Sunday, December 8, 2013

Irene Cara, The #83 Female Artist of the Rock Era

Cara began to perform at an early age. By age three, Irene was a finalist for the Little Miss America pageant. Cara began learning to play the piano "by ear" and soon afterwards, she began studying music, acting and dance.

Irene performed on Spanish-language television. She made early television appearances on The Original Amateur Hour and Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show.  Cara was a regular on the PBS program The Electric Company.  She appeared in a major concert tribute to Duke Ellington that also featured Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Cara starred in many Broadway and off-Broadway shows, including Ain't Misbehavin', The Me Nobody Knows, Maggie Flynn and Via Galactica.  Irene gained international fame for her roles in two great mini-series--Roots:  The Next Generations and Guyana Tragedy:  The Story of Jim Jones.  Cara was named one of 12 "Promising New Actors of 1976" in Screen World, and a reader's poll in Right On! magazine named her Top Actress.
Cara graduated from the Professional Children's School in Manhattan with the world in front of her.  A movie in 1980 was about to make Cara a household name.  Irene was originally cast as a dancer in the film, but when producers David Da Silva and Alan Marshall heard her voice, they re-wrote the role of Coco Hernandez.  In 1980, Cara released her first single, the title song from the movie.  It shot up to #4 and Irene Cara was on her way.

A second song from the movie gave Cara a highly underrated peak of #19 with "Out Here On My Own".

These two songs helped the "Fame" Soundtrack become a #1 multi-Platinum album.  Cara set a record when both songs were nominated for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture at the Academy Awards.  It was the first time that two songs from the same film were nominated in the same category and sung by the same artist.  "Fame" captured the Oscar.

Cara was nominated for Best New Female Artist and Best New Pop Artist at the Grammy Awards and she earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical.  Irene won the Billboard Award for Top New Singles Artist, while Cashbox named her Most Promising Female Vocalist and Top Female Vocalist.

In 1982, Cara earned an Image Award for Best Actress when she starred in the NBC movie Sister, Sister.  She earned a Best Actress nomination from the NAACP Image Award for her role in the PBS movie For Us the Living:  The Medgar Evers Story.  In 1983, Cara appeared as herself in the movie D.C. Cab.
Cara continued to perform in live theatre, starring as Dorothy in The Wiz.  In 1983, Cara reached the peak of her career with a song she co-wrote with Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey.   Cara went into the recording studio and when she finished, she had given a performance for the ages.  "Flashdance...What A Feeling" was a #1 song for six weeks, with the single easily going over one million units sold.  The song was featured in the movie Flashdance and Cara won the Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Song, the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and American Music Awards for Best Pop Single of the Year and Best R&B Female Artist.

Cara reached #13 with the follow-up "Why Me?"

In 1984, Cara scored her final Top 10 with "Breakdance", a #8 song.

Cara continued to act in movies such as City Heat, Certain Fury and Busted Up and in 1993, starred in the anniversary tour of Jesus Christ Superstar.  She sang backing vocals for Vicki Sue Robinson, Lou Reed, George Duke, Evelyn "Champagne" King and Oleta Adams.  She toured Europe and Asia throughout the 1990's. 

But she never had another big hit.  In all, she enjoyed eight hits with three Top 10 songs.  But she'll always have "Flashdance", one of The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*

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