Cyndi Lauper

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"Lauper" redirects here. For the curler, see Erwin Lauper.
Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi Lauper Australia 2011.jpg
Cyndi Lauper perfroming in Australia, 2011, during the Memphis Blues Tour
Background information
Birth name Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper
Born (1953-06-22) June 22, 1953 (age 61)
Origin Ozone Park, Queens, New York City, United States
Genres Pop, rock, new wave, dance, blues, soul
Occupations Singer-songwriter, LGBT rights activist, actress, score composer
Instruments Vocals, guitar, dulcimer
Years active 1980–present
Labels Portrait, Epic, Daylight, Downtown
Associated acts Blue Angel

Cynthia Ann Stephanie "Cyndi" Lauper (born June 22, 1953)[1] is an American singer-songwriter, actress, and LGBT rights activist whose career has spanned across five decades.[2] Her debut solo album She's So Unusual (1983) was an instant commercial success. The album was the first debut female album to chart four top-five hits on the Billboard Hot 100—"Girls Just Want to Have Fun", "Time After Time", "She Bop", and "All Through the Night", earning Lauper the Best New Artist award at the 27th Grammy Awards in 1985. Her success continued with the soundtrack from the motion picture The Goonies and her second record, True Colors (1986), which included the number one hit of the same name, and "Change of Heart", which peaked at number 3 and earned Lauper two nominations at the 29th Grammy Awards in 1987.[citation needed]

Since 1989, Lauper has released nine studio albums to varying critical acclaim, and has participated in several other projects. Her most recent album, the Grammy-nominated Memphis Blues, became Billboard's most successful blues album of the year, remaining at number one on the Billboard Blues Albums chart for 13 consecutive weeks. In 2011, Lauper released an autobiography detailing her battle with child abuse and depression; the book became a New York Times Best Seller.[3]

In 2013, Lauper completed writing both the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical Kinky Boots, which led the 2013 Tony Awards with 13 nominations and six awards including Best Musical. The musical also won Best Score, making Lauper the first woman to win the composing category solo.[4] In 2013, she became the first artist in over 25 years to top the dance charts with a Broadway single. In 2014, Lauper, as the producer, composer and lyricist, was awarded the Grammy for best musical theater album for Kinky Boots. That same cast album spent 51 weeks on the Billboard 200 albums chart.[5]

Over the course of her career, Lauper has released over 40 singles and (as of 2011) has sold more than 80 million records worldwide.[6][7] She won the first-ever Best Female Video prize at the 1984 VMAs [8] and is featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum's Women Who Rock exhibit, which illustrates the important roles that women have played in rock and roll history.[9] Lauper has won at the Grammy, Emmy, Tony, MTV VMA, Billboard, and AMA awards. In 1999, VH1 ranked Lauper No. 58 of the 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll.[10] Lauper is also one of only twenty artists to achieve "GET" status by winning competitive Grammy, Emmy, and Tony awards.

Lauper has been celebrated for her ongoing humanitarian work over the last 30 years, particularly as an advocate for gay and transgender rights in the United States. Her charitable efforts were recognized in 2013, when the singer was invited as a special guest to attend President Barack Obama's second-term inaugural ceremony.[11]

Life and career[edit]

1953–1979: Early life[edit]

Cyndi Lauper was raised in Ozone Park, Queens, in New York City.[12] Her family is Roman Catholic. Her father was of German and Swiss descent, and her mother is Italian American (from Sicily). She has an older sister, Ellen, and a younger brother, Fred (nicknamed Butch).[13] Lauper's parents divorced when she was five years old.[14] Her mother subsequently remarried and divorced again.

As a child, Lauper listened to artists including Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and the Beatles. At age 12, she began writing her own songs and playing an acoustic guitar given to her by her sister.[15] Even when she was young, Lauper expressed herself with a variety of different hair colors and crazy clothing.

Lauper was accepted in a special public high school for students with talent in the visual arts, but eventually dropped out, and later earned her GED. At the age of 18, she left home, planning to study art. Her journey took her to Canada, where she spent two weeks in the woods with her dog Sparkle, trying to find herself. She eventually wound up in Vermont, where she took art classes at Johnson State College and supported herself by working odd jobs.

In the early 1970s, Lauper performed as a vocalist with various cover bands in the New York metropolitan area (such as Doc West and Flyer), singing hits by bands including Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin, and Bad Company. Although Lauper was performing on stage, she was not happy singing cover songs. In 1977, Lauper damaged her vocal cords and took 12 months off. She was told by doctors that she would never sing again, but regained her voice with the help of vocal coach Katie Agresta.[16]

1980–1982: Blue Angel[edit]

Main article: Blue Angel

In 1978, Lauper met saxophone player John Turi through her manager Ted Rosenblatt. Turi and Lauper formed a band named Blue Angel and recorded a demo tape of original music. Steve Massarsky, manager of The Allman Brothers Band, heard the tape and liked Lauper's voice. He bought out Blue Angel's contract for $5,000 and became their manager.

