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Cindy Wilson is best known as a vocalist for new wave rock band the B-52s. Her brother was fellow founding member Ricky Wilson.
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"We made 17 bucks." Throughout the late 1970s, the B-52's took regular weekend road trips to play such venues as Max's in Kansas City and CBGB in New York City. Sporting go-go boots, elaborate 1950s-style hairdos and outlandish outfits, The B-52's gradually built up a nationwide grassroots following with their upbeat punk sound and their quirky, energetic dancing.
In 1979, the band signed with Warner Bros. Records and released their self-titled debut album, which sold 500,
000 copies due to the party rock hits "Rock Lobster" and "52 Girls." Their 1980 follow-up, Wild Planet, was another commercial success and critical darling, spawning hit singles such as "Private Idaho," Give Me Back My Man" and "Strobe Light." Two further hit albums, Mesopotamia (1982) and Whammy! (1983), established The B-52's as one of the favorite bands of the early MTV era.
Just when they appeared to be reaching the apex of their success, Wilson and the B-52's suffered a devastating loss when Ricky Wilson died of AIDS in 1985. "He really had a vision," Wilson said of her older brother. "He was one of the strongest elements of the B-52's from the beginning." Persevering in the aftermath of Ricky 's loss, in 1986 the B-52's released the album they had recorded shortly before his death, Bouncing Off the Satellites, which scored hits with the songs "Summer of Love" and "Wig."
After taking several years off, in 1989 The B-52's reemerged as a quartet to release their fifth studio album, Cosmic Thing. Featuring such instant classics as "Love Shack," "Roam" and "Deadbeat Club," Cosmic Thing elevated the B-52's to new heights of national and international stardom. The album remains their most commercially successful record to date, with "Love Shack" especially having gained timeless hit status.
After Cosmic Thing, Cindy Wilson decided she needed to take a break from music and split from her band mates, leaving the B-52's on good terms. "I'd been a B-52 for a long time, and it just felt like time for a change," she explained. Wilson had married an advertising executive named Keith Bennett in 1985, and during her time off from the band she gave birth to the couple's two children. A recharged Wilson rejoined The B-52's in 1998; after a decade of touring and the release of two anthologies, the band released Funplex, its first album of new music in 16 years, in 2008.
More than 35 years after they declared themselves a band at a Chinese restaurant in Georgia, Cindy Wilson and the B-52's are still going strong. Once a revolutionary young band whose retro image and energetic party songs helped usher in rock 'n' roll's new wave era, they now stand among the elder statesman of rock and roll, their music enduring to speak to a new generation of young people. However, as a wife and mother of two, Wilson admits that she no longer embraces the rock-star lifestyle like she used to. Today she says that the moments when the contrast between her ordinary middle-age lifestyle and her rock star status become sharpest are when she notices other parents gawking at her in the carpool lane as she drops her kids off at school. "I know they're sort of looking and going, 'That's the girl in the B-52's, isn't it?'" Wilson said. But if they looked closer, she continued, "they just might see me with my hair in curlers, no makeup and my clothes thrown on. I mean, I'm doing my best just getting the kids to school on time. Let's be real."
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