ABOVE PHOTO: Conductor Mitch Miller performs for photographers with singers Rosemary Clooney, left, and Irene Cara, center, during a rehearsal, on Jan. 6, 1981, in New York for his NBC-TV special called “The Mitch Miller Show: A Sing Along Sampler.” Oscar, Golden Globe and two-time Grammy winning singer-actress Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance … What a Feeling” from 1983’s “Flashdance,” has died at age 63. Her publicist Judith A. Moose confirmed the death on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
BY MARK KENNEDY
NEW YORK — Oscar, Golden Globe and two-time Grammy winning singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance … What a Feeling” from 1983’s “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.
Her publicist, Judith A. Moose, announced the news on social media, writing that a cause of death was “currently unknown.” Moose also confirmed the death to an Associated Press reporter on Saturday. Cara died at her home in Florida. The exact day of her death was not disclosed.
“Irene’s family has requested privacy as they process their grief,” Moose wrote. “She was a beautifully gifted soul whose legacy will live forever through her music and films.”
During her career, Cara had three Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including “Breakdance,” “Fame” and “Flashdance … What A Feeling,” which spent six weeks at No. 1. She was behind some of the most joyful, high-energy pop anthems of the early ’80s, including “Out Here On My Own” and “Why Me?”
Tributes poured in on Saturday on social media, including from Deborah Cox, who called Cara an inspiration, and Holly Robinson Peete, who recalled seeing Cara perform: “The insane combination of talent and beauty was overwhelming to me. This hurts my heart so much.”
She first came to prominence among the young actors playing performing arts high schoolers in Alan Parker’s “Fame,” with co-stars Debbie Allen, Paul McCrane and Anne Meara. Cara played Coco Hernandez, a striving dancer who endures all manner of deprivations, including a creepy nude photo shoot.
“How bright our spirits go shooting out into space, depends on how much we contributed to the earthly brilliance of this world. And I mean to be a major contributor!” she says in the movie.
Cara sang on the soaring title song with the chorus — “Remember my name/I’m gonna live forever/I’m gonna learn how to fly/I feel it coming together/People will see me and cry” — which would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award for best original song. She also sang on “Out Here on My Own,” “Hot Lunch Jam” and “I Sing the Body Electric.”
Allen took to Twitter Saturday to mourn, posting pictures of them together and calling Cara a “a gifted and beautiful genius. Her talent and her music will live forever! Forever remember her name!”
Lenny Kravitz addressed Cara in a tweet: “You inspired me more than you could ever know. Your songwriting and vocals created pure energy that will never cease. You also defined an era that is so close to my heart.” Stephanie Mills. who co-starred with Cara in “Maggie Flynn” on Broadway in 1968, wrote: “Such an amazing talent and sweet person.”
Three years after her triumph with “Fame,” she and the songwriting team of “Flashdance” — music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Keith Forsey and Cara — were accepting the Oscar for best original song for “Flashdance … What a Feeling.”
The movie starred Jennifer Beals as a steel-town girl who dances in a bar at night and hopes to attend a prestigious dance conservatory. It included the hit song “Maniac,” featuring Beals’ character leaping, spinning, stomping her feet and the slow-burning theme song.
“There aren’t enough words to express my love and my gratitude,” Cara told the Oscar crowd in her thanks. “And last but not least, a very special gentlemen who I guess started it all for me many years ago. To Alan Parker, wherever you may be tonight, I thank him.”
The New York-born Cara began her career on Broadway, with small parts in short-lived shows, although a musical called “The Me Nobody Knows” ran over 300 performances. She toured in the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” as Mary Magdalene in the mid-1990s and a tour of the musical ”Flashdance” toured 2012-14 with her songs.
She also created the all-female band Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel and put out a double CD with the single “How Can I Make You Luv Me.” Her movie credits include “Sparkle” and “D.C. Cab.”
Associated Press reporters Hillel Italie and Freida Frisaro contributed to this report.