"A person who wears colored fishnets wants to take risks."
--Ricci DeMartino, stylist
Full name Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper Thornton; American musician, b. Brooklyn, NY 1953-06-22. One of the great eccentrics of the 1980s.
Young Cynthia was given her first guitar at the tender age of 12 and, since it was the 1960s and long before Crazy Train and Dream On, which later generations would get their first chords from, she took her first steps playing Greensleeves. Soon after that she began writing her own lyrics. A bit later she became a singer for several cover bands, singing rock classics and hits of the time. In 1977 she almost saw the end of her career before it even began when she damaged her vocal cords.
1980 saw Cyndi, with a new voice after a year of therapy, releasing Blue Angel with John Turi. Three years later she signed for Portrait Records. Later in 1983 she released She's So Unusual, which catapulted her to instant stardom and sold 4.5 million copies. Her trademark odd-coloured hair (which suffered badly from a lot of bleaching), imaginative makeup, outrageous outfits and riot grrl attitude, long before the term even existed, was more Poison Ivy than Joan Jett and nobody really knew what to make of her. It was the attitude that made Girls Just Wanna Have Fun an anthem, and the unashamed hymn to female masturbation in the form of She Bop made her an idol for girls of the mid-80s (whose parents were generally not too pleased about it).
The following years saw her producing two more quality albums which didn't match the commercial success of She's So Unusual but were artistically better and showed her talent as a songwriter. After getting married to David Thornton in an unorthodox ceremony in 1991 (led by Little Richard), she released another two albums that were highly praised, as well as a Christmas album in 1998.
After that album she toured a bit and played with the likes of Tina Turner and Cher, and had her first child at the age of 44 ("I feel like this kid should be in college by now"). She also put in a few TV appearances. Her own sitcom was an idea that was toyed with but was destined never to be. 2003 saw her resume her recording career with a prolific, by this decade's standards, four albums in the following five years, one of which was an acoustic re-recording of her hits from the 1980s. These albums are at least as good as her old work.
Cyndi Lauper was one the examples of how a female singer and songwriter could stand up and do it her way without copying male acts long before the pissed-off, neurotic solo-female-with-guitar became the vogue and model for female artists in the 1990s. In fact she did it with a lot more style and gusto than any of them. Starting with two songs, she blazed a trail that would leave the world of pop music not quite the same as she found it.
Facts from memory and Cyndi Lauper's official web site. Opinions personal.
Original text for E2