Lauper got recording offers as a solo artist, but held out, wanting the band to be included in any deal she made. Blue Angel was eventually signed by Polydor Records and released a self-titled album on the label in 1980. Lauper hated the album cover, saying that it made her look like Big Bird, but Rolling Stone magazine later included it as one of the 100 best new wave album covers (2003). Despite critical acclaim, the album sold poorly (or "went lead", as Lauper says) and the band broke up. The members of Blue Angel had a falling out with Massarsky and fired him as their manager. He later filed an $80,000 suit against them, which forced Lauper into bankruptcy.[17] Then, Lauper temporarily lost her voice due to an inverted cyst in her vocal cord.[18]

After Blue Angel broke up and due to her financial problems, Lauper spent time working in retail stores and singing in local clubs. Her most frequent gigs were at El Sombrero.[18] Music critics who saw Lauper perform with Blue Angel believed she had star potential due to her four-octave singing range,[19] and a unique vocal style. In 1981, while singing in a local New York bar, Lauper met David Wolff, who took over as her manager (and, later, boyfriend) and got her signed with Portrait Records, a subsidiary of Epic Records.

1983–1985: She's So Unusual[edit]

Main article: She's So Unusual

On October 14, 1983, Lauper released her first solo album, She's So Unusual. The album peaked at No. 4 in the US, and became a worldwide hit. The primary studio musicians were Rick Chertoff, Eric Bazilian, and Rob Hyman (of The Hooters), Richard Termini and Peter Wood. Lauper became popular with teenagers and critics, in part due to her hybrid punk image, crafted by stylist Patrick Lucas.[20]

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Lauper was interested in writing her own songs, but the record company provided her material to record. Sometimes, when given a song, Lauper would change the lyrics. For example, she felt the original lyrics of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" were misogynistic, so she rewrote the song as an anthem.[21]

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The album's second single, the ballad "Time After Time", was co-written by Lauper and Rob Hyman. "Time After Time" hit No. 1 on both Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts, and earned Lauper an RIAA Gold certification for sales of 500,000. The song has been covered by more than 100 artists.

The other Billboard Hot 100 singles on She's So Unusual were "She Bop" (No. 3), "All Through the Night" (No. 5), written by Jules Shear and "Money Changes Everything" (No.27).

Other songs on the album included a cover of The Brains' new wave track "Money Changes Everything" (No.27 on the Billboard Hot 100), and a cover of the Prince song "When You Were Mine". The album made Lauper the first female to have four consecutive Billboard Hot 100 top five hits from one album. The LP stayed in the Top 200 charts for more than 65 weeks, and since has sold 22 million copies worldwide.[22]

Lauper won Best New Artist at the 1985 Grammy Awards. She's So Unusual also received nominations for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"), and Song of the Year (for "Time After Time"). It also won the Grammy for Best Album Package, which went to the art director, Janet Perr.

The video for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" won the inaugural award for Best Female Video at the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards, and made Lauper an MTV staple. The video featured professional wrestling manager "Captain" Lou Albano as Lauper's father, her real-life mother, Catrine, as her mother,[citation needed] and also featured her attorney, her manager, her brother Butch, and her dog Sparkle.[citation needed] In 1984-1985, Lauper appeared on the covers of Rolling Stone magazine, Time, and Newsweek. She appeared twice on the cover of People, and was named a Ms. magazine woman of the year in 1985.[23]

In 1985, Lauper participated in USA for Africa's famine-relief fund-raising single "We Are the World", singing a climactic soprano part in the bridge.

Lauper appeared with professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, who played her "bodyguard".[citation needed] She later would make many appearances as herself in a number of the World Wrestling Federation's "Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection" events, and played Wendi Richter's manager in the inaugural WrestleMania event.[24] Dave Wolff, Lauper's boyfriend and manager at the time, was a wrestling fan as a boy, and engineered the rock and wrestling connection.[citation needed]

In 1985, Lauper released the single "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough", from the soundtrack to the movie The Goonies, and an accompanying video which featured several wrestling stars. The song reached number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

1986–1988: True Colors and Vibes[edit]

Lauper received two nominations at the 1986 Grammy Awards: Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for "What a Thrill" and Best Long Form Music Video for Cyndi: Live in Paris.

