With her distinctive little-girl voice, thrift-store style, and art-school training, Cyndi Lauper was one of the earliest female icons to harness MTV's influence and become a pop star. Her debut album was the first in history by a woman to have four Top Five singles; led by "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," it also won her the unlikely title of "Woman of the Year" from Ms. Magazine.
Lauper was raised in Brooklyn and Queens by her waitress mother, a life she paid homage to when her mother starred in the video for "Girls." After dropping out of high school and spending a few years "finding herself," Lauper sang for cover bands on Long Island. She almost ruined her voice and sought training from Katherine Agresta, an opera singer and rock & roll vocal coach. She then spent four years singing and writing songs for Blue Angel, a rootsy rock band whose strong New York following never translated into sales for their eponymous 1980 Polydor album.
Lauper filed for bankruptcy after Blue Angel split, and for a while sang in a Japanese restaurant dressed like a geisha until her manager and boyfriend David Wolff landed her a deal with the CBS imprint Portrait. She's So Unusual (Number Four, 1983) became an international hit, eventually selling more than 5 million records in the U.S. alone, led by "Girls" (Number Two, 1983), "All Through the Night" (Number Five, 1984), "She Bop" (Number Three, 1984), and ...