Wednesday 21 August 2019

Girls (& boys) still want to have fun

Cyndi Lauper is an icon of female strength and identity
Cyndi Lauper is an icon of female strength and identity
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Growing up with three sisters in the 1980s, it was difficult to avoid the music of Cyndi Lauper with songs like Girls Just Want To Have Fun and Time After Time appearing to dominate our small house in Churchtown as well as the globe.

Born on June 22, 1953, Cyndi, who was raised in Queens, New York, became an icon of female strength and identity. Jon Pareles, in The New York Times, described Lauper's 1986 No 1 hit True Colours as "a virtual benediction" with its lyrics 'I see your true colors and that's why I love you'."

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A year earlier, Cyndi had her first No 1 record in America with Time After Time. The song passed into another realm when jazz god Miles Davis recorded it on his 1985 album You're Under Arrest. As George Cole, author of The Last Miles, noted: "Miles had always played popular tunes - in the past, tunes such as My Funny Valentine and If I Were A Bell were part of his repertoire - and when Miles heard the Cyndi Lauper track, he just fell in love with the melody."

Cyndi was overjoyed by Miles's rereading of her song, not least as she said herself she grew up on the jazz greats, and she "learned to phrase from Billie Holiday, and from Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra - he was a great phraser. And I listened to Lester Young with Billie Holiday, for the relationship between voice and instruments".

The relationship between Cyndi and her mostly female audience was important too. Ms. magazine named Cyndi 'Woman of the Year' in 1985 "for taking feminism beyond conformity to individuality, rebellion and freedom". The pop icon who went on to sell over 20 million records, would later describe this award as her "most prized possession, because I am feminist and I do believe in freedom and equality for all". In 2016, while the star worked to try to reduce LGBT homelessness in America, she wrote an essay for Advocate magazine that revealed: "Up to 40pc of homeless youth identify as LGBT, yet fewer than 7pc of kids nationwide are LGBT. That discrepancy is outrageous, and it's something we can't ignore."

Like that other young American with talent to match the sass, Ms Lauper made the decade of the 1980s almost her own. The difference was, perhaps, that Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper was not as full of her own self-importance as Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone; and she was funny. She told Andy Warhol's Interview magazine in April, 1986 that when she began "I looked like Sir Isaac Newton. I had my eyebrows tweezed and the big lips. I still like that look."

'Kinky Boots', with songs by Cyndi Lauper, runs at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin, from August 19-31.

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