Cyndi Lauper with Jancee Dunn
The selling point is that Cyndi Lauper is honest. She tells you – again and again – throughout this book how she’s actually feeling, what she’s actually thinking. This includes naming names, pointing out that – in her experience – Bob Dylan and Jeff Goldblum were jerks. And that’s a good reason to want to read this book. Remember when rock’n’roll memoirs dished the dirt…this goes back to that.
But Cyndi’s not out to scold just for the sake of it – and it’s not about settling scores, she’s honest. And she’s often appalled at certain behaviours, stereotypes, issues – so that’s why some names come up. And that’s why some people get a telling off.
Lauper’s is a rags to riches tale – in that she came from poverty and worked hard. She worked several jobs while dreaming of being a rock’n’roll star. She did a decade of hard-slog playing dive bars and working tables for tips, rehearsing in her spare time, learning covers and writing songs, crafting impersonations, creating a character voice. And that voice – and character – drips from the pages of this book. You can almost feel yourself wanting to read it in her accent. (In that sense co-writer/ghost-writer Jancee Dunn has copped the right feel and vibe and it never feels like a gimmick).
Lauper had a hint of success with Blue Angel and then it was on to the mega-selling debut solo album, She’s So Unusual. She was rushed into overnight stardom and few knew the back-story of an abuse survivor and teenage runaway.
Next thing she’s co-promoting music and pro-wrestling – a footnote in the revolution of America’s jacked-up (in more than one way) circus.
Then she records a second album that stumbles – even if it has one of her enduring hits on it. And from there her musical career begins the slow fade.
She’s still out there – still performing. Working hard for charity too. And there have been forays into acting – the small screen proving more successful than the big screen.
But the second half of her career – the last 20 years – could never hold a candle to the story that tells of the struggle. In that, we feel the passion and we almost want to taste the success. It’s visceral writing – because you can tell that it still means something to Cyndi. And why wouldn’t it? She tasted a victory so sweet and the goal was never to be a giant pop star; never to walk and talk and sing and dance and act in the way that people told her to. Arguably she never followed that model and that’s part of the reason it was diminishing returns for her, sales-wise.
I would have liked to have learned more about the recording and release of her second album. In many ways I prefer it to She’s So Unusual (parts of it at least). So I felt somewhat short-changed having it explained away as a record that tanked. I wanted to find out more.
The first 200 pages hum. The last 130 pages feel a bit like face-saving auto-pilot. But it’s still a great read. So much better than a lot of music memoirs even if it wasn’t quite as great as I was hoping for all up.