Few female vocalists have had as much success as a crossover artist as Vikki Carr. Born Florencia Bicenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona in El Paso, Texas, Carr was the eldest of seven children. Fier love of music showed itself early, when she sang in a Christmas play at the age of four.
After her birth, the family moved to Rosemead, California, where Carr was raised. The move brought her closer to Los Angeles, which aided the start of her professional career.
Carr took her first professional singing job after high school as the vocalist for Pepe Callahans Mexican-Irish Band. Shortly after that, she went solo. Calling herself “Carlita,” she per¬ formed in nightclubs and had her first headline engagement at the famous Coconut Grove.
Carr signed her first recording contract in 1961 with Liberty Records and had two top forty hits, although not in the United States. “Lie’s a Rebel” was an Australian hit. “It Must Be Him” reached number three on the charts in England. Years later, the song was featured in the hit movie Moonstruck.
In the late 1960s, Carr set new standards for sold-out concerts in countries all across Europe (Germany, Spain, France, England, and Holland) and in Australia and Japan. In 1967, she played a command performance for England’s Queen Elizabeth II. By the 1970s, Carr had returned to the United States, signed a contract with Columbia Records, and begun to appear on television variety shows.
Although she was a success with her English-language pop music, Carr didn’t forget her heritage. In the 1970s, she showed her versatility by crossing over into Spanish-language songs. The move brought her additional inter¬ national fame. Carr had her first performance in Mexico in 1972 and has been a star there ever since.
She released her first Spanish-language album, Vikki Carr; En Espanol, in the same year. Two other Spanish-language albums, Cosas del Amor and Esos Hombres, went gold throughout Latin America and the United States. Her 1985 album, Simplemente Mujer, won a Grammy for Spanish-language album.
By the end of the 1990s, Carr had produced fifty best-selling albums, including seventeen gold records. Being a crossover artist has presented some challenges. When Carr changed her stage name from Carlita to Vikki Carr, her father protested.
She confidently reassured him, “I will be as well known as a Mexican American as an Anglo.” During her lengthy career, Carr has also joined with another successful crossover artist, Linda Ronstadt (see no. 79), performing concerts with mariachi bands.