Former jingle singer from Oak Park has changed her tune

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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

If you've seen any TV commercials from the 1980s or early 90s, you've probably heard the voice of Cindy Fee.

She was the voice behind the Hoover vacuum cleaner ("Nobody does it like you"). She told consumers to "get on your Pontiac and ride." She assured them that Wheaties were "what the big boys eat." And she was the voice behind, "Thank You For Being A Friend," the song that became the theme for the sitcom "The Golden Girls."

But now, the former jingle-pop singer and Oak Park resident says her interests have changed. She's still performing—her band has a gig next week at the Open Door Repertory theater—and she hopes her songs will start conversations about issues she cares deeply about.

Fee and her husband and band mate, Rob Landis, moved to Oak Park about 14 years ago. They lived in Los Angeles for eight years, but decided they didn't want to raise a family there once their son was born. When a producer in Nashville heard about Fee, the family relocated and she recorded pop records for RCA. But she liked Chicago, where RCA would occasionally fly her out to work.

After a year in Park Ridge, Fee, Landis and their two sons settled in Oak Park.

The band, Cindy Fee and Cin City, has been together for a couple years, Fee said. During a lot of that time, they'd get together at backyard barbeques and play music, but they recently started playing at some area venues.

The Open Door provides the intimate setting that Fee said fits well with what she sings about these days. Once you've been happily married for a while and have kids, it's hard to keep writing the same pop songs, she said.

"I'm not out there looking for love," she said. "There are great songs, but it's just not what I'm interested in now."

Not being part of the jingle world has given her more freedom to explore the political and social issues she's always been interested in, Fee said. She's performed at union rallies and has written songs about environmental issues, homelessness and "archaic" drug laws that she says use taxpayer money to keep non-violent offenders in jail.

Fee said it's important to discuss these issues, and not only with those that will support her point of view. She wants people of all ages to hear her songs because there are multiple ways to think about the same issue, as long as discussions are civil.

There's a "huge divide" now, and "if we don't talk about it, then we're going to stay on these polarized sides."

Her start in jingles gave her a certain kind of confidence, Fee said, because there was only so much time to make an impression.

"You've got to be able to walk in and learn a song in about three or four minutes and go out there and then just really sing it," she said. To her, the shorter length of jingles wasn't limiting because it was still a creative process.

"In the music industry, there's no one way to do anything. You have to be willing to, when you get a shot, really make the most of it."

Even though she's kept a lower profile in Oak Park, Fee's past hasn't totally escaped her. She'll still get asked to sing the Golden Girls theme once in a while, and doesn't dislike the request as much as she used to. Her kids were always a little embarrassed growing up. One of her sons called her from college to tell her he had walked into a party and was identified as "the guy whose mom sings the Golden Girls theme."

As the kids grew up, Fee remembered them telling her often that life is not a musical.

"Well," she said, "it is to me."

Fee and her husband will probably always have a base in Oak Park, where they've made some of their best friends and watched neighbors grow up. They almost sold their house once to move to Chicago, but realized how tough it would be to leave.

"That's what Oak Park fosters," she said.

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Elliott Michaels from Sandy Springs, GA  

Posted: May 16th, 2017 12:43 PM

Cindy, I am curious about something concerning your husband Rob Landis. Did Rob once live in the New York area, and if so, during the early 1970s did Rob play in a band known as Pandemonium Circus? The reason I ask is that back in the day several of my fellow musicians talked about that band but I did not get the chance to see or hear them. I was told that they had a guitarist named Robbie Landis and I was wondering whether your husband was the same individual. By all means let me know at your earliest convenience, and thank you for your indulgence. Keep up your singing and let's stay in touch.

Dody Cole  

Posted: August 29th, 2015 11:44 AM

Go Browns ! Cindy & Rob ... Miss those times at the Boardwalk & miss y'all too ...

Mark Kahny from Grand Rapids, I  

Posted: September 21st, 2013 12:31 PM

Great singing last night at Marro's. Nice pipes! So great meet you and hubby. Keep in touch and good luck on your new project with Tommy. BTW, your FB page doesn't look up-to-date. Send me a friend request.


Posted: July 24th, 2013 4:28 PM

Let's not forget the late Andrew Gold wrote and recorded "Thank You for Being a Friend" back in 1978 and Cindy re-recorded it. So credit for the "#1 song of all-time" should go to him. "Lonely Boy" is better.

Jonathan Jefferson from Philadelphia  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 4:07 PM

I still enjoy listening to Mrs. Fee. I watch The Golden Girls reruns and I've always wondered who sang the opening theme song. I would rate that song as #1 all time!!! Thank You Mrs. Fee!!!

TJ McGreevy from Tucson, AZ  

Posted: June 13th, 2012 1:30 AM

When you hear her sing, your soul hears her soul. Cindy Fee is amazing, honest, and brings the truth of life to you through her music.

Larry Knight from Pegram  

Posted: June 9th, 2012 11:16 AM

I've known and worked with Cindy since the early 1970's. One could not know a more professional and gifted artist. Cindy is a wonderful human being

Cass Farrell from Wilmington area North Carolina  

Posted: June 8th, 2012 9:38 AM

Great interview with a truly remarkable talent... whether living in the Mid-west, California, Nashville or Chicago Cindy has always been true to herself and her values...she is putting her beliefs and hopes for a better world for her grandkids one day out there for the world to see, understand and help with. Any one who has been lucky enough to hear Cindy sing and to spend time talking to her know how special she is both vocally and intellectually... thanks Cindy for your efforts

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