Life and career
1953–1979: Early life
Lauper was born at Boulevard Hospital in
New York City,
 to a Catholic family. Her father, Fred, was of German and Swiss descent. Her mother, Catrine (née Gallo), is Italian American (from
Sicily). Lauper's siblings are younger brother Fred (nicknamed Butch), and older sister, Ellen.
 Lauper's parents divorced when she was five.
 Her mother remarried and divorced again.
Lauper grew up in the
 neighborhood of Queens and, as a child, listened to such artists as
Judy Garland and
Billie Holiday. At age 12, she began writing songs and playing an acoustic guitar given to her by her sister.
Lauper expressed herself with a variety of hair colors, eccentric clothing
 and even took a friend's advice to spell her name as "Cyndi" rather than "Cindy".
Lauper went to
Richmond Hill High School, but was expelled,
 although she later earned her
 She left home at 17, to escape her abusive stepfather,
 intending 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 traveled to
Vermont, where she took art classes at
Johnson State College and supported herself working odd jobs.
In the early 1970s, Lauper performed as a vocalist with various
cover bands. One, called Doc West, covered disco songs as well as Janis Joplin. A later band, Flyer, was active in the New York metropolitan area, singing hits by bands including
Jefferson Airplane and
Led Zeppelin. Although Lauper was performing on stage, she was not happy singing
 In 1977, Lauper damaged her vocal cords and took a year off from singing. She was told by doctors that she would never sing again, but regained her voice with the help of vocal coach Katie Agresta.
1980–1982: 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 Blue Angel's contract for $5,000 and became their manager.
Lauper received 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 ("It went lead", as Lauper later joked) 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.
 After this Lauper temporarily lost her voice due to an inverted cyst in her vocal cord.
After Blue Angel broke up, Lauper spent time, due to her financial problems, working in retail stores, waitressing at
IHOP (which she quit after being demoted to hostess when the manager made a pass at her),
 and singing in local clubs. Her most frequent gigs were at El Sombrero.
 Music critics who saw Lauper perform with Blue Angel believed she had star potential due to her four-octave singing range.
 In 1981, while singing in a local New York bar, Lauper met David Wolff, who took over as her manager and had her sign a recording contract with
Portrait Records, a subsidiary of
1983–1985: 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
Eric Bazilian and
Rob Hyman (of
Richard Termini and Peter Wood. Lauper became popular with teenagers and critics, in part due to her hybrid punk image, which was crafted by stylist Patrick Lucas.
Lauper was interested in writing her own songs, but the record company provided her with songs to record that were written by other writers. Lauper sometimes changed the lyrics in the material she was given by the record company; such is the case with "
Girls Just Want to Have Fun". Lauper found the original lyrics to be misogynistic, so she rewrote the song as an anthem for young women.
The album's second single "
Time After Time" was co-written by Lauper and Rob Hyman. "Time After Time" hit No. 1 on both the
Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts. The song would earn Lauper an
RIAA Gold certification for record sales that reached 500,000 copies, and was later covered by Miles Davis on his album “You’re under arrest”. It became a staple of Davis’ live shows at the time, featuring on the live album “Live around the world”.
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).
The album includes five cover songs, including
The Brains' new wave track "
Money Changes Everything" (No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100) and
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 16 million copies worldwide.
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,
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
Lou Albano as Lauper's father, and her real-life mother, Catrine, as her mother,
 and also featured her attorney, her manager, her brother Butch, and her dog Sparkle.
 In 1984–85, 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.
In 1985, Lauper participated in
USA for Africa's famine-relief fund-raising single "
We Are the World", which sold more than 20 million copies since then.
Lauper appeared with
Hulk Hogan, who played her "bodyguard"
 and would also later 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.
 Dave Wolff, Lauper's boyfriend and manager at the time, was a wrestling fan as a boy, and engineered the rock and wrestling connection.
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
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 Lauper in Paris.
Lauper released her second album,
True Colors, on September 18, 1986.
 It reached No. 4 on the
Billboard 200 and sold 2 million copies in the US. She increased her involvement in production and songwriting on her second album, co-writing most of the songs with
Billy Steinberg, and
Tom Kelly. Guests included Angela Clemons-Patrick,
The Bangles, Ellie Greenwich and
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. She donated the proceeds of that song to AIDS research. The song "True Colors" (written by Steinberg and 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 a duet with him. In the same year, Lauper also sang the
theme song for the series
Pee-wee's Playhouse, credited as "Ellen Shaw". In 1987, David Wolff produced a concert film for Lauper called Cyndi Lauper in Paris. The concert was broadcast on
Lauper made her film debut in August 1988 in the quirky comedy
Peter Falk, and
Julian Sands. Lauper played a psychic in search of a city of gold in South America.
