Irene Cara, Oscar winner acclaimed for ‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance,’ died at Florida home at 63
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Irene Cara reportedly once expressed concerns about collaborating with producer/songwriter Giorgio Moroder on her biggest hit and one of her three signature songs, "Flashdance... What a Feeling."
The Bronx-born singer, songwriter and actress - who died at her home in New Port Richey in suburban Tampa - said her publicist Judith Moose Saturday she worries she will continue to be compared to Moroder's most famous collaborator, Donna Summer .
Cara, a singer and actress who had previous roles in films such as Sparkle in 1976, with co-star Philip Michael Thomas, eight years before appearing in Miami Vice and the educational 1970s television series The Electric Company became famous”, it was not for nothing that she wanted to make it big with her own talents.
True, both Summer and Cara were emotionally expressive singers, lyrical mezzo-sopranos steeped in theater before finding fame on the dancefloor. One could easily trace a continuous line of Summer's agile fluidity, transitioning seamlessly from ballad-like intros to propelling disco tempos in her Oscar-winning 1978 Last Dance or her 1979 film song On the Radio from Foxes. featuring Cara's breakthrough hits "Fame" from the 1980 film of the same name and "Flashdance" from 1983.
Michael Gore, who co-wrote the theme song "Fame" with lyricist Dean Pitchford, said he wrote it under the influence of Donna Summer from the "Hot Stuff" era.
Cara would make the exuberant song her own, including a crossover appearance on the late-night TV musical series Don Kirshner's Rock Concert.
Both singers also shone with more intimate vocal expressions, as Cara did movingly on Fame's "Out Here on My Own," and Summer did so with "On My Honor," off the ballad side of her Bad Girl. Album.
Baltimore Banner columnist Leslie Gray Streeter, a former pop culture reporter for the Palm Beach Post, wrote on Twitter Saturday how Cara inspired her.
"Irene Cara embodied the voice of longing, youth and movement for me and the little girls I grew up with," Streeter wrote.
As many would, after Cara's inspirational "Fame" ballad "Out Here on My Own" hit the Top 20 in the summer of 1980, Streeter says she sang the song "on every talent show I could and my eyes." closed as they said the chorus, hoping for connection."
For me and the little girls I grew up with, Irene Cara embodied the voice of longing, youth and movement. I sang "Out Here On My Own" on every talent show I could and closed my eyes, as she said in the chorus, hoping for a connection. REST IN PEACE. https://t.co/fBdTNr40Qa
— Leslie Streeter (@LeslieStreter) November 26, 2022
Both artists also died at the age of 63 – in the summer of 2012 from cancer. Cara's cause of death and exact date are pending results of an autopsy, Moose told the Miami Herald in an email.
"It is with deep sadness, on behalf of her family, that I announce the passing of Irene Cara," Moose said in a statement posted to Twitter early Saturday and later shared with the Herald. "She was a wonderfully gifted soul whose legacy will live on forever through her music and films."
That's the absolute worst thing about being a publicist. I can't believe I had to write this let alone post the news. Please share your thoughts and memories of Irene. I will read every one of them and know that she will smile from heaven. She adored her fans. - JM pic.twitter.com/TsC5BwZ3fh
— Irene Cara (@Irene_Cara) November 26, 2022
Harry Wayne Casey, the Miami-based songwriter and performer, namesake of KC and the Sunshine Band, the five Billboard No. 1 singles, from "Get Down Tonight" in 1975 to "Please Don't Go" in 1980, recalls Cara rehearsing at his South Florida studios for her shows a few times.
"She was always kind and lovely," Casey told the Herald Saturday. “She lit the room with her presence and was always humble. A real talent.”
Early musical talent
Irene Cara Escalara was born on March 18, 1959 in the Bronx, New York. She was the youngest of five children born to a Puerto Rican father, Gaspar Escalera, and a Cuban-American mother, Louise. Both of Cara's parents brought music and art into their home. Gaspar, a factory worker, reportedly played the saxophone professionally, and her mother worked as a cinema usher.
According to a biography published by Moose, Cara could play the piano by ear by the age of 5 and was being celebrated at awards shows by the age of 3. She was reportedly a top five finalist in a Little Miss America pageant as a toddler, but she had the stage in the world at bigger awards shows when she won an Oscar for her help composing the Academy's Best Song winner from 1983, "Flashdance...What a Feeling" with songwriters Moroder and Keith Forsey.
