Irene Cara, ‘Fame’ & ‘Flashdance’ Singer-Actor, Dies at 63

Oscar, Golden Globe and two-time Grammy winning singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred in and sang the title song 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 (Nov. 26). Cara died at her home in Florida. The exact date of her death was not disclosed.

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“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.”

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During her career, Cara had three top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 — “Fame,” “Flashdance…What a Feeling” and “Breakdance.” “Flashdance … What A Feeling” spent six consecutive weeks at No. 1. The exuberant track also led Dance Club Songs for three weeks and hit No. 2 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and No. 4 on Adult Contemporary. She was behind some of the most joyful, high-energy pop anthems of the early ’80s.

Cara first came to prominence among the young actors playing performing arts high school students in Alan Parker’s Fame, with co-stars including Debbie Allen and Paul McCrane. 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 win an Academy Award for best original song for songwriters Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford. She also sang “Out Here on My Own,” “Hot Lunch Jam” and “I Sing the Body Electric.”

Three years later, she and the songwriting team of Flashdance — music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Keith Forsey and Cara — was 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 also included Michael Sembello’s 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.”

“Flashdance…What a Feeling” and “Maniac” both received Grammy nominations for record of the year. The Flashdance soundtrack received an album of the year nod. Cara won two Grammys that year — best pop vocal performance, female and best album of original score written for a motion picture or a television special as one of many songwriters who contributed to the album.

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.

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