Lauper released her second album, True Colors, on September 15, 1986. It reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and sold 2 million copies in the United States. Lauper increased her involvement both in production and songwriting on her second album, and she co-wrote most of the songs with Essra Mohawk, John Turi, Billy Steinberg, and Tom Kelly. Guests on the album included Angela Clemons-Patrick, Nile Rodgers, Aimee Mann, Billy Joel, Adrian Belew, The Bangles, Ellie Greenwich, and Rick Derringer.

True Colors was not as commercially successful as She's So Unusual, but it did contain three high-charting singles, including the title track, "True Colors", which became Lauper's second song to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100; "Change of Heart" (No. 3); and a cover of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" (No. 12). A fourth single from the album, "Boy Blue", did not reach the top-40, but the proceeds of that song were donated to AIDS research. The song "True Colors" (written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly) was licensed to Kodak for use in its commercials.

In 1986, Lauper appeared on the Billy Joel album The Bridge, with a song called "Code of Silence". She is credited as having written the lyrics with Joel and she sings it as a duet with him. In the same year, Lauper also sang the theme song for the series Pee-wee's Playhouse, though she was credited as "Ellen Shaw". In 1987, David Wolff produced a concert film for Lauper called Cyndi: Live in Paris. The concert was broadcast on HBO.

Lauper made her film debut in August 1988 in the quirky comedy Vibes, alongside Jeff Goldblum, Julian Sands, Elizabeth Peña, and Peter Falk. Lauper played a psychic in search of a city of gold in South America. Ron Howard produced the film, with David Wolff as associate producer. To prepare for the role, Lauper took a few classes in finger waving and hair setting at the Robert Fiance School of Beauty in New York, and studied with a few Manhattan psychics. The film was poorly received by critics and flopped commercially.

Lauper contributed a track called "Hole in My Heart (All the Way to China)" for the Vibes soundtrack, but the song was not included. A music video was released, which was a high energy, comic action/adventure romp through a Chinese laundry. The song stalled at a disappointing No. 54 on the US charts, but fared better in Australia, peaking at No. 8 and becoming her fifth and final Top 10 single in Australia. "Hole in My Heart (All the Way to China)" was performed as the opening song on her 2008 Australian tour.[citation needed]

1989–1992: A Night to Remember[edit]

A Night to Remember – Lauper's third album – was released in the spring of 1989. The album had only one hit, the No. 6 single "I Drove All Night". Lauper received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance at the 1990 Grammy Awards for "I Drove All Night", but overall album sales for A Night to Remember were disappointing. The music video for the album's song "My First Night Without You" made history as one of the first to be closed-captioned for the hearing impaired.[25]

On July 21, 1990, Lauper joined Roger Waters' and other artists performing "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II" as part of the concert The Wall in Berlin. As part of the concert, Lauper also performed "The Tide Is Turning" with Waters, Joni Mitchell, Bryan Adams, Paul Carrack, and Van Morrison. Three hundred thousand people attended the concert and over five million people worldwide watched on live television.

Because of a friendship with Yoko Ono, Lauper took part in the May 1990 John Lennon tribute concert in Liverpool, performing the Beatles song "Hey Bulldog" and the John Lennon song "Working Class Hero".[26] She also took part in a project Ono and Lennon's son Sean developed called "The Peace Choir", performing a new version of Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance".[27]

In 1991, Lauper married actor David Thornton.

1993–1995: Hat Full of Stars and Twelve Deadly Cyns[edit]

Lauper's fourth album, Hat Full of Stars was released in June 1993 and was met with much critical acclaim. However, due to a lack of support from her record label, the project was not adequately promoted and was a sales failure. The album, which tackled such topics as homophobia, spousal abuse, racism, and abortion sold less than 120,000 copies in the United States and peaked at No. 112 on the Billboard charts.[28] The video for the album's song "Sally's Pigeons" features the then-unknown Julia Stiles as the young Cyndi.

Lauper co-wrote several songs for the album with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Ailee Willis, Nicky Holland, Tom Gray, Hugh Masekela, and The Hooters. That same year, Lauper recorded "Boys Will Be Boys" with The Hooters for their album Out of Body. The Hooters dedicated their song "Private Emotion" to her.

The greatest hits album, Twelve Deadly Cyns...and Then Some, was released outside of the US in 1994 and reached US audiences in summer of 1995. It included two re-recorded tracks, "I'm Gonna be Strong", originally recorded with Blue Angel, and a reworking of her first hit, newly christened "Hey Now (Girls Just Want to Have Fun)". Twelve Deadly Cyns sold over five million copies worldwide.[citation needed]

In 1993, Lauper returned to acting, playing Michael J. Fox's ditzy secretary in Life with Mikey. She also won an Emmy Award[29] for her role as Marianne on the sitcom Mad About You.

