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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cyndi Lauper ~~ A Memoir: New York Times Review

I'm currently in the middle of reading A Memoir by Cyndi Lauper, which I find very moving and candid. Although co-authored by Jancee Dunn, Cyndi's voice certainly seems to be right there in the prose, as if  you could hear her reading it to you. 

“Most of us think of Cyndi as the free-spirited girl who just wants to have fun and her many die-hard fans will be surprised to know her real life story,” said her publisher, Judith Curr, quite accurately.

Cyndi will be doing a holiday benefit show for homeless LGBT youth this Saturday, December 10, at the Beacon Theater in New York, with a roster of celebrity guests including Adam Lambert, Sarah McLachlan and Roberta Flack, among many others.

I read the book review that appears immediately below from the Sunday New York Times and thought it was so on the nose and concise, I decided to share it with everyone. Personally, I would recommend this sensitive and emotionally real, down-to-earth autobiography as a holiday gift for anyone who enjoys Cyndi's music.

’80s Pop
‘Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir’
Unlike recent books by Patti Smith, Bob Dylan and Keith Richards that have come to be regarded as models for the art of rock literature, Lauper’s memoir makes no attempt to be the least bit literary. Lauper essentially lays out the events of her life in something close to straight chronology, with digressions, in the rhetoric of lunchtime chat. Lauper grows up in a two-­family house with “shingles that looked almost like the color of Good & Plenty candy.” She struggles as a young woman, so hard up at one point that she skins and cooks a squirrel for dinner. She works almost anywhere that will have her, including as a hostess for a Manhattan club catering to Japanese businessmen. She develops as a singer and songwriter, loses her voice, regains it and pampers it ever after as the precious gift that it is. She endures a vile sexual episode with her own friends and bandmates. She becomes famous, then gravely ill with endometriosis, and she proves to have a habit of saying “the wrong things to the right people” — like the time she told Steven Spielberg, in a meeting, that he wasn’t being very ­creative.

Lauper’s book seems untainted by the influence of other books. It comes across as true to Lauper’s colors, which are those of an eight-pack box of crayons. Never academically inclined, Lauper struggled horribly in class and was eventually expelled from Richmond Hill High School in Queens. (After she became a celebrity, the school gave her an honorary diploma.) Lauper guesses she had attention deficit disorder, and she writes as if she still does. Intellectually skittery, but blessed with a sense of style as strong as her singing voice, Lauper has the ability to recall every outfit she has ever worn. As she describes the day she went to watch the Beatles’ motorcade drive along the Belt Parkway on its way to Shea Stadium: “So I started screaming, and I shut my eyes, and by the time I realized I should open my eyes, I’d missed it. I was all dressed nice, too. I had dark jean clam diggers with pointy shoes and a sleeveless green, blue and black plaid shirt with a man-tailored collar. I’ve never actually met a Beatle, but I saw Tony Bennett once when I was a kid at the 1964-65 World’s Fair.” You have to marvel at the wonder of prose so vividly loopy.

Raised as a Catholic in a matriarchal Sicilian-American family, Lauper was the second of three kids born to a culture-hungry waitress whose second husband, a sexual predator, so taunted Lauper that she left home in her teens. Lauper portrays her mother, tenderly, as an earthly counterpart to the many watchful spirits she has felt helping her throughout her life. When Lauper was a young singer, playing in a string of cover bands that worked the bars in Long Island beach towns, she was once thrown from the van on the way to a gig. “I was flying with an angel above me,” Lauper writes, “and I passed these dead musicians who were on the side of the road just watching — Duane Allman, Berry Oakley. Then the angel said, ‘That’s a good place for you to land,’ and it was a bush.”

Wherever she landed, literally or figuratively, Lauper saw divine purpose. She has been nominated for 14 Grammy Awards, and won as Best New Artist in 1985. After her first couple of Grammy losses, she consoled herself: “Maybe it’s God telling me that it’s nice to be recognized but awards don’t make the person or the singer.”

"Feels Like Christmas" by Cyndi Lauper, produced by Junior Vasquez:

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