to form a band called The Refugees, and the three women record and tour together pretty regularly between their projects as solo artists. I don't know much about Holland, but I've liked Waldman's work since her 1976 single "Living Is Good," which, I'm fortunate to say, is the strongest antidepressant I've ever needed. Last Fall, The Refugees recorded an original tune called "This Christmas," which they made available as a free holiday gift for their fans. This year, they've posted a new version, which you can hear and/or download from HERE at no cost. According to Bullens, "This is a joyous, rockin' new re-mix that is bound to make you smile -- whatever your bent!  (Think "Jingle Bell Rock" or "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree").  Just plain rockabilly fun! As my two Jewish co-horts in The Refugees would say--ENJOY!"

Incidentally, Bullens came out publicly in 2012 as transgender and now goes by the name Cidny Bullens. 

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