1996–2000: Sisters of Avalon[edit]

Lauper performing in 2000

In 1997, Lauper announced that she was expecting a child. Declyn Wallace Thornton Lauper was born on November 17 of that year; he was named after Elvis Costello (whose first name is Declan) and William Wallace.[30]

Her fifth album, Sisters of Avalon, was released in Japan in 1996 and elsewhere in 1997. The album was written and produced with the help of Jan Pulsford (Lauper's keyboard player) and producer Mark Saunders. As in Hat Full of Stars, some of the songs in Sisters of Avalon addressed dark themes. The song "Ballad of Cleo and Joe" addressed the complications of a drag queen's double life. The song "Say a Prayer" was written for a friend of hers who had died from AIDS. "Unhook the Stars" was used in the movie of the same name. Like Lauper's previous album, her record label did not support the alternative and controversial songs and with a lack of major promotion it failed in America, spending a single week on the Billboard album chart at No. 188. Despite the commercial failure, like her previous release the album was met with much critical praise including People magazine, which declared it "90s nourishment for body and soul. Lauper sets a scene, makes us care, gives us hope."[31] The album was written and produced with the help of Jan Pulsford (Lauper's keyboard player) and producer Mark Saunders.

In November 1998, Lauper released the Christmas album Merry Christmas...Have a Nice Life. The album contained both original material and standards, and was co-produced and mixed by William Wittman.

On January 17, 1999, Lauper appeared as an animated version of herself in The Simpsons episode "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken". In the episode, Lauper sings the National Anthem to the melody of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun". In the same year, Lauper opened for Cher's Do You Believe? Tour alongside Wild Orchid.[citation needed] She also appeared in the films Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle and The Opportunists.

Lauper contributed a cover version of The Trammps's "Disco Inferno" to the soundtrack for the film A Night at the Roxbury. The song was also released as an EP and earned Lauper one nomination at the 1999 Grammy Awards for Best Dance Recording. In 2000, Lauper contributed the song "I Want a Mom That Will Last Forever" to the children's movie Rugrats in Paris. The song was written with Mark Mothersbaugh. In 2000, Lauper also co-wrote the song "If You Believe" with Faye Tozer of the British pop group Steps, for the band's third studio album, Buzz.

2001–2004: Shine and At Last[edit]

In 2001, Lauper prepared a new album Shine. The album was a return to her early punk-rock sound and featured Japanese pop superstar Ryuichi Sakamoto, and George Fullan of Train. Just weeks before the album's scheduled release on September 11, 2001, her label (Edel America Records) folded. A five-song EP of Shine was released in June 2002, but the full-length album was released exclusively in Japan. An album of Shine remixes was eventually released through Tower Records.

On October 12, 2000, Lauper took part in the television show Women in Rock, Girls with Guitars performing with Ann Wilson of Heart and with the girl group, Destiny's Child. A CD of the songs performed was released exclusively to Sears stores from September 30 to October 31, 2001, and was marketed as a fundraiser for breast cancer.

In 2002, Sony issued a best-of CD, The Essential Cyndi Lauper. Lauper also released a cover album with Sony/Epic Records entitled At Last (formerly Naked City), which was released in 2003. At Last received one nomination at the 2005 Grammy Awards: Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s), for "Unchained Melody". The effort was also a commercial hit, selling 4.5 million records [32]

In April, 2004, Lauper performed during the VH1's benefit concert Divas Live 2004 alongside Ashanti, Gladys Knight, Jessica Simpson, Joss Stone and Patti LaBelle, in support of the Save the Music Foundation.[33]

2005–2007: The Body Acoustic[edit]

In 2005, under a new contract with Sony Music, Lauper released The Body Acoustic, an album that featured acoustic reinterpretations of tracks from her back catalog. The album also included two new tracks one of which was "Above the Clouds". Guest performers on the album included Shaggy, Ani DiFranco, Adam Lazzara of Taking Back Sunday, Jeff Beck, Puffy AmiYumi, Sarah McLachlan, and Vivian Green. "Time After Time" with Sarah McLachlan charted on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.

While she wasn't making music, Lauper stayed busy. She made appearances on Showtime's hit show Queer As Folk in 2005, directed a commercial for Totally 80s edition of the board game Trivial Pursuit in 2006, served as a judge on the 6th Annual Independent Music Awards and made her Broadway debut in the Tony-nominated The Threepenny Opera as Jenny. She also performed with Shaggy, Scott Weiland of Velvet Revolver/Stone Temple Pilots, Pat Monahan of Train, Ani DiFranco, and The Hooters in the VH1 Classics special Decades Rock Live. In 2007, she sang "Beecharmer" with Nellie McKay on McKay's Pretty Little Head album, and "Letters To Michael" with Dionne Warwick.

On October 16, 2006, Lauper was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.[34]

2008–2009: Bring Ya to the Brink[edit]

Cyndi Lauper performing in 2008

In 2009, Lauper took a role and wrote a song for the Serbian movie Here and There, which stars her husband, David Thornton, in one of the main roles.