Deborah Blum and Tony Ganz 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 flopped and was poorly received by critics.
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, a high energy, comic action/adventure romp through a Chinese laundry. The song reached No. 54 on the US charts, but fared better in Australia, reaching No. 8. "Hole in My Heart (All the Way to China)" became the opening song on her 2008 Australian tour.
1989–1992: A Night to Remember and marriage
A Night to Remember – Lauper's third album – was released in the spring of 1989. The album had one hit, the No. 6 single "
I Drove All Night", originally recorded by Roy Orbison, three years before his death on December 6, 1988. 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 down. The music video for the album's song "My First Night Without You" was one of the first to be closed-captioned for the hearing impaired.
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,
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".
 She also took part in Ono and Lennon's son
Sean's project called "The Peace Choir", performing a new version of Lennon's "
Give Peace a Chance".
On November 24, 1991, Lauper married actor
1993–1995: Hat Full of Stars and Twelve Deadly Cyns
Lauper's fourth album
Hat Full of Stars was released in June 1993 and was met with critical acclaim, but failed commercially, unsupported by her label. The album, which tackled such topics as
spousal abuse, racism, and abortion sold fewer than 120,000 copies in the United States and peaked at No. 112 on the Billboard charts.
 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,
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.
Her 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. The album sold over six million copies worldwide. 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)".
In 1993, Lauper returned to acting, playing
Michael J. Fox's ditzy secretary in
Life with Mikey. She also won an
 for her role as Marianne Lugasso in the sitcom
Mad About You.
1996–2000: Motherhood and Sisters of Avalon
Lauper performing in 2000
On November 19, 1997, Lauper gave birth to her son Declyn Wallace Thornton.
 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. Again without support from her label, the release failed in America, spending a single week on the
Billboard album chart at No. 188. This album also 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."
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", singing the National Anthem to the melody of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun". In the same year, Lauper opened for
Do You Believe? Tour alongside
Wild Orchid. She also appeared in the films
Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle and
Lauper contributed a
cover version of
The Trammps' "
Disco Inferno" to the soundtrack for the film
A Night at the Roxbury. The song was also released as an EP and earned Lauper a nomination
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 (DEVO). 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,
2001–2004: Shine and At Last
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
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
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
In April 2004, Lauper performed during the
VH1's benefit concert
Divas Live 2004 alongside
Joss Stone and
Patti LaBelle, in support of the Save the Music Foundation.
2005–2007: The Body Acoustic
In 2005, under a new contract with Sony Music, Lauper released
The Body Acoustic, an album that featured acoustic reinterpretations of tracks from her repertoire. The album also included two new tracks including "Above the Clouds". Guest performers on the album included
Adam Lazzara of
Taking Back Sunday,
Sarah McLachlan, and
Vivian Green. "Time After Time" with Sarah McLachlan charted on the
Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
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 performed with
Scott Weiland of
Stone Temple Pilots,
Pat Monahan of
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 "Message To Michael" with
On October 16, 2006, Lauper was inducted into the
Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
2008–2009: Bring Ya to the Brink
Cyndi Lauper performing in 2008
In 2009, Lauper took a role and wrote a song for the
Here and There, which stars her husband, David Thornton.
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" had already had significant airplay in Japan, and Lauper had begun an Australian tour with
Katie Noonan and
Kate Miller-Heidke. The album featured dance tracks written with artists including
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 MarkX ZIO.
Other projects for 2008 included the 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.
 Lauper also performed on the "Girls Night Out", headlining it with
Rosie O'Donnell in the US.
Lauper's TV appearances in 2009 included 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 at the 2009 TV Land Awards on April 19 dressed as the "Empress of Evil" for a musical tribute to
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
On November 17, 2009, Lauper performed a collaborative work with
Wyclef Jean called "Slumdog Millionaire", performing it on the
Late Show with David Letterman.
 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
In January 2010,
Mattel released a Cyndi Lauper
Barbie doll as part of their "Ladies of the 80s" series.
