ARTIST spotlight

Sue Hadjopoulos

February 22nd, 2020

By Curtis Newart

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Sue Hadjopoulos (Courtesy Sue Hadjopoulos)

Sue Hadjopoulos was born in Queens, New York,and grew up in Massapequa, Long Island. She is a world-renowned  percussionist who has played with some of the biggest names in showbiz.

One of three siblings in a musical household, the Greek / Puerto Rican dynamo has worked with Joe Jackson, Simple Minds, Enrique Iglesias, Ricky Martin, Teena Marie, David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, Kenny Loggins and The B-52's.

She also played percussion and sang backup for Cyndi Lauper from 1986 to 1993 on the True Colors and A Night To Remember world tours.

 

She's in Lauper's hit music videos "Change of Heart" and "What’s Going On", plus the HBO live concert video CYNDI LAUPER IN PARIS, (Le Zenith, 1987), and the American Music Awards Concert Series CYNDI LAUPER - Live In Yokohama (1991).

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Sue Hadjopoulos (far left), Robin Clark and Simple Minds on the Once Upon A Time world tour (1985-86). Photo credit: Guido Harari

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Sue Hadjopoulos (far right) on Saturday Night Live with Simple Minds (1985).

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Sue Hadjopoulos (far right) with The B-52's (Courtesy Sue Hadjopoulos)

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Enrique Iglesias and Sue Hadjopoulos (Courtesy Sue Hadjopoulos)

Music legend (and one of Hadjopoulos' influencesTito Puente once told a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden that he would have to retire after hearing her play.

 

Among many career highlights, she was voted one of the Top 5 percussionists in the Latin / Brazilian Category of Modern Drummer Magazine's Readers Poll.

She was also voted one of the Top 25 Best Female Drummers by Udiscovermusic.

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The Grammy™ Award-winning album Symphony No. 1 by Joe Jackson, featuring Sue Hadjopoulos.

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Joe Jackson and his band featuring Sue Hadjopoulos top left (CD insert from Night and Day album).

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Joe Jackson performing “Another World” from his album Night and Day on Saturday Night Live (1982). Left to right: Joy Askew, Joe Jackson, Sue Hadjopoulos

Q&A

LAUPERLAND: We love you, Sue! How did you meet Cyndi?

SUE: Happy anniversary! I met Cyndi in 1984 when I was working with Teena Marie on the Lovergirl Tour. Cyndi came backstage after one of our shows in LA. She was very gracious and complimented everyone on our performance and we all took pictures with her.

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First-time meeting between Cyndi Lauper and Sue Hadjopoulos backstage at Teena Marie's Lovergirl Tour stop in LA in 1984.

I was already a big fan of Cyndi’s - not just for her artistry, powerhouse vocals and music - but because of the work she does as an advocate for equal rights, women’s rights and LGBT youth.

 

When I got home I wrote her via her management saying I’d love to work with her if she ever decided to use percussion.

 

Two years later, I was finishing up a tour with Simple Minds. I heard through the grapevine that Cyndi was auditioning percussionists who could also sing background for her upcoming True Colors World Tour.

I got an audition.

 

When we met, I reminded Cyndi about my letter. We played a couple songs from the album. Then she said to me, “Okay, we know you can play percussion but let’s see how you sing."

She called out “What’s Going On".

 

I started playing the Marvin Gaye classic on the congas.

 

While she was singing, she looked over, pointed at me and said “Take it!”

 

I sang. I guess she figured I had potential because I got the gig!

Working Class Hero by Cyndi Lauper with Sue Hadjopoulos at the American Music Awards concert series Live in Yokohama (1991). Sony / ATV

I definitely had the best on-the-job training and I have the distinct honor of having had Cyndi Lauper as my first vocal coach.

 

Cyndi taught me so much, not just about singing and vocal technique, but also about stage performance -- how to create a total stage persona from makeup to wardrobe and hair styling.

 

Later, she took me to her vocal coach (vocal coach to the stars!), Katie Agresta, for lessons. In a strange coincidence Katie and I are from the same hometown of Massapequa, New York, and her parents used to own a music store which I frequented as a kid.

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Sue Hadjopoulos at the AMA Concert Series Japan with Cyndi Lauper in Yokohama (1991). Sony / ATV

What's Going On (1987) featuring Sue Hadjopoulos Sony / ATV

LAUPERLAND: How did you get started in the business?

SUE: I started as a session player in New York, playing percussion for jingles, records and film. At the same time, I was working in several  Latin bands.

 

I was a founding member and timbalera of Latin Fever, a 14-piece all-female Latin band signed to the FANIA label and produced by Latin jazz pianist, Larry Harlow.

 

Our breakthrough album Larry Harlow Presents Latin Fever, rose to the top of the Latin charts and had a number one hit with the single "Lo Que Te Gusta Mas" (or "What You Like The Most").


