About Cyndi Lauper
Early on, Cyndi Lauper figured how to chart her own course. Born in 1953 and raised in Queens, Lauper left home as a teenager to escape an abusive stepfather, working odd jobs and studying painting, hitchhiking up to Canada with her dog. (Writing in her 2012 memoir, Lauper notes that all she brought when she left Queens was “a paper bag with a toothbrush, a change of underwear, an apple, and a copy of Yoko Ono’s book Grapefruit.”)
After struggling as a covers singer and the frontwoman of a short-lived band called Blue Angel, Lauper broke through with 1983’s She’s So Unusual, an album that cast her as a New Wave eccentric and pop-feminist icon, turning out a flurry of singles—“Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “She Bop,” “Time After Time,” “All Through the Night”—whose sound and style defined the early '80s. Even after she hit, Lauper found herself having to answer to—and work around—the demands of an industry in which being a woman was a liability. (Quoted in the book I Want My MTV, Lauper says she often found herself writing her own concepts for her videos and getting them approved because she’d signed them with a man’s name.)
While her sound has changed dozens of times since—the serious singer-songwriter turns of 1989’s A Night to Remember and 1993’s Hat Full of Stars, the 2003 standards album At Last, blues on 2010's Memphis Blues and country on 2016’s Detour—Lauper’s personality has been firm: generous, quirky, and unflinchingly tender, the kind of artist who didn’t just build a career but a following; the free spirit you take to heart.
In addition to pop music, Lauper has tried her hand at Broadway and Hollywood, including writing the music and lyrics for the Tony-winning show Kinky Boots and winning an Emmy for her role on the '90s sitcom Mad About You. In 2008, she co-founded True Colors United, a nonprofit that addresses homelessness among LGBTQ youth.
Speaking to NPR in 2016, Lauper framed her career as a cycle of impasses and resolutions, of being held back and pushing stubbornly forward. “I always said the wrong things to the right people,” she said. “But, you know, you learn not to dive into the vat of whatever that is—just step back and let stuff rise to the top and let it go, because it’s not important. What’s important is what you want to do.”
BORNJune 22, 1953