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14 Dec

Irene Cara, Star Of ‘Sparkle’ And ‘Fame,’ Dies At

Irene Cara

Irene Cara

Irene Cara, the singer and actress known for co-writing ‘Flashdance”s title track and for starring within the 1980 film ‘Fame’ has died. She was 63.

Cara’s publicist, Judith A. Moose, confirmed her passing in a public statement, writing, “It’s with profound sadness that on behalf of her family, I announce the passing of Irene Cara.

The Academy Award winning actress, singer, songwriter and producer passed away in her Florida home. Her reason for death is currently unknown and can be released when information is offered.”

Cara (full name Irene Cara Escalara) was born within the Bronx, Latest York in 1959. In an interview with Mickey Burns for the ‘Profiles’ series, she referred to herself as a “working child actress,” as she spent her youth performing in plays and singing on the soundtracks for Christmas productions.

At 16, she got her start starring because the lead character in 1976’s ‘Sparkle.’ Inspired by the Supremes, the film tracked the lifetime of a Latest York girl group and culminated with the industry ascension of the film’s namesake. Three years later, she also had a number one role in ‘Roots: The Next Generations,’ as Bertha George, the mother of ‘Roots’ writer Alex Haley.

Cara catapulted to fame in 1980 for her portrayal of Coco Hernandez in ‘Fame.’ Within the role, she sang and co-wrote the award-winning title cut, promptly becoming a renowned talent. She took home the 1980 Oscar for Best Original Song award,

beating out Dolly Parton’s “9 to five,” Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and Cara’s own “Out Here on My Own,” also from ‘Fame.’

The song “Fame” went down in Academy Award history: it marked the primary time two songs from a single film were nominated within the Best Original Song category.

“I used to be lucky I got to sing each,” said within the aforementioned interview with Mickey Burns. When he asked if she had an inkling the songs would turn out to be blowout successes, Cara said, “You usually have an excellent feeling..You might have a way of the energy on the time that you simply’re working, but you never know what it’s gonna mean, 10, 20 years down the road.”

Cara took her acclaim even further with 1983’s pop smash “Flashdance…What A Feeling” from the movie ‘Flashdance.’ She sang and co-wrote the only, which went on to realize quite a few accolades, including an Academy Award (Best Original Song),

two Grammys (Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female and Best Album of Original Rating Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special), and a Golden Globe (Best Original Song). It also topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks.

On the 1984 Academy Awards, Cara made history over again, becoming the primary Black woman to win an Oscar for a non-acting role.

Article continues after video.

The song became bittersweet, occurring to echo the experiences of multiple Black women in music who became unable to really capitalize on their accomplishments. In 1985, Cara sued Al Courey, the founding father of Network Records, for $10 million.

She claimed she had lost out on thousands and thousands of dollars in on account of imbalanced contracts. She also said she had been paid little or no so far as royalties were concerned.

Cara had originally signed a six-year recording contract with RSO Records, where Courey was president, in 1980. The record executive left RSO a 12 months later, launching his own Network Records and convincing Cara to follow him. “Flashdance… What a Feeling” was released through Network.

She was awarded $1.5M in 1993, but her name was tarnished throughout the legal proceedings.

In a 2018 interview Cara said, “I had two of the most important hits of the last decade and I used to be not seeing a dime. So I sued him, and it took eight years and it cost me my future as a recording artist,

because no other label would sign me.” She then went on to assert that RSO was intimidating other labels so that they wouldn’t court her.

“RSO was sending out threatening letters to the opposite labels. And the one label that did sign me, they said they might stand by me through the lawsuit. But once I finished my album (Carasmatic, in 1987), they shelved it and didn’t market it.”

She alluded to racism within the conversation as well, saying, “It took me eight years to get through the entire good ol’ boy network within the music industry, since it seemed that I sued one man and it just sort of spiraled into your entire industry turning against me due to it. So it turned me off to the music business entirely.”

In 1986, Cara married director Conrad Palmisano, with whom she had worked with on ‘Certain Fury.’ They divorced in 1991.

Cara had no children.

Prior to and the midst of the lawsuit, the singer and actress continued to work, co-starring in and co-writing the fundamental song for ‘City Heat’ in 1984. The identical 12 months, she achieved moderate success with “

Breakdance,” an up tempo, disco-adjacent synth single inspired by her experiences of growing up within the Bronx. It was co-written with Giorgio Moroder, a collaborator of Donna Summer‘s. The song was Cara’s last Top 10 single.

Article continues after video.

Within the late Nineties, Cara developed the women-fronted band Hot Caramel. They released ‘Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel,’ a two-disc, 24-track total R&B album in 2011.

Her podcast, The Backstory with Irene Cara, launched in 2020 and gave a behind the scenes take a look at Carismatic, her final solo album.

Moose’s statement about Cara’s death confirmed that a memorial service for fans can be announced.

“She was a beautifully gifted soul whose legacy will live endlessly through her music and movies,” she also wrote.

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