Irene Cara is best known as a singer of movie themes, though she has also maintained an acting career since childhood. Raised by Latin American parents in New York City, she made her Broadway debut in 1967 (at age eight) in the musical Maggie Flynn, and returned to the stage several years later with a role in the off-Broadway production The Me Nobody Knows. By the age of 16, she'd diversified her r+¬sum+¬ with TV and film gigs, too, landing roles in the TV mini-series Roots 2 and in blaxploitation films like [RoviLink="VW"]Aaron Loves Angela. In 1980, she officially catapulted herself into the mainstream with an appearance in the film [RoviLink="VW"]Fame, for which she performed the title song, an Oscar-winning Top Ten hit. Also featured in the film was her Top 40 single "Out Here on My Own." Capitalizing on the movie's success, Cara released her debut album, Anyone Can See, in 1982.
One year later, she topped the charts with "Flashdance...What a Feelin'," a song she'd co-written for the movie [RoviLink="VW"]Flashdance. [RoviLink="VN"]Cara took home another Oscar for her work, along with several Grammys and two AMA awards. Her second album, What a Feelin', was released later that year, featuring a disco-pop sound that differed from the previous album's emphasis on R&B. What a Feelin' spawned three Top 40 hits -- "Why Me?" "Breakdance," and "The Dream (Hold on to Your Dream)" -- the latter of which also served as the movie theme for [RoviLink="VN"]Joel Schumacher's [RoviLink="VW"]DC Cab. Cara landed more movie roles as the '80s progressed and released her final album, Carasmatic, in 1987. Despite cameo appearances from Luther Vandross, Michael Bolton, and other popular singers, Carasmatic was a flop, prompting Cara to return to the stage, where she participated in the well-received touring revival of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1993. ~ William Ruhlmann & Andrew Leahey
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