From a girl living in Ozone Park to the first female to have her debut album chart four top-five hits on the Billboard Hot 100, Cyndi Lauper has remained the same unusual girl throughout.
“I know who I am and when I came out with ‘She’s So Unusual,’ I wanted a few things: I wanted it to be good and I wanted it to be me,” Lauper said during her Oct. 20 show at Queens College. “The record label didn’t want me writing my own songs even though I had been doing that forever, but I wasn’t going to let that get in my way.
“They’d give me a song they wanted me to do and I’d change it around to make it something I’d want to sing or listen to.”
But Lauper wasn’t all about the glitz and glamour; the rock star was a wild child way before the platinum records starting rolling in.
Lauper was accepted into a special public high school for students with talent in the visual arts but eventually dropped out and left her home 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 then migrated to Vermont, where she took art classes at Johnson State College and worked odd jobs to support herself. Lauper eventually received her GED.
“I wasn’t exactly a model student,” she said. “It wasn’t my priority.”
Other than her music, Lauper prioritized what any single 30-year-old would: guys.
“I always knew if a boy liked, me by how he handled the end of a date,” Lauper said. “When I was younger I lived on a five-floor walk-up ,which is a lot of stairs.
“Most of the time guys would just drop me off at the front door, see all the stairs and give up, but the keepers were the ones who walked all the way to the top.”
One of those keepers, an old fling, gave Lauper his mother’s clock after the “She Bop” singer had broken hers.
“It was the loudest f--king clock ever,” she said. “I had to keep it in the bathroom to keep from hearing it, but even that wouldn’t help.”
As it turns out, the nuisance helped Lauper write one of the most iconic songs from the “She’s So Unusual” album: “Time After Time.”
“I always use things from my actual life in my music, so when I’m trying to sleep and this clock is ticking on and on I think ‘Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick and think of you,’” she said. “That’s where the lyric came from. My boyfriend’s mother’s loud clock that wouldn’t stop ticking.”
Her punky sound and keen writing technique got her a Grammy for Best New Artists at the 1985 Grammy Awards.
The album also received nominations for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Female Pop Performance and Song of the Year.