Lauper's sixth studio album, Bring Ya to the Brink was released in the United States on May 27, 2008. By the time of the album's US release, the single "Set Your Heart" already had significant airplay in Japan and Lauper had already begun an Australian tour with Katie Noonan and Kate Miller-Heidke. The album featured dance tracks written with artists including Axwell, The Scumfrog, Basement Jaxx, Digital Dog, Dragonette, Kleerup, and others. Bring Ya to the Brink received one Grammy nomination for Best Electronic/Dance Album and charted two #1 hits on the Billboard Dance chart. "Set Your Heart" was used in the Japanese advertising campaign for the 2008 Toyota Car Model (MarkX ZIO).

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Other projects for 2008 included the 2008 True Colors Tour and a Christmas duet with Swedish band The Hives, entitled "A Christmas Duel". The song was released as a CD single and a 7" vinyl in Sweden.[35] Lauper also performed on the "Girls Night Out", headlining it with Rosie O'Donnell in the US.[36]

Lauper's TV appearances in 2009 included performing on the American soap opera As the World Turns, performing "Time After Time" as a duet with Allison Iraheta on the season 8 finale of American Idol, and appearing at the 2009 TV Land Awards on April 19 dressed as the "Empress of Evil" for a musical tribute to Sid Krofft and Marty Krofft. Lauper performed a duet with Leona Lewis on VH1 Divas on September 19, 2009, singing "True Colors", and performed a comedy skit with Eminem at the MTV VMA's in September 2009. She also played herself in 30 Rock's third season finale and appeared as Avalon Harmonia, a psychic, on the Season 5 premiere of Bones.

On November 17, 2009, Lauper performed a collaborative work with Wyclef Jean called "Slumdog Millionaire" and performed it live on the Late Show with David Letterman.[37] The collaborative effort stems from Jean's latest album: Toussaint St. Jean: From the Hut, To the Projects, To the Mansion.

2010–2012: The Celebrity Apprentice, Memphis Blues, memoir[edit]

In January 2010, American toy company Mattel released a Cyndi Lauper Barbie doll as part of their "Ladies of the 80s" series.

In March 2010, Lauper appeared on NBC's The Celebrity Apprentice, coming in sixth place.[38] She donated her winnings to her own True Colors Fund. Lauper also performed a song from her upcoming album Memphis Blues in the show's live season finale.[39]

Memphis Blues—Lauper's 7th studio album—was released on June 22, 2010 and debuted on the Billboard Blues Albums chart at No. 1, and at No. 26 on the Billboard Top 200. The album remained No. 1 on the Blues Albums chart for 14 consecutive weeks; Memphis Blues was nominated for Best Traditional Blues Album at the 2011 Grammy Awards.

Lauper made international news in March 2011 for giving an impromptu performance of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" while waiting for a delayed flight at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery in Buenos Aires. A video of the performance was later posted on YouTube.[40][41]

In November 2011, she released two Christmas singles exclusive to iTunes. The first release was a Blues-inspired cover of Elvis Presley's classic "Blue Christmas", and the second was a new version of "Home for the holidays", a duet with Norah Jones. In June 2012, Lauper made her first appearance for WWE in 27 years, to promote WWE Raw's 1000th episode, to promote her song "Echo", and to memorialize "Captain" Lou Albano.[citation needed]

In September 2012, she performed at fashion designer Betsey Johnson's 40 year Retrospective Fashion show.[42]

2013-present: Kinky Boots, She's So Unusual: A 30th Anniversary Celebration & more[edit]

Lauper composed music for the Broadway musical Kinky Boots with Harvey Fierstein. The musical, based on the 2006 independent film Kinky Boots, opened in Chicago in October 2012,[43] and opened on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on April 4, 2013.[44] In May, Lauper won for best score for Kinky Boots at the 63rd annual Outer Critics Circle Awards.[45] The musical led the 2013 Tony Awards, with 13 nominations and a season high of six wins including Best Musical and Best Actor. Lauper won the award for Best Original Score.[46] This award named Lauper as the first woman to win solo in this category.[47]

In the summer of 2013, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of her debut album She's So Unusual, Lauper embarked on an international tour covering America and Australia. The show consisted of a mix of fan favorites and the entirety of the She's So Unusual record. She will also be a special guest performer on 36 dates of Cher's Dressed to Kill Tour, starting April 23, 2014.[48] A new album has been confirmed by Lauper on a website interview,[49]

Lauper presented the GRAMMY Pre-Telecast which took place at the Nokia Theatre, L.A. on Jan. 26[50] where she later accepted a Grammy for Kinky Boots (Best Musical Theater Album).[51]