"Flashdance" also earned Cara a 1984 Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance against some formidable competition including Summer for "She Works Hard for the Money", Linda Ronstadt for her standards, "What's New" and Bonnie Tyler's pop culture classic "Total." Eclipse of the Heart".
Irene Cara with her Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Flashdance...What a Feeling" at the 26th Annual Awards in 1984.
"Glory" and more
Cara, who played drama, music, and dance student Coco Hernandez in "Fame," the fictional story of the real-life High School of Performing Arts in New York City, was nominated for a 1981 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for the film's theme song of 1980 and Out Here on My Own, both of which garnered Oscar nominations for the songs' composers Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford, as well as Gore and his sister Lesley Gore (of It's My Party fame). for the last one.
Cara's parents recognized her talent early on and enrolled her in music, acting and dance classes in New York. The training led a young Cara to record a Spanish album for the Latin American market and appear on a Spanish language television show in the 1960s.
As a child she appeared on Ted Mack's The Original Amateur Hour - a prequel to American Idol - and landed her first acting role as Daisy Allen in the daytime soap opera Love of Life in 1970-71. . From 1971 to 1972, she showcased her musical talents in The Electric Company alongside Rita Moreno, Morgan Freeman and Bill Cosby in 130 episodes of the seminal PBS series.
Cara had Broadway and Off-Broadway credits in the 1970 Obie Award-winning musical The Me Nobody Knows and Ain't Misbehavin', Maggie Flynn with Shirley Jones, and Via Galactica opposite Raul Julia .
"She was a theater girl," said her friend, director and producer Richard Jay-Alexander. "I've been in love since I first saw her in 'The Me Nobody Knows' on Broadway. ... So much more great work would follow.”
On television, she guest-starred on Kojak and What's Happening!! in 1976 and 1977, and appeared in three episodes of the 1979 Roots sequel Roots: The Next Generations.
Then "Fame" happened.
As a character in a story about a group of students auditioning for admission to New York's High School for the Performing Arts, Cara's solo singing on the two standout songs led to "Fame" being the first film to feature two songs and the same artist was included in the Oscar for Best Song competition.
The notoriety led to Cara receiving a 1982 NAACP Image Award for her role in the NBC movie of the week, "Sister, Sister," and a subsequent 1983 Image Award nomination for her role as Myrlie Evers in the PBS film, "American Masters." “ received. "For Us the Living: The Story of Medgar Evers."
Moroder, who passed on "Fame," turned to Cara when he became the lead composer for the MTV-era film "Flashdance," which was released in 1983 and starred Jennifer Beals. Cara wrote the lyrics to the title track in the car with Keith Forsey while on the way to a recording studio to edit the song.
"There aren't enough words to express my love and gratitude," said a 24-year-old Cara in her Oscar acceptance speech, in which she also credited Fame director Alan Parker for his role in launching her music career. "A very special gentleman who I believe started it all for me many years ago. Alan Parker, wherever you are tonight, thank you," reported the Washington Post.
Cara's aerobics classic "Breakdance" capitalized on the dance trend of the early 1980s and became her last American Top 10 single in 1984.
Irene Cara was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her role as Coco Hernandez in the 1980 film Fame. Cara sang the musical drama's Oscar-nominated hits "Fame" and "Out Here on My Own." Her other hits included "Breakdance" and "Flashdance... What a Feeling."
A decade later, Cara toured as Mary Magdalene in Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit Jesus Christ Superstar, and in 2005, in her adopted home of Florida, Cara was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
In 2006, Cara received the Honorary Lifetime Achievement from the Columbus Times of Georgia for outstanding service to the African American community.
The Bronx hasn't forgotten its star either. In 2011, Cara's name appeared on a poster in the Grand Concourse of the Bronx Walk of Fame, City Limits reported.
Cara couldn't embody the hook of the Fame song "I'm Gonna Live Forever" — nobody will, of course — but the song's other signature line, "Baby, Remember My Name?"
Cara can rest easy. She remembered.
Funerals are pending and a memorial to her fans is planned at a later date, Moose said. Information on Cara's survivors was not immediately available.
Without the show "Fame" I would never have known that I could sing, play cello & violin and dance.
Thank you for inspiring this little girl from Chicago
May her eternal light shine.
— Bathroom Ceiling Fresco (@MariaKChica) November 26, 2022
American singer and actress
Italian record producer and composer
American singer (1948–2012)
American composer (born March 5, 1951)
American songwriter, screenwriter, director, actor and novelist
Philip Michael Thomas
American recording artist, singer, songwriter (1946-2015)
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