‘Unusual’ musical pioneer Lauper called Ozone Park home

By The Greater Astoria Historical Society

Pioneering singer-songwriter, actress and LGBT rights activist Cyndi Lauper was born in Boulevard Hospital in Astoria June 22, 1953.

After early personal and career struggles, including losing her voice and going bankrupt, Lauper burst onto the music scene with her 1983 debut solo album “She’s So Unusual.” Known by fans in her early days for her outrageous outfits, waffle pattern hairstyle and contagious pop hits, the Queens native has become a ubiquitous presence on airwaves, Broadway musicals and television shows worldwide.

She is married to actor David Thornton and they have a son, Declan. The singer is one of only 20 artists to attain so-called “GET” status by winning competitive Grammy, Emmy, and Tony awards.

The future star was raised in Ozone Park, the middle of three children. Her formative years were marked by instability and a search for belonging in a world where she increasingly felt different. Her parents divorced when Cyndi was 5, and then her mother remarried only to separate again.

From an early age, she found an outlet for expression in music, her expanding record collection containing an eclectic range of hits from Billie Holiday to Ella Fitzgerald and The Beatles.

In her teens, hints of Lauper’s bright future began to emerge as she began writing her own songs and playing the guitar, all the while expressing her uniqueness with a dazzling array of hair colors and outlandish fashions. At 17, the Queens native dropped out of high school and set out in search of herself, at one time living in the woods in Canada with her dog.

She returned to New York City and began singing in earnest in the early 1970s as a vocalist with a series of cover bands. The talented singer felt limited crooning hits from Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane and others, and soon lost her voice and was told by doctors she would never perform again.

Through coaching and unrelenting determination, however, Lauper was soon back on stage.

Lauper’s break to stardom came in 1983 with the release of her debut solo album, which notched four Top 5 hits on the Billboard Hot 100: “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “Time After Time,” “She Bop” and “All Through the Night.”

Her stunning success continued throughout the 1980s. She received the Best New Artist Award at the 27th Grammy Awards and directed the soundtrack to the hit movie “The Goonies” in 1985, and the following year released her second record, “True Colors.”

Following her breakout decade, Lauper was not content with pop stardom. She has released 10 studio albums since the late ’80s, with her most recent bestselling “Memphis Blues” topping the charts in that category for 13 straight weeks in 2010.

The multitalented star also branched out into acting, winning an Emmy Award in 1995 for her guest actress role in the sitcom “Mad About You.” More recently, in “A Memoir,” her 2012 autobiography, the singer chronicled her childhood struggles with depression and a broken home and the lean years before the bright lights, MTV and concert tours made her a household name.

Throughout her career, Lauper the artist has used her fame as an activist advocating for gay rights. She claims that her older sister Ellen, a lesbian, has been a role model for her advocacy. Her contribution to the fight for equality was recognized when she attended President Barack Obama’s second inauguration as a special guest.

Reflecting on a lifetime as a rebel, an outsider and an advocate for others struggling for acceptance, the woman with the Queens accent and funny hair once commented, “You always have to remember — no matter what you’re told — that God loves all the flowers, even the wild ones that grow on the side of the highway.”

For more information, call 718-278-0700 or visit astorialic.org.

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