Acclaimed singer, songwriter, actress and LGBT activist over 30 year career
Iconoclast who revolutionized the role of women in rock and roll
Cyndi Lauper has achieved pop icon status, thanks to such career-making hits as “Time After Time,” “She Bop” and “Change of Heart?all of which she had a hand in—not to mention her Tony-winning turn scoring the 2013 Broadway musical Kinky Boots. Along the way she has collaborated with the songwriting likes of Essra Mohawk, Billy Steinberg, Tom Kelly, Billy Joel, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Allee Willis, Nicky Holland, Hugh Masekela, Wyclef Jean, Jeff Beck, Junior Vasquex, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Nellie McKay and Max Martin, while taking on serious topical issues including racism, homophobia, spousal abuse and AIDS.
Born June 22, 1953 in Queens, New York, Cynthia Ann Stephanie "Cyndi" Lauper grew up in Ozone Park listening to artists like The Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland and Billie Holiday, and began writing her own songs and playing acoustic guitar at age 12. She stood out visually early on through her wardrobe and changing hair color, even changing the spelling of “Cindy;” she dropped out of a visual arts-oriented public high school for students, and left home at 17 because of an abusive stepfather.
Lauper sang in cover bands in the early ‘70s, and in 1978 formed the band Blue Angel, which released an acclaimed self-titled album in 1980. Gaining recognition for her four-octave range and unique singing style, she signed a solo contract with Epic Records’ Portrait label and in 1983 released the appropriately titled She’s So Unusual, which became the first debut female album to have four Top 5 singles, including her co-written “Time After Time?the Grammy Song of the Year—and “She Bop,” as well as her signature hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” for which she modified the lyrics as an anthem for young women, and “All Through the Night.” Its huge success also brought her the Best New Artist Grammy Award.
Lauper co-wrote most of her follow-up album True Colors, including the hit “Change of Heart.” In 1986 she sang “Code of Silence?which she had written the lyrics for—with Billy Joel on his album The Bridge. Her own songs took a darker turn on albums like Hat Full of Stars (1993) and Sisters of Avalon (1997): For example, “Say a Prayer,” from the latter album, was written for a friend who died of AIDS. But her 2008 album Bring Ya To The Brink featured dance tracks co-written with artists including Axwell, The Scumfrog, Basement Jaxx, Digital Dog, Dragonette and Kleerup; her 2010 album Memphis Blues was Billboard’s most successful blues album that year.
In 2013 Lauper composed the music for the Broadway hit Kinky Boots, which won six Tony Awards. Her Tony for the score made her the first woman to win solo in that category, and joined her other citations including two Grammys, an Emmy (in 1995, for her role as Marianne on Mad About You), and over 50 million albums sold.
Meanwhile, Lauper’s humanitarian activities, especially as an advocate for gay and transgender rights, earned her an invitation as a special guest to attend President Barack Obama's second-term inauguration.