A lovely performance of a lovely song, beautifully recorded a few years ago on the Australian iteration of the Idol franchise, at the conclusion of Lauper’s appearance as a guest judge.* There’s something especially magical about the complete sympathy that can develop between musicians, and one of the great pleasures of this rendition lies in watching Cyndi and her unnamed co-performer reach something akin to symbiosis, his work on the acoustic serving as a sort of combined lead and bass guitar compliment to Cyndi’s rhythm chords on the Appalachian dulcimer, her latter-day signature instrument. I’ve been searching the internet all day, trying to find out who he is, and whether, as it seems here, he and Lauper were longtime collaborators.
Time after Time was co-written with Rob Hyman for her spectacular 1983 debut album, She’s So Unusual, which sold umpteen millions during its 96 week run on the charts (65 of them in the top 40), and boasted six individual tracks that made it on to the Hot 100, including this one, which became her first Billboard number 1. She never burned quite so brightly again, but over the decades her reputation has soared, and Time After Time in particular has come to be regarded as one of the modern era’s great love ballads, amassing a remarkable breadth of accolades, which you can read about here:
Still, whenever Lauper comes up, the conversation seems to turn to the supposed mystery of why she never made it as big as Madonna, who appeared at around the same time, and looked at the outset to be the inferior talent. Well, not a lot of performers were ever as big as Madonna, but it’s hardly as if Cyndi was a failure, not with 50 million album sales and an awards cabinet that displays not just a couple of Grammys, but an Emmy and a Tony to boot. The odd thing about her was that all appearances to the contrary, Lauper was a serious artist who wanted to make music for its own sake, prevailing trends be damned, and was neither all that concerned with mega-stardom, nor willing to do the things women have to do if they want to reach the sort of heights to which the almost pathologically driven Madonna manifestly aspired from the outset (and that’s no knock against Madonna, whose business acumen, enormous talent, and sheer force of will have for decades made her a thing to behold). Anyway, so what? I find the whole discussion irritating – does anybody ever look at the career of, say, Randy Newman, and say “yeah, but he was never as big as Springsteen”?
Have another listen to Time After Time. Cyndi accomplished plenty, and surely that’s enough.
*There was a lot of commentary in the local press about Cyndi’s apparent dismay with the regular judges; bless her heart, she thought they were harsh to the point of cruelty, and kept jumping in to contradict their criticisms and offer encouragement to the poor hopeful saps on stage.