On April 1 (March 1 in Europe), Lauper released the 30th Anniversary edition of She's So Unusual through Epic Records[52] It featured a remastered version of the original album plus three new remixes and the Deluxe Edition featured bonus tracks such as demos a live recording as well as a 3D cut-out of the bedroom featured in the 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun' music video with a reusable sticker set.[53] She also appeared as a special guest on Cher's Dressed to Kill Tour,[54] where she performed a set-list mostly consisting of songs on the She's So Unusual album.[55]


Lauper performing at the Gay Games VII, Wrigley Field, July 22, 2006

Lauper has been an LGBT rights supporter throughout her career, campaigning for equality through various charities and gay pride events around the world for almost two decades. Lauper has stated that she became involved in gay rights advocacy because her sister Ellen was a lesbian, and because Lauper herself was passionate about equality. Lauper's sister Ellen was a role model, actively participating in charity work in the gay community, including working at a clinic for AIDS patients.

The title track of Lauper's second album, "True Colors", became an anthem of acceptance and inspiration, particularly for the gay community. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Lauper consistently performed at pride events throughout America.

Her album Hat Full of Stars contains lyrics that address the issue of homophobia and her song "Above the Clouds" celebrates the memory of Matthew Shepard, a young man beaten to death in Wyoming solely because he was gay. Lauper also wrote the music and lyrics for the Tony Award winning musical Kinky Boots, a show which addresses the problems of acceptance for drag queens. As a member of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board, Lauper devoted a concert tour to promoting the Foundation's message of understanding and acceptance.

She co-founded the True Colors Tour for Human Rights through the United States and Canada in June 2007. The tour was sponsored by Logo, the MTV Networks channel targeting gay audiences. Fans who attended were given purple "Erase Hate" wristbands by the Matthew Shepard Foundation.[56] The 2007 tour featured Lauper, Deborah Harry, Erasure, The Dresden Dolls, and Gossip, with Margaret Cho as MC and special guests in different cities. A dollar from every ticket sold was earmarked for the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.[57]

The True Colors Tour 2008 debuted on May 31, 2008. Joining Lauper at various venues were Rosie O'Donnell, The B-52's, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, The Cliks, Indigo Girls, Kat Deluna, Joan Armatrading, Regina Spektor, Tegan and Sara, Nona Hendryx, Deborah Cox, and Wanda Sykes, among others. The MC was Carson Kressley from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Sarah McLachlan was also featured at the Burnaby, British Columbia show.

In April 2010, Lauper's True Colors Fund launched the Give a Damn campaign to encourage straight people and the LGBT community to stand up together against discrimination of LGBT people, and to highlight the problems that LGBT students face in school from verbal and physical bullying and harassment as well as prejudice in the work place. Other celebrities associated with the campaign are Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Mraz, Elton John, Judith Light, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Kardashian, Clay Aiken, Ricky Martin, Sharon Osbourne, Kelly Osbourne, and Anna Paquin.

Lauper also became a very powerful advocate for the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which sought to include assault based solely on an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity as a hate crime. In 2009 Lauper was present in the White House when President Barack Obama signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law.

In 2012 Lauper started the Forty to None Project after learning that although only 10% of American youth identify themselves as LBGT, up to 40% of the homeless youth in America are LGBT. Lauper's project also raised awareness of the problems of LGBT homeless youth by informing the public that LGBT youth are more likely to be sexually victimized than straight homeless youth—and three times as many LGBT homeless youth commit suicide. To tackle this problem, Lauper set up the True Colors Residence in New York City, which is open for LGBT homeless youth. The 40-bed facility offers temporary shelter and aid for homeless LGBT youth as well as permanent housing, along with job placement help.

Lauper's performances at gay pride events include the closing ceremonies for the 1994 Gay Games IV in New York City).[citation needed] On June 24, 2012, Lauper appeared as a Grand Marshall for the annual Gay Pride Parade in New York City.[58]

Lauper's activism is not limited to LGBT activities. In August 2008, she contributed an article titled "Hope" to The Huffington Post, encouraging Americans to vote for Barack Obama in the upcoming United States presidential election.[59] Lauper performed alongside Thelma Houston, Melissa Etheridge, and Rufus Wainwright at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Lauper was also one of the celebrities who designed a T-shirt for the second Fashion Against AIDS campaign in 2009, a collaboration between H&M and Designers Against AIDS to raise HIV/AIDS awareness worldwide, particularly amongst young people.


