When I was in grade-school, I was forced to make a choice. It was a bit stressful due to the potentially long-lasting implications. I was pressured to pick a side and thereby choose my identity. But, it was an easier decision to make than I anticipated. In fact, it came to me naturally. The questions was: Who do you like better–Madonna or Cyndi Lauper? Whilst most of the popular girls chose Madonna, in a flash, I made up my mind. How could you not love this woman?
The talented weirdo, that’s the one for me. I loved everything about her, from her relationship with the WWF to her ever-changing hair color, to her abrasive New York accent, to her Goonies theme song and video. Heck, I was and am such a fan that I went and saw her film Vibes in theatrical release! Believe it!
In retrospect, I’m ecstatic with my decision. I really feel I chose my loyalty wisely. Flash forward twenty-some years and look at the state of play today. Whilst Madonna is off developing fake British accents, writing children’s books, and modeling leotards, Cyndi Lauper quietly released several critically acclaimed albums, starred in The Three-Penny Opera on Broadway, and started one of the most philanthropic shows of recent summers, The True Colors Tour. True Colors Tour wherein she shares the stage with such diverse acts as The B-52s and Nona Gaye. Cyndi Lauper is rad.
I don’t mean to poop all over Madonna. I will readily admit to enjoying her dance floor pop just as much as the next person. Also, have you seen her arms? She could snap me in half. But there’s just something about Cyndi that feels more legitimate. Plus, with her perfect pitch and four octave range, she’s– hands down–the better singer.
Importantly, Cyndi, who has a lesbian sister, was a friend to my people before being nice to gays was cool. Class.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, Cyndi grew up in a sort of hardscrabble existence. Her parents were divorced and her Mom worked hard to support Cyndi and her two siblings. People forget that Cyndi actually didn’t achieve musical fortune until she was nearly thirty. She had already bankrupted herself trying once. In the meantime, she worked a myriad of jobs and sang in nightclubs. Loyal to friends and family, she cast those she loved in videos and stayed true to her band when a record label was only interested in her as a solo artist.
Now, I could just go on and on gushing about her, but let me try to get a little focus here. Today, I’d like to praise just one of my favorite Cyndi songs:
47. Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”
Lauper co-wrote this bittersweet song with Rob Hyman of The Hooters. (The Hooters also acted as her session musicians for her first record). Since then, “Time After Time” has been covered over 120 times, including versions by Eva Cassidy, Ashley Tisdale, and Uncle Kracker. Lauper’s favorite cover version, however, was performed by Miles Davis in 1985.
Here’s a baby-faced Lauper singing it at the 1984 Grammy Awards:
Back then, Lauper was one of the darlings of the (relatively) new channel, MTV. That was back when they played videos of course, instead of reality shows featuring spoiled 16 year olds’ birthday parties and spoiled Califonia residents and spoiled twenty-somethings living in a house together in a tired reality format.
Jeez, music stars of 1985, you want YOUR MTV, I want MTV BACK. What I wouldn’t do to see videos–maybe a programming block featuring “She-Bop”, “PYT”, “Hot For Teacher”, “China Girl”, and “Love is a Battlefield”. How ace would that be? Or just ANY block of videos.
Anyway, I digress. I was lucky enough to catch her in concert last night. She’s promoting her new, built-for-the-dancefloor CD Bring Ya To The Brink. It’s a truly fun record. But in the middle of the lively new tracks and the beloved standards, she whips out a dulcimer. This instrument is her new obsession, she says and she uses it to play a fantastic verion of “Time After Time”. It’s a quiet point in the show that brings the fans to tears. Yes, even I, stone-cold killer that I am, welled up a bit. Other songs from the 80’s that make me cry include another Cyndi classic “True Colors”, The Cars’ “Drive”, and Eddie Grant’s “Electric Avenue”.
“Time After Time” is a track that Lauper and Hyman created for the album at the eleventh hour. At the last minute, the record company pushed for just one more track to round out Cyndi’s solo debut album She’s So Unusual. The two musicians stayed late after sessions and hashed it out. They were both going through transitional phases in their lives and found a way to put their gentle melancholy into verse. The title came from the name of an old sci-fi film that Cyndi saw advertised in a TV Guide.
The track has also been featured by two of my favorite comedies Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion and Napolean Dynamite. It’s a testament to the track that even by goofy association, the spirit of the lyrics remain solidly sweet. This song is unbreakable.
Now, in a combination of TWO of my favorite things, please enjoy, in tandem, Cyndi Lauper and Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion.