Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper or popularly known as Cyndi Lauper is a singer, songwriter, and actress who has been in the entertainment business for over 40 years. She popularized the hit songs Time After Time, True Colors, All Through the Night, and Girls Just Want To Have Fun. Throughout her career, Cyndi Lauper managed to sell over 50 million records and 20 million singles. Cyndi Lauper won awards at the Emmy’s, Grammy’s, MTV Video Music Awards, Tonys, American Music Awards, Billboard Awards, and The New York’s Outer Critics Circle. She was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Aside from the several hit songs, prestigious awards and her powerful four-octave singing range, Cyndi Lauper is also known for having a distinctive image where she sports different hair colors and eccentric clothing. Let’s take a look at how Cyndi Lauper became the music icon that she is today.
Cyndi Lauper was born in Brooklyn, New York City and she grew up listening to different artists such as The Beatles and Judy Garland. Lauper started writing songs and playing the acoustic guitar that was given to her by her sister when she was just twelve years old. Since then, she was known for expressing herself by wearing eccentric clothing and sporting different hair colors. In fact, she wanted to stand out that she took her friend’s advice to spell her name Cyndi instead of the common spelling Cindy. She left home when she was just seventeen years old to escape her abusive stepfather and study art. She eventually got to Canada where she spent almost two weeks in the woods together with her dog named Sparkle. After that, she traveled to Vermont where attended Johnson State College and took art classes. She managed to support herself by working several jobs in one day.
During the early ‘70s, Cyndi Lauper performed as a lead vocalist with different cover bands. But even if she was performing on stage, Lauper was not happy singing covers. In 1977, she encountered a problem with her vocal cords which forced her to take a year off from singing. She was informed by her doctors that she might not be able to sing again because her vocals cords were very damaged. But she didn’t give up until she regained her voice with the help of a vocal coach named Katie Agresta.
In 1978, Cyndi Lauper and saxophone player John Turi formed a band called Blue Angel and started to record a demo tape filled with original music. The manager of The Allman Brothers Band, Steve Massarsky heard the demo tape and was amazed by Cyndi Lauper’s voice. He eventually bought Blue Angel’s contract for 5,000 dollars and became the band’s manager. Since then, Cyndi Lauper has been receiving recording deals as a solo artist but she declined and said that she wanted her band to be included as well in any deal that she made.
Blue Angel eventually landed a record deal with Polydor Records where they released their self-titled debut album in 1980. Cyndi Lauper initially hated the album cover because she said that she looked like the Sesame Street character Big Bird. But Rolling Stones magazine appreciated the cover art and included it on their 100 Best New Wave Album Covers in 2004. Despite receiving positive reviews, the album performed poorly in the market and eventually, it led to the band’s break up. According to some reports, there has been a falling-out between the band and their manager which they later fired. As an act of revenge, Massarsky filed an 80,000 dollars lawsuit against the band which forced the members including Cyndi Lauper into bankruptcy. During this time, Lauper also completely lost her voice because of an inverted cyst that is in her vocal cord.
After her band broke up, Cyndi Lauper spent most of her time working in retail stores such as waitressing in IHOP and singing in local clubs. In 1981, while she was performing in a local bar in New York, she met David Wolff who said that he’d be willing to be her manager and offered her a recording contract with Portrait Records.
Rise to Fame
In 1983, Cyndi Lauper released her debut album called She’s So Unusual which reached the fourth spot in the US charts and eventually became an international success. Cyndi Lauper also gained popularity with critics and teenagers not just because of her exceptional voice but also because of her hybrid punk image. She co-wrote four songs on her first album such as She Bop and the hit song Time After Time. But sometimes, she changed the lyrics on her song especially on Girls Just Want To Have Fun. She said that she finds the lyrics to be misogynistic that’s why she rewrote the song to be an anthem for young, independent and fun-loving women. Besides the lyrics and the melodies of the song, its music video was also quite popular in the 1980s. Check out Behind the Scenes on the Most Memorable Music Videos of the 1980s to know more about the music video for Girls Just Want to Have Fun.
The second single on her album, Time After time reached the top spot on both the Adult Contemporary Charts and Billboard 100. Time After Time also earned Cyndi Lauper an RIAA Gold certification because it managed to sell 500,000 copies. Her album produced three more Billboard Hot 100 singles namely All Through The Night which reached the fifth spot, She Bop which peaked at number three, and Money Changes Everything. She’s So Unusual stayed in the Top 200 charts for over 65 weeks and since then, it has sold more than 16 million copies worldwide.
She’s So Unusual also earned Lauper the Best New Artist and Best Album Package award at the 1985 Grammy Awards. It was also nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Girl’s Just Want To Have Fun, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year for Time After Time.