As one of the earliest female icons to harness MTV's influence and with a pop career spanning over thirty years, Lauper's influence can be seen in multiple recording artists including Alanis Morissette, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Indie.Arie, Jewel, Jill Scott, Joan Osborne, Kasey Chambers, Maximum Balloon, No Doubt, P!nk, Sophie B. Hawkins and Vanessa Paradis.[60] Other artists influenced by Lauper include Nicki Minaj, Kelly Clarkson, Lil Kim, Lady Gaga, Little Boots and Yelle.[61] Katy Perry has stated that Lauper was her 'idol' growing up.[62]

Stephen Thomas Erlewin of Spotify notes that the singer's debut solo album and distinctive idiosyncratic appearance "helped popularize the image of punk and new wave for America, making it an acceptable part of the pop landscape".[60] As Rolling Stone states, Lauper's debut was "arguably the first time explicitly punk-influenced elements were front-and-center on the pop landscape, both musically and via Lauper's Patrick Lucas-styled ensembles, dressing up the droll Reagan decade in feminist chutzpah."[63] The album ranked at #487 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003. The album ranked at #41 on Rolling Stone's list of Women Who Rock: The 50 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2012.[64] In reviewing the album in his 1984 Rolling Stone review, Kurt Loder wrote, "A wild and wonderful skyrocket of a voice... Lauper's extraordinary pipes connect with the right material, the results sound like the beginning of a whole new golden age." Thirty years after its initial release, the album was praised for standing the test of time, being noted as 'everlasting' and a 'once in a lifetime album'.[65] The record has gone on to influence generations of boundary-pushing musicians since its release, evident in everything from the ska-infused punk of No Doubt, the attitude of P!nk, the infectious pop of Katy Perry, the fluorescent personality of Nicki Minaj and, of course, in Lady Gaga's fashion.[66]

Her iconic cover and re-arrangement of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" established her as a 'a feminist idol'.[32] Sheila Moeschen of the Huffington Post argues that the song 'embodied a different kind of feminine aesthetic that ran counter to the raw sensuality and edginess of her contemporaries like Madonna or veteran rockers Joan Jett and Pat Benatar' that introduced 'a nation of women to a new kind of female role model, one that celebrated difference and encouraged playfulness in self-expression'.[67] John Rockwell, The New York Times music critic, wrote that the song was "a giddily upbeat attestation to female pleasure that simultaneously made a feminist statement, fulfilled male fantasies and—especially in its often-played video version—evoked the warmth of family and friends."[68] The video for "Girls", which won the first-ever Best Female Video prize at the 1984 VMAs, featured a multicultural cast of Lauperized women—teased, sideways hair, neon eye shadow, et al.—singing the hook alongside the star.[69] The video is widely noted for being one of the first to feature women of multiple races; the result was a song and video that caught the attention of the mainstream by defying it.[68] Her role as a musical feminist has also been celebrated in her record breaking musical achievements for women including being the first woman to have four Top 5 hits from a debut album, being the first woman to win the composing category solo during the 2013 Tony Awards as well as being one of only four women in the history of American entertainment to have won a competitive Grammy, Emmy and Tony award.

Lauper's song "Time After Time" has been covered by over 100 artists and was ranked at #22 on Rolling Stone's 100 Best Songs of the Past 25 Years[70] and at #19 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 80s[71] and in 2008 was given the BMI Millionaire Award for 5 million spins on US radio.

"She Bop", the third single taken from Lauper's debut solo album made history for being the first and currently only top ten song in music history to directly mention a gay porn magazine.[72] The single was also included in the PMRC's "Filthy Fifteen" list which led to the parental advisory sticker being place on both albums and singles.[72]

Her song "True Colors" is recognized by many as an LGBT anthem and due to her continued involvement with charities such as Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG and the Matthew Shepherd Foundation as well as her many projects that have highlighted LGBT issues such as Kinky Boots and songs like "The Ballad of Cleo and Joe", Lauper is now recognized as a gay icon.[73]

Personal life[edit]

Lauper has been married to David Thornton since 1991. They have one son, Declyn Wallace Thornton (born 1997).[74]

Lauper was raised Roman Catholic and attended Catholic school. However she no longer practices and refers to herself as a "recovering Catholic".[75]



  • American Music Awards Concert Series (1991)
  • True Colors (2007, 2008)
Opening act
Special guest


