Girls – they want to have fun

She was supremely confident in her songwriting ability, but the record company insisted on providing her with musical material that they wanted her to record.  So she took whatever was passed her way and re-wrote it.  A prime example was this, her first major single released in 1983.

Originally written by New Wave musician Robert Hazard with a male point of view, she found the song to be slightly misogynistic, so with Hazard’s approval she re-worked it into a “playful romp celebrating female camaraderie.” The Platinum-certified result reached Number 2 on both the UK and US Charts and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was quickly acclaimed as a feminist anthem.

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Raised in Ozone Park, Queens where she was born in 1953, Cynthia Ann Stephanie “Cyndi” Lauper, whose single mother worked as a waitress, was the middle child of three. Having exhibited an artistic side since she was very young, with her mother’s encouragement she experimented with fashion and dyed her hair in radical colors, even  as an adolescent.  She also spent a great deal of time listening to Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald and the Beatles, and when her big sister gave her a guitar she learned to play and began to write her own songs.

By the late ‘70s Lauper had already performed in numerous cover bands and was supporting herself in various odd jobs when she and a musician friend decided to form the Retro-Rockabilly group, Blue Angel.  With Lauper helping to write much of the group’s material Blue Angel became increasingly popular on the club circuit and eventually an eponymous album was released. Although critically acclaimed it didn’t sell well however, and the band soon broke up.  Still, Lauper’s four octave singing range (she also had perfect pitch) and distinctive vocal style had gained plenty of recognition and in late 1983, with a new manager, a trendy quasi-punk image and a new record deal, she released her debut album “She’s So Unusual”.

It was a fitting name. “She’s So Unusual” reached Number 4 on the Billboard Album Chart (it would continue to chart for well over a year) and Lauper became the first female ever to have four consecutive Billboard Top 5 hits from a single album.  Although her label had expressed little faith in her songwriting ability, “Time After Time” topped the charts and was one of the biggest hits of 1984, while “She Bop” reached Number 3 and the Jules Shear penned song, “All Through the Night” peaked at Number 5. The album also included a cover of The Brains’ “Money Changes Everything” although that single “only” made it to Number 27 on the charts.

She’s So Unusual” went on to sell more than 16 million copies world-wide and Lauper won the 1985 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. However it’s that debut single (and the album’s second track) that remains her signature song to this day and the video that accompanied it has been (separately) ranked among the Top 50 greatest music videos by MTV, VH1 and Rolling Stone.

Shot in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the summer of ‘83, it cost less than $35,000 to make, thanks in part to an all-volunteer cast including: her mother, who played herself; her brother; her manager; her (straight-laced, suit-wearing) attorney; friend and fellow musician, Steve Forbert; a number of secretaries from her record label; and in a role that some of us can sincerely empathize with, friend and professional wrestling manager, Lou Albano as her father.

The cost was also minimized by the free loan of some of the most sophisticated video equipment then available.  SNL producer Lorne Michaels, who was a fellow client of Lauper’s attorney, had just purchased the multi-million-dollar digital editing equipment, which Lauper and her producer used to create several innovative computer-generated images of her dancing and then leading the entire cast in a snake-dance through the streets of Manhattan that winds up in an homage to the Marx Brothers’ iconic stateroom scene in the film “A Night at the Opera”.

Surely it’s true that girls just want to have fun, and who can doubt in this case that Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper…well and truly did.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

 I come home in the morning light

My mother says when you gonna live your life right

Oh mother dear we’re not the fortunate ones

And girls they want to have fun

Oh girls just want to have fun

The phone rings in the middle of the night

My father yells what you gonna do with your life

Oh daddy dear you know you’re still number one

But girls they want to have fun

Oh girls just want to have –

That’s all they really want

Some fun

When the working day is done

Girls – they want to have fun

Oh girls just want to have fun

Some boys take a beautiful girl

And hide her away from the rest of the world

I want to be the one to walk in the sun

Oh girls they want to have fun

Oh girls just want to have

That’s all they really want

Some fun

When the working day is done

Girls – they want to have fun

Oh girls just want to have fun,

They want to have fun,

They want to have fun….

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