Humanitarian, singer, actress, activist, model and mother, Cynthia Basinet is running for office this Christmas. Not really, but she sure could. For now she celebrates the 10th anniversary of her hit single “Santa Baby”.
The Christmas classic, originally sung by Eartha Kitt in 1953, has been covered countless times.One of the most notable renditions is Marilyn Monroe’s.
CORRECTION: Fans of the download and of the Xmas homemade compilation, kindly correct the misprint in your repertoire. A surprise to many, the version is Miss Basinet’s 1997 recording often wrongly credited to Monroe who never recorded the tune.
Aside from being famous for her ties to jolly old St. Nick, the fiery bombshell made a name for herself as a model and an actress. But it’s her voice that has garnered acclaim.
A voice can be a terrible thing to waste and Basinet lives by that thought. Using her voice she has become determined to bring awareness and attention to West Sahara refugees. One step further, the sultry songstress visited Africa to lend a physical hand where she could. In 2005 her efforts were recognized when she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
With 2007 coming to an end, the artist continues to use the internet to make her music accessible to fans. She has independently released her EP Uncovered bypassing music industry red tape and restrictions. For Basinet, releasing music online just seems appropriate. After all, it’s where her “Santa Baby” was born.
You have a new EP now available online?
It’s called Uncovered. It started with a single and we put three more. Most people download songs by two anyway. The first song is “Blue Moon” revisited but kept as a smooth standard with a flute duet in it. “Going Out Of My Head” has a great beat and is hip and contemporary. The last one is “Sweet Dreams” a cover of Patsy Cline’s cover. It’s a little more country, not because I’m trying to cross over but because it’s one of my favourite songs
What was it about jazz that pulled you in?
I was raised playing instruments. One was the flute and the other the sax. With the sax I learned jazz and the flute I learned classical. It was just as natural as breathing. Jazz just did it … There was always some jazz in the background. When I started paying attention, I remember Billy Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”.
How do you define jazz to a new generation?
Jazz is America’s roots. It’s rooted in trouble, it’s rooted in drugs, in self-expression, in love. It gets into people’s minds and into their hearts. Jazz is America’s heart beat.
Do you think jazz is a timeless genre of music that will be around forever?
I’ve come to realize that when I was singing, somehow I thought jazz was popular. I didn’t really think, “Oh, I’m competing against hiphop, this and that.” I think it’s time it becomes the pop music of today! Soul is being reinvented like Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”. Jazz is like apple pie or a nice down comforter to get under when it’s cold. It’s something you always return to. I think it will be around until the end of time. Until water comes and floods us over we’re gonna be singin’ the jazz!
A lot of jazz artists today make their claim to fame off cover songs. Why do you think that is?
Now as a jazz artist like Madeleine Peyroux or Sophie Milman you do not only have to compete with today’s artists you have to compete with the past. In jazz it seems much easier to market a cover song like my versions of “Tea for Two” and “Santa Baby” than new material. If you’re a singer, if you’re telling a story and if you’re doing it right, it’s more than a cover. It’s going to be reinvented.
Tell us about the world renowned “Santa Baby”.
“Santa Baby” is what set me on this path. It’s odd when you dig up something that you think is not that known and you see a year afterwards more artists singing it. I recorded the song as a gift and a Christmas card. I was inspired by Eartha Kitt’s version. So many people, mostly because of illegal downloading, all think my cover is Marilyn Monroe. I recorded it in 1997. Then other artists like Kylie Minogue and the Pussycat Dolls popularized the song to a real extreme and now we have all these people dressing up in a blonde wig and doing the mannerisms of Marilyn at Christmas.
Having your cover be mistakenly credited to someone who never recorded it can’t be much fun.
It’s the entertainment business, what do you want! Now if you do a really good cover song, everybody covers it. No one touched Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” it wasn’t rerecorded for 50 years!
Do you relate to the vixen singing out that Christmas list in “Santa Baby”?
When I sang Santa Baby, it was a gift to somebody. I mean I was kinda hoping for a light blue convertible. (Laughs) But I felt that it wasn’t about a gold digger the way everyone feels about the song. I saw “Santa Baby” as, “Help, give back.” As a woman it’s hard to keep looking good, exercise, do your nails and your hair while we’re also a lawyer, this or that and bring home the bacon, clean the house and raise the kids. You’re Santa, baby. Hit a sister up!