Remembering Irene Cara

Hi all. A bit of a different post today and not one strictly travel related. About two weeks ago the singer/actor/song-writer/dancer Irene Cara passed away alone in her home in Largo, Florida. I was at work two Sundays ago when the news announced her death, and well, for some reason I have had a really hard time processing her passing.

It’s been very strange because I have to be honest, I wasn’t a massive fan of Irene Cara. I mean, I knew who she was and liked the little I had seen of what she did, which frankly was completely confined to watching the movie “Fame” and listening to its soundtrack and of course, I knew her biggest hit ‘What A Feeling’ (the Theme to Flashdance – she was NOT in the film as people seem to think she was). She was sixty-three.

And yet, amongst all the people in my life and other famous people who have passed away this year, this one has hit me hard. Maybe it’s because she is the latest to pass away, and it’s a cumulative effect. I don’t really know for sure. I didn’t know anything about Irene Cara.

Have you ever had the experience that someone passes away so you start furiously googling them to find out who they were? Because that is what happened to me over the last two weeks. Irene was a star from a very young age, appearing on TV at the age of 8. You have to see the precocious performance below to see that some people are just born to entertain.

Although ‘Fame’ is her most well known movie and the one that really brought her into the public eye (especially outside the States) she starred in ‘Sparkle’, a movie loosely based on the Supremes and she got the part at only 13. It’s Fame though that was the most important – and indeed it’s an amazing movie to anyone who hasn’t seen it, telling the stories of a number of students as they go through the four years at a Performing Arts School in New York – based on a real school. It’s a multi-ethnic school and most of the extras (most of the non-main parts in the movie) actually came from that school.

It’s in this film that Irene sings ‘Out Here On My Own’ (as well as the title track ‘Fame’ – interestingly when they shot the visuals for the song, dancing on the New York streets, the song hadn’t even been written). And perhaps this song is why …. Please take a couple of minutes to listen to it. It is the ONE song I can think of that ALWAYS gives me goosebumps when I hear it, and I always get a little teary eyed.

From there Irene soon was winning an Oscar for 1983’s ‘What a Feeling’, which she co-wrote as well as sung. By the late 80s though she was locked in a legal battle with record producers who had gotten rich on her back, whilst she had not seen much in terms of royalties. This was a legal battle that would go for 10 years or more, and ended in 1999 when she won. In that time though she had been black listed, she was not able to sing/perform her songs in the USA, and it had clearly taken a toll on her.

But still, she pops up here and there – she sang at the 2006 AFL Grand Final in Melbourne, and started a group called ‘Irene Cara presents Hot Caramel’ to showcase up and coming female talent. By winning her court case she ensured that other artists would not suffer what she had suffered – Mariah Carey for one was a huge admirer (and sang with her) and paid tribute.

In the last few years leading to Irene’s passing, she wasn’t out there that much. She had a podcast and in a couple of episodes she shared songs from the album ‘Carasmatic’ which was blocked in the last 80s from being released due to the legal battle. But sadly she appears to have locked herself away in her house and rarely left according to her neighbours. It’s not known why she died as yet – I see that on Twitter anti-vaxxers took to saying it must have been the Covid Vaccine which is just, well I don’t know what to say. Mixed up in tributes and memories, these kind of messages which I think are pretty standard these days when any celebrity dies, but it’s a political agenda really and to me these sort of messages and inferences to me are akin to the Westboro Baptist Church picketing a funeral of a veteran saying they died because the USA let’s people be gay. Imagine it was your loved one.

All that I’ve written I’ve learnt in the last two weeks since Irene’s passing. Irene was someone who was exceptionally talented and I believe we never truly saw the best of her. Sometimes people are treated harshly when they really don’t deserve it. And I understand the desire to lock yourself away from the world. Perhaps that’s me in 20 years, I don’t know. Perhaps that’s a reason why I travel – because it gets me out there.

Thanks as always for joining me, this time for something different. If you were a fan of Irene, would love to hear anything about her. Or has their been a celebrity death that hit you way harder than you think it should have? Do comment! May the Journey Never End.


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