List of theatre, television and film credits
Year Title Role Notes
2000 Matters of the Heart Herself Broadway concert
2006 The Threepenny Opera Jenny (Ginny Jenny/Low-Dive Jenny) Broadway musical
2013 Kinky Boots Broadway musical (writer)
Year Title Role Notes
1990 Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme Mary (Had a Little Lamb) TV movie
The Wall – Live in Berlin Young Pink TV movie
1993–1999 Mad About You Marianne Lugasso 4 episodes
1999 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Pidge (voice) 1 episode: "The Happy Prince"
The Simpsons Herself (voice) 1 episode: "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken"
The Happy Prince Pidge TV movie
2004 Higglytown Heroes Operator Hero (voice) 1 episode: "Smooth Operator/Stinky Situation"
2005 That's So Raven Ms. Petuto 1 episode: "Art Breaker"
Queer as Folk Herself 1 episode: "I Love You"
2007 The Backyardigans 1 episode: "International Super Spy"
2008 Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List Herself 1 episode: "Fly the Super Gay Skies"
Gossip Girl Herself 1 episode: "Bonfire of the Vanity"
2009 30 Rock Herself 1 episode: "Kidney Now!"
The Apprentice: The Celebrity Apprentice 3 Herself/Contestant Season 3
Bones Avalon Harmonia "Harbingers in a Fountain" (2009)
"The Ghost in the Machine" (2012)
"The Woman in White" (2013)
2012 Bob's Burgers Performer (voice) 1 episode: "The Belchies"
Happily Divorced Kiki 1 episode: "Follow the Leader"
2013 Cyndi Lauper: Still So Unusual Herself 12 episodes (executive producer)
2014 Front and Center Herself 1 episode
Year Title Role Notes
1984 Prime Cuts Herself Cameo
1985 Girls Just Want to Have Fun Woman in Diner Uncredited
1988 Vibes Sylvia Pickel
1991 Off and Running Cyd Morse
1993 Life with Mikey Geena Briganti
1994 Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle Picnic Guest Uncredited
1996 Sesame Street Elmocize Twyla Cameo
2000 The Opportunists Sally Mahon
Christmas Dream Cameo
2005 The Naked Brothers Band: The Movie Herself Cameo
2009 Here and There Rose
2011 Dirty Movie Little Johnny's Mom
2014 Henry & Me Nurse Cyndi (voice) Post-production

Awards and nominations[edit]

Tony Awards[edit]

The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known informally as the Tony Award, recognizes achievement in live Broadway theatre. The awards are presented by The Broadway League at an annual ceremony in New York City. Lauper is the first woman to win a Tony solo for Best Score.[76]

Year Production Category Result
2013 Kinky Boots Best Original Score Won

Grammy Awards[edit]

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Lauper has won two awards from 15 nominations.

Year Recipient Award Result
1985 Cyndi Lauper Best New Artist Won
She's So Unusual Album of the Year Nominated
"Time After Time" Song of the Year Nominated
"Girls Just Want to Have Fun" Record of the Year Nominated
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Nominated
1986 "What a Thrill" Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Nominated
1987 "True Colors" Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Nominated
"911" Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Nominated
1988 "Cyndi Lauper in Paris" Best Performance Music Video Nominated
1990 "I Drove All Night" Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Nominated
1999 "Disco Inferno" Best Dance Recording Nominated
2005 "Unchained Melody" Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) Nominated
2009 Bring Ya to the Brink Best Electronic/Dance Album Nominated
2011 Memphis Blues Best Traditional Blues Album Nominated
2014 Kinky Boots Best Musical Theater Album Won

MTV Video Music Award[edit]

The MTV Video Music Awards were established in 1984 by MTV to celebrate the top music videos of the year. Lauper won three award from 16 nominations, being the first win in the category Best Female Video.

Year Recipient Award Result
1984 "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" Video of the Year Nominated
Best New Artist Nominated
Best Female Video Won
Best Concept Video Nominated
Viewer's Choice Nominated
Best Overall Performance Nominated
"Time After Time" Best New Artist Nominated
Best Female Video Nominated
Best Direction Nominated
1985 "We Are the World" Video of the Year Nominated
Best Group Video Won
Viewer's Choice Won
Best Overall Performance Nominated
"She Bop" Best Female Video Nominated
1987 "True Colors" Best Female Video Nominated
"What's Going On" Best Cinematography Nominated

Other recognitions[edit]

Year By List Work Ranked
1993 Rolling Stone The 100 Top Music Videos[77] "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" No. 22
1999 VH1 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll[10] Cyndi Lauper No. 58
MTV 100 Greatest Videos Ever Made[78] "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" No. 39
Rolling Stone 100 Best Albums of the '80s[79] She's So Unusual No. 75
2000 Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Pop Songs[80] "Time After Time" No. 66
2001 VH1 100 Greatest Videos[81] "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" No. 45
2002 Rolling Stone 50 Essential "Women in Rock" Albums[82] She's So Unusual No. 41
2003 VH1 100 Best Songs of the Past 25 Years[83] "Time After Time" No. 22
Rolling Stone The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time[84] She's So Unusual No. 494
2006 VH1 100 Greatest Songs of the 80's[85] "Time After Time" No. 19
"Girls Just Want to Have Fun" No. 23

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Culture Club
Grammy Award for Best New Artist
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Eileen Heckart
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Succeeded by
Betty White