In 1986, Cyndi Lauper released her second studio album called True Colors which debuted on the 42nd spot of the Billboard 200 and managed to reach as high as the fourth spot. Although it was not as commercially successful as her first album, True Colors sold over two million copies and spawned three chart-topping singles which included the album’s title track, a cover of the Marvin Gaye song entitled What’s Going On, and Change of Heart. That same year, she received two nominations at the Grammy Awards for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for her song What a Thrill and Best Long Form Music Video for Cyndi Lauper in Paris.
In 1988, Cyndi Lauper made her first film appearance in the comedy movie Vibes. She starred the movie along with Julian Sands, Jeff Goldblum, and Peter Falk. In the movie, Lauper played a psychic who was looking at a city of gold in South America.
In the spring of 1989, Cyndi Lauper released her third album called A Night To Remember. It spawned the hit single I Drove All Night where she received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. Three years after that, Cyndi Lauper married actor David Thornton.
In 1993, she released her fourth album entitled Hat Full of Stars which received critical acclaim but failed commercially because it was unsupported by her label. The album featured songs that talked about different topics such as spousal abuse, abortion, homophobia, and racism. It only sold 120,000 copies in the United States. Cyndi Lauper returned to the big screen as she starred in the movie Life with Mikey along with Michael J.Fox in 1993. After that, she won an Emmy Award for her role as Marianne Lugasso in the sitcom Mad About You. After a year, Cyndi Lauper released a greatest hits album called Twelve Deadly Cyndi… and Then Some which sold over six million copies worldwide.
In 1997, Cyndi Lauper released her fifth studio album called Sisters of Avalon which featured some songs that has dark themes. During this time, Cyndi Lauper gave birth to her first son, Declyn Wallace Thornton. The following year, she released her Christmas album entitled Merry Christmas… Have a Nice Life which featured original and standard Christmas songs.
In 2002, Cyndi Lauper released her eighth studio album called Shine which featured her early punk-rock sound and different artists such as George Fullan of Train and Japanese pop superstar Ryuichi Sakamoto. The following year, Cyndi Lauper released a cover album called At Least under Sony/Epic Records which received a nomination at the 2005 Grammy Awards for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists for her cover of the song Unchained Melody.
Under Sony Music, Cyndi Lauper released a compilation album entitled The Body Acoustic in 2005. The album contained acoustic versions of her previous hit songs but it also featured two new songs and several guest performers such as Taking Back Sunday, Adam Lazzara, Sarah McLachlan, Puffy AmiYumi, Jeff Beck, and Vivian Green. The acoustic version of her song Time After Time which featured Sarah McLachlan entered the Billboard Adult contemporary chart that year.
In 2005 and 2006, Cyndi Lauper embarked on other projects such as directing a commercial for Totally 80s edition of the board game Trivial Pursuit. She also served as a judge on the 6th Annual Music Awards and made her Broadway debut in the Tony-nominated play called The Threepenny Opera.
She released her sixth studio album called Bring Ya to the Brink on May 2008. Her single, Set Your Heart, received heavy airplay in Japan. The album also featured several dance tracks where she collaborated with different artists such as Axwell, Digital Dog, Kleerup, Scumfrog, and Basement Jaxx.
In 2010, she released her tenth studio album entitled Memphis Blues which debuted on the top spot of the Billboard Blues charts and peaked at the 26th spot on the Billboard Top 200. It was even nominated for Best Traditional Blues Album at the 2011 Grammy Awards.
Cyndi Lauper decided to take a break from recording and focused her attention to composing music and lyrics for the Broadway adaptation of the 2006 independent film Kinky Boots. This project won Lauper the Best Score award at the 63rd annual Outer Critics Circle awards. Kinky Boots earned 13 nominations and six wins at the 2013 Tony Awards.
Her debut album, She’s So Unusual celebrated its 30th anniversary in the summer of 2013. To commemorate this event, Lauper embarked on an international tour and released the 30th-anniversary edition of her album under Epic Records. The album featured remastered versions of her songs and three new remixes.
In 2016, Cyndi Lauper released her eleventh studio album called Detour which featured early country classic songs. That same year, Lauper was nominated for an Olivier Award because of her contribution to the UK production of the musical Kinky Boots. The production even got nominated for Best Musical Theater Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards. In September 2018, Cyndi Lauper released another Christmas album entitled Cyndi Lauper Loves Christmas.
Cyndi Lauper is not just an amazing, multi-awarded singer and songwriter, she also supports the LGBT community. You can always see her attending gay pride events around the world and campaigning for equality. Not only that, she even founded the True Colors United which is a nonprofit organization that focuses on ending youth homelessness and supporting LGBT youth. If you want to know more about the talented, beautiful, iconic, and influential female artists of the ‘80s, you can check out this article.