My big break into mainstream rock and pop music came in 1982 when I teamed up with British rocker Joe Jackson on the Night and Day album and world tour.

 

Joe had come to New York to record an album about the sights and sounds of the city including salsa. My background in Latin music was a perfect fit.

 

The Night and Day album went platinum and is now considered a classic. It reached number four on the Billboard Top 200 chart with the single “Stepping Out” hitting number six, and "Breaking Us In Two" reaching number eighteen.

 

My career took off.

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Sue Hadjopoulos (Courtesy Sue Hadjopoulos)

LAUPERLAND: What are some of your favorite memories from live appearances?

 

SUE: Performing “Change of Heart” live with Cyndi and the band on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was iconic! Plus, making the “Change of Heart” video, which was my first 'official' music video.


Also, travelling to Gibraltar with Cyndi to perform on the H.M.S. Ark Royal Invincible aircraft carrier. I think it was called “Rock around the Rock” and the other acts were Alison Moyet, The Pretenders, and Bob Geldof. That ship was huge! We got in a bit of sight-seeing, including the Rock of Gibraltar, and the Barbary macaques.


Then, there was the time my top almost fell off on the Dave Letterman show during True Colors. The top part of my outfit for the show was a piece of printed fabric wrapped around and pinned in the back. The stylist suggested adding suspenders for support but we decided it was a slow song, and what could go wrong in three minutes?

 

Midway through the song I started to feel the fabric loosening. I went from swaying to the music to hardly moving and by the end of the song I was standing still with my arms pressed against my sides. The crew was in stitches watching the drama unfold from the green room. They never let me live that down.

I also performed with Joe Jackson opening for The Rolling Stones at Roundhay Park in Leeds, England for over 100,000 people in 1982, and opened for The Who at CNE Stadium in Toronto the same year. We got called as a last-minute replacement for The Clash. The crowd threw things at us - Joe got hit by a hot-dog.

LAUPERLAND: What are you currently working on?

SUE: I recently added percussion to Washington, D.C.'s modern soul artist Eric Scott's new album Peace Bomb, slated for release this spring.

I'm also the percussionist and owner of OSueSana Music, and half of the Latin jazz duo SUMA! I play percussion and Marianne Lerbs plays guitar. We both sing in English and Spanish.

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Sue Hadjopoulos on tour with Joe Jackson (Courtesy Sue Hadjopoulos)

Change of Heart (1986) featuring Sue Hadjopoulos Sony / ATV

Hadjopoulos has appeared in iconic music videos and performed on The American Music Awards, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Late Night With Conan O'Brien.

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Cyndi Lauper and Sue Hadjopoulos (Courtesy Sue Hadjopoulos)

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Sue Hadjopoulos and Cyndi Lauper (Courtesy Sue Hadjopoulos)

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Sue Hadjopoulos and Cyndi Lauper (Courtesy Sue Hadjopoulos)

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Cyndi Lauper and Sue Hadjopoulos (Courtesy Sue Hadjopoulos)

"Learn to Live Alone" single by Cyndi Lauper, featuring Sue Hadjopoulos (1992)

An accomplished composer and songwriter, Hadjopoulos graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Anthropology at Barnard College at Columbia University.

Boy Blue by Cyndi Lauper with Sue Hadjopoulos at the American Music Awards concert series Live in Yokohama (1991). Sony / ATV

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Sue Hadjopoulos with Marianne Lerbs of SUMA!

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Sue announcing her endorsement of Toca Percussion.

Visit www.suehadjopoulos.com for more.

Visit Sue on Social Media

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

Visit SUMA on Social Media

  • Facebook

IN THE HOT SEAT WITH SUE HADJOPOULOS

 

The only rule we ask our participants to follow is to name the first answer that pops into their head for the following 12 questions.

 

And, go!

 

Breakfast cereal: I rarely eat cereal; I’m a bacon and eggs morning person.

Next Halloween costume: Not sure what will be trending by then, I still like Wonder Woman.

Birthday wish present: A personal chauffeur (See below question about what I drive)

Fave cartoon: Owl Jolson (I love to Singa)

Fave movie: The "The Heat" with Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock

Fave song: Of course, I’m gonna say a song I played on by Joe Jackson, “Breaking Us In Two”.  I just love that one.

Celebrity run-in: Cyndi Lauper

Celebrity crush: Jennifer Aniston

Fragrance: Lavender essential oil

What do you drive: I hate to drive and don’t care about cars, but out of necessity now, I drive a Kia Soul. I’d much rather have a chauffeur.

Pet peeve: Self-entitled dog walkers who insist on letting their dogs do their duty on my lawn!

Room service food: A nice juicy steak!

Follow Sue on FB, Twitter & Instagram.

Visit www.suehadjopoulos.com