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Cyndi Lauper - Profile of an '80s Icon & Singular Talent


Cyndi Lauper - Profile of an '80s Icon & Singular Talent
Michael Putland/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


Cynthia Anne Stephanie Lauper on June 22, 1953 in Brooklyn, New York

Early Years:

True to her well-known independent style and image, Lauper dropped out of high school soon after she learned to play guitar and began to dabble in songwriting. In troubadour fashion she spent some time in Canada trying to pursue music before returning to her Big Apple home to sing in various cover bands during the '70s. After a short stint and debut record in 1980 with a fleeting band called Blue Angel, Lauper faced bankruptcy before hooking up professionally and later romantically with David Wolff, who would become her manager and help her land a record deal.

Cyndi Lauper - She’s Unusual... But Not Too Unusual:

By combining a colorful, creative and slightly punk rock look with a marketable pop sound, Lauper hit the jackpot with her 1984 debut She’s So Unusual. Helping the record immensely in eventually selling more than five million copies was the presence and promotion of MTV, as the fledgling music video network got Lauper noticed by wide audiences, especially teenage girls. Such admirers responded favorably to Lauper’s free-spirit, new wave sense of fashion and taste as well as her energetic, somewhat yelping vocal style, pushing "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "Time After Time" to the Top 5.

Fame Brings Distractions:

Following a very successful 1984, in which Lauper enjoyed the spoils of a top-selling album that boasted four Top 10 singles, the singer did not immediately return to the recording studio. Instead, she snapped up some Grammys early in 1985 and then contributed memorably to USA for Africa’s "We Are the World" charity recording. However, Lauper’s detour into the world of professional wrestling proved to be a much more mixed enterprise, as her burgeoning integrity as an artist was forced to take an involuntary break. Fortunately, the singer’s association with the "sport" would basically cease by the end of the year.

Cyndi Lauper Reimagined as Classic Pop Singer:

With the release of True Colors during the fall of 1986, Lauper recast herself as a far more serious and mature artist than she appeared to be on her debut album. As such, the effort was a bit more sedate and less flashy, but Lauper herself played a larger role in songwriting and production. The album did not match her prior success, but it did generate a classic '80s single in the title track and achieved platinum status. This turned out to be Lauper’s last hurrah as a superstar, but by 1987 she had clearly cemented herself as a major '80s icon and a respectable performer and songwriter.

Commercial Decline but Artistic Persistence:

Lauper seemed to adjust well to her diminishing status as an '80s music star. She starred in the obligatory flop film, 1988’s Vibes, but didn’t seem to do so out of desperation as much as curiosity. Her third album, 1989’s A Night to Remember, didn’t have sales to remember, but it did produce another solid single in "I Drove All Night." Rounding out the decade somewhat quietly failed to discourage Lauper creatively, as she continued to act, both on TV and on the silver screen. In addition, she has continued to release albums steadily during the last 15 years, all of which have broadened her lasting legacy.
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