In March 2010, Lauper appeared on
The Celebrity Apprentice, coming in sixth place.
 She donated her winnings to her True Colors Fund. Lauper also performed a song from her upcoming album
Memphis Blues in the show's live season finale.
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 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 was later posted on YouTube.
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 memorialize "Captain"
In September 2012, Lauper performed at fashion designer
Betsey Johnson's 40 year Retrospective Fashion show.
 She also released a New York Times Best Selling memoir that detailed her struggle with
child abuse and depression.
2013–2015: Kinky Boots, She's So Unusual: A 30th Anniversary Celebration & Songwriters Hall of Fame
Lauper composed music and lyrics for the Broadway musical
Kinky Boots, with
Harvey Fierstein writing the book. The musical was based on the 2006 independent film
Kinky Boots. It opened in Chicago in October 2012
 and on Broadway at the
Al Hirschfeld Theatre on April 4, 2013.
 In May, Lauper won for best score for
Kinky Boots at the 63rd annual
Outer Critics Circle Awards.
 The musical led the
2013 Tony Awards, with 13 nominations and six wins including
Best Musical and
Best Actor. Lauper won the award for
Best Original Score.
 Lauper was the first woman to win solo in this category.
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 was a guest on 36 dates of
Dressed to Kill Tour, starting April 23, 2014.
 A new album was confirmed by Lauper on a website interview.
Lauper hosted the Grammy Pre-Telecast at the Nokia Theatre, L.A. on Jan 26,
 where she later accepted a Grammy for Kinky Boots (Best Musical Theater Album).
On April 1 (March 1 in Europe), Lauper released the 30th Anniversary edition of She's So Unusual through Epic Records
 It featured a remastered version of the original album plus three new remixes. The Deluxe Edition featured bonus tracks such as demos and 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.
On September 17, 2014, Cyndi Lauper sang on the finale of
America's Got Talent.
On September 25, as part of the
Today Show's Shine a Light series, Lauper re-recorded "
True Colors" in a mashup with
Sara Bareilles' "
Brave" to raise awareness and money for children battling cancer.
 By October the project had raised over $300,000.
Songwriters Hall of Fame included Lauper in its nomination list on October 2014.
 Also during October, Lauper's fourth consecutive 'Home for the Holidays' benefit concert for
homeless gay youth was announced. Acts included
50 Cent and
Laverne Cox with 100% of the net proceeds going to the True Colors Fund
In March 2015 Lauper once again guest starred on the crime show Bones as Avalon Harmonia.
On June 12, 2015, Lauper appeared on
The Graham Norton Show alongside
Dara O'Briain, and
To promote her work with the National Psoriasis Foundation and Novartis and revealing she, herself has suffered from
psoriasis for the past five years, Cyndi appeared on the
Today Show in July 2015. During the interview Cyndi revealed she is working on a project with
Seymour Stein. Later it was revealed in an interview with Rolling Stone she is working on a country album with
Tony Brown, and Seymour Stein as executive producer.
On September 15, 2015, Kinky Boots opened at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End.
2016–present: Detour and more
In January 2016, Lauper announced she would release a new album on the May 6, 2016. This composed of her interpretations of early country classics entitled
 The announcement was supported by a release of her version of
Harlan Howard's "
Heartaches by the Number" and a performance on Skyville Live with
Kelsea Ballerini and
 On February 17, 2016 she released her version of
Wanda Jackson's "
Funnel of Love".
In February 2016, Lauper was nominated for an
Olivier Award for her contribution to the UK production of Kinky Boots along with
Stephen Oremus, the man responsible for the arrangements.
 In January 2017, this production's album was nominated for the
Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
In May 2016, Lauper was featured on "Swipe to the Right" off of
Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise from French producer
Jean-Michel Jarre. This second album of the Electronica project is based on collaborations with artists related to electronic music (Tangerine Dream, Moby, Pet Shop Boys, etc.).
In October 2016, her son Dex Lauper was the opening act for her Scottsdale, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada dates on her
In January 2017, Lauper was featured on
Austin City Limits' 42nd season performing some of her classic songs alongside country tunes from Detour. The episode aired on
 In October 2017 she released a new song, "Hope", in honor of World Psoriasis Day. "I know first-hand the impact psoriasis can have and my goal is to give a voice to the millions of Americans who may struggle with their psoriasis," said Lauper.