US singer Cyndi Lauper
US singer Cyndi Lauper performs on the Pyramid stage on the fourth day of the Glastonbury festival at Worthy Farm in the village of Pilton in Somerset, southwest England, on June 29, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

She was an icon as much for her outspoken punk attitude as her era-defining hits like “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. Now 71, Cyndi Lauper is heading out on a farewell tour.

The New York-born artiste says she wants to celebrate with her fans one last time while she is still fighting fit.

The tour takes her across North America from October before heading to Europe in February.

Lauper has sold more than 50 million albums thanks to hits like “Time After Time” and “True Colors” and has remained active, winning a Tony Award in 2013 for the soundtrack to Broadway musical “Kinky Boots”.

She spoke to AFP about her rebellious spirit, growing up Italian-American and her many years of advocacy.

Question: You were expelled from two schools when you were young. Where did that rebellion come from?

Answer: “It wasn’t me. It was them! I took issue when I was told my mother was going to hell. But what kind of person tells an eight-year-old their mother is going to hell?

Do the hits still feel fresh when you play live?

“Each time is a little different, but what people really come for is to click into the past. They want to hear what they remember. If you can add a little something-something, that’s good.

“Between the rhythm and the sound, sometimes you can lose yourself. That’s the best part of performing because I’m of the opinion people sing to escape, to feel better, to fly.

“When I was kid, the lady a couple of yards down, every Sunday she would make a sauce, clean the whole house and sit down in the afternoon and play the accordion and she would always play “Volare”. As a teenager, I was like ‘Kill me now! How many times do I need to be reminded I’m Italian?!’

“But now I realise what she was really playing: “My heart has wings”. When singers sing at their best, I believe they’re flying inside.”

What memory do you cherish most from your career?

“I had to fight for what I wanted because it wasn’t just handed to me. I didn’t take opportunities because I wanted things a certain way. I had to keep in mind why I started doing this — to feel free, not to be a little bird in a cage.

“The award that meant the most to me was probably Ms. magazine (woman of the year award) in 1984. The magazine was started by Gloria Steinem, who was a great leader in civil rights. She was very influential to me growing up.

“Of course, the Tony was a big deal, and the Grammies. Not that I won a ton of Grammies, probably because I never counted to 10 before I spoke. Maybe that would have been a good idea.”