Irene Cara, lead singer of ‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ songs, dies at 63

Irene Cara, a child actress who went on to sing 1980s anthems of joyful creativity and freedom with the title tracks to “Fame” and “Flashdance,” but then fought for royalties in a legal battle that hijacked his career at its peak, died on November 2. 26 at her home in Largo, Florida. She was 63 years old.

A statement from her publicist, Judith A. Moose, said Ms Cara’s cause of death was not immediately known. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed it responded to a call to an address in Largo, which is listed in public records as Ms. Cara’s residence. The District 6 Medical Examiner’s Office, which serves Pinellas County, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ms. Cara’s imprint on pop culture has spanned the decades as “Notoriety” (1980) and “Lightning Dance” (1983) became touchstones for the 1980s with their music and style, including the urban chic of New York teenagers in “Fame” and free-form movements and leggings (and, of course, the famous wet and wild shower scene) from “Flashdance”.

Ms. Cara’s “Flashdance…What a Feeling” Still Ranks No. 38 on Billboard’s All-Time Hot 100 Songs nearly 40 years later. And it seems to continue to find new audiences through reboots, retro social media clips and parodies.

On “Fame” – playing Coco Hernandez, one of the students auditioning for New York’s High School for the Performing Arts – she did songs including the title track with its booming refrains such as “I’m gonna live forever Baby, remember my name. film won an Academy Award for Best Original Score.)

Ms Cara went on to win her own Oscar for ‘Flashdance…What a Feeling’, which she co-wrote in an afternoon session after being asked to sing some of the tracks from the film featuring Jennifer Beals as a welder by day and an erotic dancer by night who dreams of the ballet stage.

However, Ms. Cara never found such highs. In 1985, she opened a legal action seeking $10m from record label executive Al Coury, claiming he took advantage of his trust with ‘unfair and oppressive’ contracts for film and recording deals that cut him off from significant royalty income.

Ms. Cara originally signed a six-year recording contract in 1980 with RSO Records Inc. when Coury was its president. He left in early 1981 to start his own company, Network Records Inc., and persuaded Ms. Cara to give him sole control of her career. What happened next became a combination of faulty management, poor choices, and Ms. Cara’s inability to recapture the magic of her two successful projects.

His major studio albums—1982’s “Anyone Can See” and 1983’s “What a Feelin'”—did not match the commercial successes of the film’s singles. She then signs for quickly forgotten films like “DC cabin” (1983) with 1980s Mohawk sports star MT

An album, “Carasmaticwas originally shelved and finally published in 1987. In the early 1990s, she was a celebrity footnote and trivial matter. “Do you remember Irene Cara? wrote a syndicated gossip columnist Liz Smith in a 1993 column that claimed that Ms. Cara earned only $183 in royalties during her four years under Coury.

Earlier that year, a Los Angeles jury awarded him $1.5 million in his lawsuit against Coury.

“It took me eight years to go through the whole network of good old boys in the music industry,” she said in a interview 2018 with music site Songwriter Universe, “because it seemed like I had chased a man and it kind of spiraled into the whole industry turning against me because of it. So that turned me away from the music industry completely.

After years of playing supporting roles in various films – but without breakthrough success with critics or at the box office – Ms. Cara returned to music in 2011 with an all-female group, Hot Caramel. One of his songs “Life at high speed,” seems to offer some of Ms Cara’s reflections on her own fame and struggles – with a ‘steel’ line pulled straight from ‘Flashdance’.

“All alone I cried/silent tears of pride,” she sang. “In a world made of steel.”

Irene Escalera was born March 18, 1959 in the Bronx as the youngest of a family with a growing musical portfolio. His father, Gaspar Escalera, was a saxophonist in a popular mambo band. Her half-brother was involved in opera and her sister played the piano, she recalls.

When she was 7, Ms. Cara sang with her father’s band at nightclubs and landed a role in an off-Broadway show based on ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ – all while rearranging parts of her name family in an abbreviated version, Cara. From there, his resume was moving in various directions by the age of 12.

She had an album of Spanish songs, was part of a tribute to Duke Ellington at Madison Square Garden, had a small role in the Broadway musical in 1968. “Maggie Flynn” with Shirley Jones, and was part of the original cast of PBS’ groundbreaking children’s show “The Electricity Company” with co-stars such as Rita Moreno, Morgan Freeman and Bill Cosby. (She called Cosby “lovely to all of us kids” with no signs of inappropriate behavior.)

In 1976, Ms. Cara played the lead role of Sparkle Williams in the musical film “Sparkled” about a burgeoning “girl group” in Harlem. The film was not a big hit, but it gained strong popularity with black audiences and inspired a 2012 remake with Jordan Sparks and Whitney Houston.

In “Fame”, Ms. Cara was cast as Coco Hernández, a New York girl with a quick wit and a sharp tongue to match.

“So you like art movies, huh, Coco?” asks a student.

“Oh, Antonioni and those people?” Coco responds. “Sure. I mean, it’s better than watching ‘Laverne and Shirley’, isn’t it?”

Besides the title track, she performed the musical’s other big hit, “Out Here on My Own.” She said some critics claimed she was trying too hard to look like disco queen Donna Summer. She found that a compliment.

“Honestly,” she later said, “I made the decision as a young actress to emulate Donna. First, we shot some scenes from ‘Fame’ to her song ‘Hot Stuff “.”

When Paramount Studios contacted her for “Flashdance”, the lyrics for the potential signature song were still under development. One afternoon, for a few hours, she worked with drummer and songwriter Keith Forsey to complete the song, which included the line “now I’m dancing for my life”. The song still had no name, however.

“We left Paramount after we saw the clips and got in the car,” she told The Associated Press in 1984. “I remember saying to [Forsey], ‘Let’s talk about the feeling of the dance.’ From these words and “dancing for my life” was born the song “Flashdance… What a Feeling”. ”

The song led a number of movie hits, including “Maniac” and “Lady, Lady, Lady”. It became for Ms Cara “a metaphor about a dancer, how she controls her body when she dances and how she can control her life”. (The song also won him two Grammy Awards.)

Ms. Cara married stuntman Conrad Palmisano in 1986 and they divorced in 1991. She is survived by one sister. Complete information about the survivors was not immediately available.

After ‘Flashdance’, Ms Cara was hailed by music magazines and other media as the best female singer of the year amid predictions of what was to come. At the 1984 Academy Awards, Ms. Cara was beaming and looked confident.

“I was pretending to be on top of the world and being successful, and inside trying to figure out how to pursue my label,” she said in the 2018 interview. “So it was hard…. I said it was fine when it all fell apart.

Thomas Floyd contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *