Irene Cara

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Irene Cara
Birth nameIrene Cara Escalera
Born(1959-03-18) March 18, 1959 (age 55)
New York City, New York U.S.
OriginThe Bronx, New York, U.S.
GenresDisco, electropop, dance-rock, R&B
OccupationsActress, singer-songwriter, keyboardist, pianist, producer, dancer
Years active1962–present
LabelsCTW (now Sesame Workshop)
Universal Music
Warner Music Group
Associated actsThe Electric Company/The Short Circus, Diddy, DJ Bobo
Websiteirenecara.com
 
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Irene Cara
Birth nameIrene Cara Escalera
Born(1959-03-18) March 18, 1959 (age 55)
New York City, New York U.S.
OriginThe Bronx, New York, U.S.
GenresDisco, electropop, dance-rock, R&B
OccupationsActress, singer-songwriter, keyboardist, pianist, producer, dancer
Years active1962–present
LabelsCTW (now Sesame Workshop)
Universal Music
Warner Music Group
Associated actsThe Electric Company/The Short Circus, Diddy, DJ Bobo
Websiteirenecara.com

Irene Cara (born Irene Cara Escalera; March 18, 1959)[1][2] is an American singer and actress. She became famous for her role in the 1980 film Fame, earning her a Golden Globe nomination, and her recording of the song "Fame" became an international hit. Cara won an Academy Award in 1984 in the category of Best Original Song for co-writing "Flashdance... What a Feeling", which also became an international hit."[3]

Early life[edit]

Cara was born in New York City. Cara's father, Gaspar Cara, was Afro-Puerto Rican, and her mother, Louise, was an American of Cuban descent. Cara has two sisters and two brothers.

At age 3, Irene Cara was one of 5 finalists for the 'Little Miss America' pageant. She began to play the piano "by ear," then studied music, acting, and dance seriously. Her performing career started on Spanish-language television, professionally singing and dancing. She made early TV appearances on the Original Amateur Hour (singing in Spanish) and Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show. In 1971-1972, she was a regular on PBS's educational program The Electric Company. As a child, Cara recorded a Latin-market Spanish-language record and an English Christmas album. She also appeared in a major concert tribute to Duke Ellington which also featured Stevie Wonder, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Roberta Flack.

Career[edit]

Boggs describes Cara as a "perfectionist" who works on a song until absolutely satisfied with it.

Ebony[4]

Cara appeared in on-and off-Broadway theatrical shows including the musicals Ain't Misbehavin', The Me Nobody Knows (which won an Obie award), Maggie Flynn opposite Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy, and Via Galactica with Raul Julia.

She was the original Daisy Allen on the 1970s daytime serial Love of Life. Next came her role as Angela in romance/thriller Aaron Loves Angela, followed by her portrayal of the title character in Sparkle, Television brought Cara international acclaim for serious dramatic roles in two outstanding mini-series, Roots: The Next Generations and Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones.

John Willis' Screen World, Vol. 28, named her one of twelve "Promising New Actors of 1976;" that same year, a readers' poll in Right On! magazine named her Top Actress.

Cara graduated from the Professional Children's School in Manhattan, a rival of the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art. Coincidentally, LaGuardia High was the inspiration for the performing arts school in her third movie, Fame, along with The Juilliard School. When she attended high school, it was called the School of Performing Arts. In 1984 the High School of Music & Art was merged with the School of Performing Arts (founded in 1948 by Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia) to become LaGuardia High.

Fame and International Acclaim[edit]

The 1980 hit movie Fame, directed by Alan Parker, catapulted Irene Cara to stardom. Cara was originally cast as a dancer, but when producers David Da Silva and Alan Marshall and screenwriter Christopher Gore heard her voice, they re-wrote the role of Coco Hernandez. As Coco Hernandez, she sang both the title song "Fame" and the film's other single, "Out Here on My Own." These songs helped make the film's soundtrack a chart-topping, multi-platinum album. Further history was made when at the Academy Awards that year: It was the first time two songs from the same film were nominated in the same category and both sung by the same artist. Thus, Cara had the opportunity to be one of the few singers to perform more than one song at the Oscar ceremony; "Fame," written by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford, won the award that year.

Cara earned Grammy nominations in 1980 for Best New Female Artist and Best New Pop Artist, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical. Billboard Magazine named her Top New Single Artist, while Cashbox Magazine awarded her both Most Promising Female Vocalist and Top Female Vocalist.

Asked by the Fame TV series' producers to reprise her role as Coco Hernandez, she declined so as to focus her attention on her recording career. As a result, Erica Gimpel assumed the role.

Post-Fame career[edit]

Cara was slated to star in her own sitcom, Irene, on NBC in 1981. Even though the pilot aired and received favorable reviews, the network did not pick it up for its fall season. It also starred veteran performers Kaye Ballard and Teddy Wilson, as well as newcomers Julia Duffy and Keenan Ivory Wayans.

In 1983, Cara appeared as herself in the film D.C. Cab, which is a film about a group of cabbies. The movie stars Mr. T. One of the characters, Tyrone played by Charlie Barnett, is an obsessed Cara fan who decorated his Checker Cab as a shrine to her. Her contribution to the film's soundtrack, "The Dream (Hold on To Your Dream)" played over the closing credits of the film, and proved to be a minor hit, peaking at No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1984.

In 1982, Cara earned the Image Award for Best Actress when she co-starred with Diahann Carroll and Rosalind Cash in the NBC Movie of the Week, Maya Angelou's Sister, Sister. Cara portrayed Myrlie Evers-Williams in the PBS TV movie about civil rights leader Medgar Evers, For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story; and earned an NAACP Image Award Best Actress nomination. She also appeared in 1982's Killing 'em Softly.

In addition to her music and film work, Cara also continued to perform in live theatre during this period. In the summer of 1980, she briefly played the role of Dorothy in The Wiz on tour, in a role that Stephanie Mills had first portrayed in the original Broadway production. Coincidentally, Cara and Mills had shared the stage together as children in the original 1968 Broadway musical Maggie Flynn, starring Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy, in which both young girls played Civil War orphans.

In 1983, Cara reached the peak of her music career with the title song for the movie Flashdance: "Flashdance... What A Feeling", which she co-wrote with Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey. Cara penned the lyrics to the song with Keith Forsey while riding in a car in New York heading to the studio to record it; Moroder composed the music.

Cara admitted later that she was initially reluctant to work with Giorgio Moroder because she had no wish to invite further comparisons with another artist who worked with Moroder, Donna Summer.[5] But the collaboration paid off and became a hit in several countries, garnering numerous accolades for Cara. She won the 1983 Academy Award for Best Song (Oscar), 1984 Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, 1984 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, and American Music Awards for Best R&B Female Artist and Best Pop Single of the Year.

"Flashdance..." was re-recorded by Cara twice. The first time was in 1995 as a track in the original soundtrack for the movie "The Full Monty"; the second time was in 2002, as a duet she recorded with successful Swiss artist DJ BoBo.

In 1984, she was in the comedic thriller City Heat, in which she co-starred opposite Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds and sang the standards "Embraceable You" and "Get Happy." She also co-wrote the theme song "City Heat", which was sung by the jazz vocalist Joe Williams. In May of that year she scored her final Top 40 hit with "Breakdance" going to #8. The follow up, "You Were Made For Me" reached #78 that summer but then she never charted on the Hot 100 again. In 1985, Cara co-starred with Tatum O'Neal in Certain Fury, an exploitation underachiever about two troubled young women who flee a court hearing and are mistaken for killers. In 1986, Cara appeared in the film Busted Up. She also provided the voice of Snow White in the unofficial sequel to Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Filmation's Happily Ever After, in 1993. That same year, she appeared as Mary Magdalene in the record-breaking anniversary tour of Jesus Christ Superstar opposite Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, and Dennis DeYoung.

Along with her career in acting and hit singles, Cara released several albums: Anyone Can See in 1982, What A Feelin' in 1983, and Carasmatic in 1987, the most successful of these being What A Feelin. In 1985 she collaborated with the Hispanic group Hermanos in the song Cantaré, cantarás in which she sings a solo segment with the Spanish opera singer Plácido Domingo. She also released a compilation of Eurodance singles in the mid to late 1990s entitled Precarious 90's. Cara recently contributed a dance single, titled "Forever My Love", to the compilation album titled Gay Happening Vol. 12, in 2006.

Cara has also worked as a backup vocalist for Vicki Sue Robinson, Lou Reed, George Duke, Oleta Adams, and Evelyn "Champagne" King. Cara toured Europe and Asia throughout the 1990s, scoring several modest dance hits on European charts, but no US chart hits. Cara received two prestigious honors for her career in March 2004, with her induction into the Ciboney Cafe's Hall of Fame and a Lifetime Achievement Award presented at the sixth annual Prestige Awards.

In June 2005, Cara won the third round of the NBC television series Hit Me, Baby, One More Time, performing "Flashdance (What a Feeling)" and covered Anastacia's song "I'm Outta Love" with her current all-female band, Hot Caramel. At the 2006 AFL Grand Final in Melbourne, Cara performed "Flashdance (What a Feeling)" as an opener to the pre-match entertainment.

Cara lives in Florida and works with her band Hot Caramel. Their album called Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel was released on April 4, 2011. Cara appeared in season 2 of CMT's reality show Gone Country,.

Personal life[edit]

Irene married Hollywood stuntman Conrad Palmisano in 1986.[6] They divorced in 1991. Also in the 1990s, Cara won a bitter lawsuit against her old record company over unpaid royalties and other career issues.[citation needed]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

YearTitleChart positionCertifications
(sales thresholds)
USAUSCANAUTGERSWIUKJP
1968Esta Es Irene
  • Released: 1968
  • Formats: LP
  • Label: GEMA
1982Anyone Can See
  • Released: 1982
  • Formats: CD, Cassette
  • Label: Universal Music
76NANA
1983What a Feelin'
  • Released: 1983
  • Formats: CD, Cassette
  • Label: Universal Music
7749NA298NA
1987Carasmatic
  • Released: 1987
  • Formats: CD, Cassette
  • Label: Elektra Records
2011Irene Cara presents: Hot Caramel
  • Released: 2011
  • Formats: CD, Digital
  • Label: Caramel Productions Music Inc.

Soundtrack albums[edit]

YearAlbum
1980Fame Soundtrack
1983Flashdance Soundtrack
1983D.C. Cab Soundtrack
1984City Heat Soundtrack
1989All Dogs Go to Heaven Soundtrack
1991China Cry Soundtrack
2007Downtown: A Street Tale Soundtrack

Singles[edit]

YearSinglePeak chart positionsAlbum
USUS DanceUS ACUK[7]AUTGERNEDNORSWI
1980"Fame"4111Fame (soundtrack)
"Out Here on My Own"192058
1981"Anyone Can See"42Anyone Can See
"My Baby (He's Something Else)"
1983"Flashdance... What a Feeling" from the Flashdance Soundtrack1142431711What a Feelin'
"Why Me"1371754
"The Dream (Hold on to Your Dream)" from the D.C. Cab Soundtrack3726
1984"Breakdance"813n/a20
"You Were Made for Me"7810
1987"Girlfriends"Carasmatic
1988"I Can Fly"Non-album song
1995"Rhythm of My Life"Precarious 90's
1996"You Need Me"
1997"All My Heart"
2001"What a Feeling" (with DJ BoBo)1132Planet Colors
2006"Forever My Love"Gay Happening Vol. 12
2007"Downtown"Downtown: A Street Tale (soundtrack)
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Vocal appearances[edit]

Cara's songs appear on[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Filmography
YearTitleRoleGenreNoteDirected by
2009Gone CountryHerselfGame ShowFeatured on Season 2John Vanover
2004Downtown: A Street TaleNeighbourDramaCameoRafal Zielinski
1995Beyond Awareness to Action: Ending Abuse of WomenProgram HostDocumentaryJennifer Peterson
1994Snow White and the Magic MirrorSnow White (voice)AnimationTony Love
1993Happily Ever AfterSnow White (voice)AnimationJohn Howley
1992The Magic VoyageMarilyn (voice)AnimationMichael Schoemann
1992Hearts Are WildDorahTV SeriesEpisode: #1.8Charles Correll, Roger Young
1991Gabriel's FireCeline BirdDrama/ ThrillerEpisode: Birds Gotta FlyMario Van Peebles
1990Caged in ParadisoEvaAction/ DramaMike Snyder
1988Bustin' LooseHerselfComedyEpisode: What's a Nice Girl Like You...?Marlene Laird, Bob Lally
1986Busted UpSimone BirdAction/ DramaConrad Palmisano
1985Certain FuryTracyPolicial/ Action/ DramaStephen Gyllenhaal
1984City HeatGinny LeeAction/ Comedy/ CrimeRichard Benjamin
1983D.C. CabEla mesmaComedy/ ActionJoel Schumacher
1983For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers StoryMyrlie EversDramaMichael Schultz
1982Killing 'em SoftlyJaneDrama/ ThrillerMax Fischer
1982Sister, SisterSissy LovejoyDramaJohn Berry
1981IreneIrene CannonComedyNBC
1980FameCoco HernandezDrama/ MusicalAlan Parker
1980Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim JonesAlice JeffersonBiography/ DramaWilliam A. Graham
1979Roots: The Next GenerationsBertha Palmer HaleyDrama/ History/ WarTV Mini-SeriesJohn Erman, Charles S. Dubin, Georg Stanford Brown, Lloyd Richards
1977What's Happening!!MariaComedyEpisode: Rerun Gets MarriedMark Warren
1976KojakAmyAction/ CrimeEpisode: A Hair-Trigger AwaySigmund Neufeld Jr.
1976SparkleSparkle AndersonDrama/ MusicSam O'Steen
1976Apple PieDancerComedyHoward Goldberg
1975Aaron Loves AngelaAngelaDrama/ RomanceGordon Parks Jr.
1971–1972The Electric CompanyIrisFamilyBand Member of the Short Circus of season 1The Children's Television Workshop (CTW) (now Sesame Workshop)
1970Love of LifeDaisy AllenDramaTV SeriesCBS Broadcast Center

Television work[edit]

Stage work[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bob McCann, Encyclopedia of Hispanic American Actresses in≥ Film and Television, McFarland & Company, 2010, ISBN 978-0-7864-3790-0, p. 67.
  2. ^ http://www.irenecara.com/entry.htm gives the date as 1962
  3. ^ 56th Academy Awards
  4. ^ Irene Cara:A Show Biz Veteran at Age 22. XXXVI (9). July 1981. p. 92. ISSN 0012-9011. 
  5. ^ NewsBank InfoWeb
  6. ^ irenecarashrine.com
  7. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 92. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  8. ^ "Grammy's Greatest Moments, Volume IV". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2011-11-23. 

External links[edit]