It turns out that Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 hit “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”—an upbeat, female anthem—was written by none other than a man who was looking to make a point about how many women he’d slept with. I didn’t see that one coming. Maybe this is a well-known fact, but it was news to me. News that came soon after I found out that Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” had a similar evolution from misogynistic male song, to inspiring karaoke classic.
Cyndi Lauper’s producer at the time, Rick Chertoff, had heard Robert Hazard’s original recording of the song, and received permission from him to change the lyrics up a bit. A noted feminist, Lauper swapped out the tales of a man bedding many women and turned the song into a powerful story of, well, I’ll let Lauper explain it: “It doesn’t mean that girls just want to fuck. It just means that girls want to have the same damn experience that any man could have.” Lauper wasn’t just about equality between the sexes though, but between races as well. Her video for the single was one of the first music videos to feature women of multiple races.
Aside from the lyrical improvements, the entire song got an upgrade when Lauper took it over from Robert Hazard. Listen to the original below, if you can even make it through the whole song. It’s uncomfortably fast, and a feels like the lyrics are shoved into spaces they weren’t meant to fit. Maybe it’s just because I’m so used to the original, but I have a hunch I wouldn’t dig it even if I had heard Hazard’s
Lauper’s version went on to be covered many more times, while Hazard’s version was left in the dust. Other artists that have performed the track range from Arcade Fire (joined onstage by Lauper herself), to Relient K, to Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj. The song is an 80’s classic, and rightly so. I’m certain it will be performed by generations of karaoke goers and famous musicians alike in the decades to come.