Lauper, Cyndi (actually, Cynthia Ann Stephanie)

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Lauper, Cyndi (actually, Cynthia Ann Stephanie)

Lauper, Cyndi (actually, Cynthia Ann Stephanie), MTV-ready chanteuse of the mid-1980s (b. Brooklyn, N.Y, June 22, 1953). After passing through several arts-oriented high school programs as a teenager, Lauper started playing in cover bands in clubs around N.Y.C., singing rock that ranged from Janis Joplin to Led Zeppelin. Eventually, she blew out her voice and spent a year recovering with vocal coach Katie Agestra developing a voice that crossed power and range with a Bettie Boop sensual vulnerability. Late in the 1970s she started working with John Turi in a project that eventually became Blue Angel. The band released a record in 1980 that passed virtually unnoticed. The band’s failure drove her to bankruptcy and she took odd jobs like singing in a Japanese restaurant dressed as a geisha while her manager tried to find her a new deal.

That deal came in 1983, with Portrait records; Lau-per’s solo debut, She’s So Unusual became one of the year’s biggest records. Made with the aid of The Hooters and others, her first single was the catchy “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Propelled by a clever video that featured both Lauper’s mother and professional wrestler Captain Lou Albano (who Lauper would later manage), the single went platinum and rose to #2. With her multi-colored hair and thrift-shop clothes, Cyndi Lauper was the perfect artist for the video age. She became an icon at MTV. She followed her first hit with the moody ballad “Time After Time,” a song since covered by artists ranging from Miles Davis to Inoj. The tune topped both the pop and adult contemporary charts and went gold. She struck gold again with “She Bop,” a bouncy pop confection that rose to #3. She then took Jules Shear’s atmospheric ballad “All Through the Night” to #5 and the Brains “Money Changes Everything” to #27. The album got to #4, spent well over a year on the charts, earned Lauper a Best New Artist Grammy (and the art director a Best Album Package), and eventually went sextuple platinum. It was the first debut album and the first album by a solo artist ever to spawn five hit singles. In addition to playing nearly 300 concerts that year, Lauper also designed the T-shirts for the tour.

Striking while the iron was hot and capitalizing on the MTV demographic, Lauper sang the theme song to the film The Goonies taking “Goonies R Good Enough” to #10. She finally followed up with her sophomore album True Colors in 1986. With guest artists including Billy Joel and Chic’s Nile Rodgers, the eclectic album did not veer too far from the pop mainstream. The title track, a well-drawn ballad, topped the charts and the follow-up, “Change of Heart”—featuring The Bangles on backing vocals—went to #3. Her cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” became the last pop hit off the record, hitting #12. The album also topped off at #4, going double platinum.

Lauper spent the next couple of years involved in various projects that did nothing to advance her career. She attempted acting in the movie Vibes, which got almost universally panned. She toured extensively, even visiting Russia. When she finally hit the record racks again with 1989’s Night to Remember, she had lost momentum and the love of the critics. The album produced one hit, “I Drove All Night,” which rose to #6, but the album stalled at #37 and didn’t break a half a millions sales. In 1991, Lauper married actor David Thornton at a ceremony presided over by the Reverend (Little) Richard Penniman. That year also saw the release of her fourth album, Hat Full of Stars. Taking the reins of her own music, she coproduced the record and cowrote most of the songs, as well as directing all the videos. The critics were thrilled, but the fans still stayed away. No singles broke from the album and again it didn’t break a half a million sales.

While Lauper remained popular overseas (particularly in Europe and Asia), she became somewhat of a curiosity in America. For this reason, her greatest hits collection, Twelve Deadly Cyns..And Then Some, was released worldwide (except in the U.S.) in 1994; when it finally was released here, it actually went gold. Similarly, her project with new collaborator Jan Pulsford, Sisters of Avalon, came out in Japan a year before the rest of the world. As it came out, Lauper announced her pregnancy on national television, then went on a three-month tour with Tina Turner. Her son was born in November of 1997.

Lauper explored acting on the small screen, taking on an occasional role in the comedy Mad About You, for which she earned an Emmy nomination. In 1998, Lauper concluded her contract with Sony by releasing a holiday album, Merry Christmas…Have a Nice Life!. She recorded a version of the Trampps’s Saturday Night Fever hit “Disco Inferno” for the Night at the Roxbury soundtrack, and in the summer of 1999, it became a club hit. The turn of the century found Lauper shopping for a new label and developing a situation comedy for NBC.


She’s So Unusual (1984); True Colors (1986); A Night to Remember (1989); A Hat Full of Stars (1992); Twelve Deadly Cyns (1995); Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1995); Sisters of Avalon (1997); Merry Christmas…Have a Nice Life! (1998).

—Hank Bordowitz

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Lauper, Cyndi (actually, Cynthia Ann Stephanie)

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