Irene Cara, de Oscar-winning star of Fame and chart-topping ‘Flashdance… What a Feeling’ has passed away at the age of 63.
Cara died Friday at her home in Florida, her publicist Judith A. Moore announced on Twitter. Her cause of death is “currently unknown and will be released when information becomes available.”
“It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of Irene Cara on behalf of her family. The Academy Award-winning actress, singer, songwriter and producer has passed away at her Florida home,” Moore tweeted. “She was a beautifully gifted soul whose legacy will live on forever through her music and movies.”
Born in the Bronx, Cara was a child actor who starred in shows like The Electricity Factory for starring in Broadway musicals such as Via Galactica, The Wiz and the Supremes-inspired Sparklethe last of which was adapted for the big screen in 1976 starring Cara.
Cara’s breakthrough came with the hit 1980 movie Fame, in which the actress plays Coco Hernandez, a role rewritten especially for her. In addition to her role in that movie — about talented students at a New York City performing arts high school — Cara also sang the soundtrack’s title track “Fame” and “Out Here on My Own,” both of which were nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. As Fame became the first film ever to register double nominations in that category, Cara—per Oscars tradition—performed both songs at the ceremony. “Fame” ended up winning the Academy Award.
The success of Fame also splintered into the music industry when Cara – despite never having released her own album – was nominated for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards. Cara’s debut LP, Everyone can seearrived in 1982.
The following year, Cara scored her biggest hit with “Flashdance… What a Feeling,” the theme to the smash hit 1983 movie flash dance. The song – co-written by Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey – spent six weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983, propelling the soundtrack to number one as well. The single also earned Cara her second Best Original Song Academy Award win, as well as a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Cara reunited with Moroder and Forsey for her 1983 LP what a feelingfeaturing her Flashdance hit and the singles “Breakdance,” “Why Me,” and “The Dream (Hold On to Your Dream),” the latter of which featured on the soundtrack for DC cabina film in which Cara appeared as herself in a small role.
Despite chart success, Cara’s music career was hampered by what turned out to be a decade-long legal battle with her label Network Records, which she sued after claiming they withheld royalties from her hit singles.
“After that album I sued my label. First, my label had fallen apart on its own… it lost its distribution. And I was stuck with a label president who kept doing that [not pay me], and continued to use me for distribution for his tiny little label,” Cara told Songwriter Universe in 2018. “So I sued him, and it took eight years and it cost me my future as an artist, because no other label would let me. RSO sent threatening letters to the other labels. And the only label that signed me said they would stand by me during the trial. But when I got my album (1987’s Carasmatic), they put it on the shelf and didn’t advertise it.” A jury finally sided with Cara in 1993 and awarded her the royalties from her hits.
However, over the next decade, Cara continued to perform on screen as well as on stage, appearing in the movies City heat with Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds, Definitely furyand Caged in Paradiseas well as a 1993 revival Jesus Christ superstar. She also served as a backing vocalist for artists such as Lou Reed, Oleta Adams and Evelyn “Champagne” King.
By the 2000s, Cara went into “semi-retirement” and performed in reality singing competitions and sporadic live performances. “I have a beautiful house on the beach and life is good,” she told Songwriter Universe. “[These days] I live off my royalties and I work when I want, and I consider myself semi-retired. I don’t have to work… I make more money by not working than by working.”