Monday, January 13, 2014

Cyndi Lauper, the #47 Female Artist of the Rock Era

Cynthia "Cyndi" Lauper was born in Queens, New York.  She began writing her own songs and playing an acoustic guitar at age twelve.  Lauper earned a spot in a special public high school for students with talent in the visual arts, but she dropped out, and later earned her GED.  

At the age of seventeen, Lauper left home to study art, first going to Canada.  She went on to take art classes at Johnson State College in Vermont and supported herself by working odd jobs.

In the early 1970s, Lauper sang with several cover bands around the New York area (Doc West and Flyer among them).  In 1977, Cyndi damaged her vocal chords and was told by three doctors that she would never sing again.  But Lauper regained her voice with the help of vocal coach Katie Agresta.  

In 1978, Lauper met saxophonist John Turi and formed the band Blue Angel.  Steve Massarsky, manager of the Allman Brothers Band, heard Blue Angel's demo tape and became their manager.  Lauper received several solo recording contract offers, but she held out in hopes of getting the band signed.  Blue Angel finally signed with Polydor Records and released their self-titled album in 1980.  The album was well-received by critics, but the album did not sell and the band broke up.  Shows how important critics are.

Lauper worked in retail stores to earn a living and sang in local clubs such as El Sombrero.  Cyndi met David Wolff, who became her manager and helped her sign a recording contract with Portrait Records.

In 1983, Lauper released her debut album She's So Unusual.  Her first single exploded out of the gate, making her an instant star.  "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" became a #1 smash in Canada, Australia and New Zealand; the song reached #2 in the U.S., the U.K. and France, and it was a Top 10 hit in every major country in the world.


"Girls Just Want To Have Fun" was nominated at the Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and the video garnered the MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video.  The album went to #4--not bad for a debut artist!  Her second single peaked at #2 in the U.S. and Canada, was #3 in the U.K. and New Zealand and again was a Top 10 hit everywhere in the world.  "Time After Time" was cited by Billboard for Best Female Performance and was nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards.  She won a BMI Pop Award for the song, now covered by over 100 artists. 

Lauper received nine MTV Video Music Award nominations; in addition to the aforementioned win for Best Female Video, Cyndi was nominated for Video of the Year, Best Concept Video, Viewer's Choice and Best Overall Performance for "Girls Just Want To Have Fun".  The other nominations were for Best New Artist, Best Female Video and Best Direction (for "Time After Time").

"She Bop" gave Lauper three consecutive Top Three songs in the United States; it was also #3 in Canada, #5 in Austria and #6 in Australia.  It too won a BMI Pop Award and was nominated for Best Female Video at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Lauper topped Madonna to win Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards and she won the same category from Billboard.  She's So Unusual was nominated for Album of the Year.  Cyndi came up with the first debut album by a female to contain four Top 5 hits.  "All Through The Night" was the one that did it for her, landing at #5 in the United States and Austria.

"Money Changes Everything" stopped her streak at four, as it peaked at #27.  But by this time, She's So Unusual had charted for 65 weeks on the Album chart, and has now gone over the 22-million mark in worldwide sales.  Lauper earned a pair of American Music Awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist and Favorite Pop/Rock Female Video Artist. 

It was quite a year for Ms. Lauper.  She was featured on the covers of Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek and People and Cyndi was named a Ms. magazine Woman of the Year.  Lauper lent her voice to the smash #1 charity classic "We Are the World" in 1985.

Lauper recorded "The Goonies "R" (sic) Good Enough" for "The Goonies" Soundtrack, and scored a #8 song in Australia, #9 in Canada and #10 in the United States.

With that much momentum, it was important to keep the music coming, and in 1986, Lauper released the album True Colors.  It too reached #4, but didn't have the staying power of her debut.  The title song hit #1 in the U.S. and Canada and #3 in Australia.

Cyndi landed a deal with Kodak for the use of "True Colors" in an advertising campaign.  The video became her fourth to be nominated for Best Female Video at the MTV Video Music Awards.  Lauper earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for another of the tracks on the album--"What A Thrill".

Lauper was a double nominee in the category for this song--"911".

Lauper also received a nomination for Best Long Form Music Video for Cyndi:  Live in Paris, which was broadcast on HBO.  "Change Of Heart" was a #3 song in the U.S. and was a hit in most countries.

Lauper sang backing vocals for Billy Joel's album The Bridge.  In 1988, Cyndi made her acting debut in the Ron Howard movie Vibes.  The following year, she released her third album A Night to Remember.  "I Drove All Night" was released as the lead single, and it hit #6 in the United States, #7 in the U.K. and #8 in Canada.  

"I Drove All Night" earned Cyndi another Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance but album sales were not near the level of her first two albums.  Lauper joined other artists performing "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II" for the concert The Wall in Berlin.  Over 300,000 people attended the concert and over five million people viewed it on television.

After that, Lauper had some success on the Dance chart but never scored another big popular song, despite six more albums.  In 1993, Lauper won an Emmy Award for her role in the sitcom Mad About You.  In 2008, BMI announced that "Time After Time" had gone over five-million in airplay, one of less than 100 songs in the Rock Era to do that.

In 2010, Lauper recorded the most successful blues album of the year, Memphis Blues.  It debuted at #1 on the Blues chart and remained there for 14 weeks.  Lauper received another Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album.

Lauper attracted attention when she gave an impromptu performance of "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" while waiting for a delayed flight in the Buenos Aires airport.  A video of the event was later posted on YouTube

Earlier this year, Lauper wrote both the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical Kinky Boots, based on the 2006 movie of the same name, which earned 13 Tony nominations and six awards including Best Musical.  The musical also won Best Score, making Lauper the first woman to win the composing category solo.

Lauper has sold more than 50 million records worldwide, and has won a Grammy, an Emmy, a Tony, an MTV Award, a Billboard Award and an American Music Award.  Only twenty artists in music history have won at least one Grammy, one Emmy and a Tony award.  She has scored 15 career hits, with nine going Top 10 and three #1's.

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