During her co-headlining show with Rod Stewart at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center this Saturday night, Cyndi Lauper will make a run through some of her most iconic ‘80s pop hits — “Time After Time,” “True Colors,” “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “She Bop.”
But tucked into the middle of all that nostalgia will be a song there’s a good chance you won’t recognize.
It’s called “Hope,” and while the lyrics are broadly aspirational (And hope is what you came for / A drop in time we share / Hope and don’t give up / Don’t give up), the 65-year-old Grammy winner’s got a pretty specific and deeply personal explanation for how she came to release the new track last October.
Lauper related the story to the Observer in a recent interview (comments have been edited for clarity and brevity):
“I had very bad psoriasis (a chronic inflammatory skin condition) while on tour with Cher from 2013 to 2015. ... It started with just plaques on my head. Since our kid played hockey, and sometimes they come home and they’ve got bugs, I went to the dermatologist and said, ‘I think I have bugs.’ He said, ‘No, you don’t, you have psoriasis. Here’s a shampoo.’ So I’m thinking, ‘Oh. Shampoo. That’s easy. That could fix that.’ But it didn’t.”
“It just kind of got worse over time. And everybody’s got a cure for you. Everybody’s always like, ‘Oh, my cousin had that. Just use some cod liver oil with Saran wrap before you go to bed.’ You know what that’s like? Wrapped in Saran wrap with cod liver oil in bed? Try it sometime. It’s not good. Plus, when you’re sleeping, they say, ‘Don’t scratch.’ Well, when you’re sleeping, how do you not scratch?”
“Anyway, my friends and colleagues were very supportive in trying to help me, and I was wearing things to hide everything so I could perform, but then when I took the stuff off it was really terrible. But dropping out of the tour wasn’t an option for me. Of course, I’m half-Sicilian, so I don’t back down. I didn’t give up. And it would have been very easy to give up. I mean, my husband walked in one time, looked at me and said, ‘OK, I’m taking you to the hospital.’ And I would say, “And what are they gonna do? They’re gonna say I have psoriasis. What are they gonna do for me? Give me a little tube of cream for my whole entire body? I don’t think that’s gonna work.’”
“Eventually, I was covered from head to toe, so it was bad. But amazingly, it was not on my face. Once in awhile, it was on my eyebrows, but I was able to hide it. Anyway, I started making jokes on stage about myself and my psoriasis and someone from (pharmaceutical company) Novartis contacted my manager, then through them I met with the National Psoriasis Foundation, which they work with. I met other patients, and I met these wonderful doctors.”
“I originally didn’t want to use any medicine ... but I got to the point where I couldn’t regulate my body temperature. I was so cold. I was shivering all the time, and I felt like I had a fever. So I wound up calling the doctor and he said, ‘You know, Cyn, you don’t have to be suffering like this. It’s 2015. You know how many options there are? Let’s have you come in. We’ll go through all the options you have, and you pick the one that works for you.’ And I was lucky. I found something that worked for me, and I’m in the clear three years now.”
“Since then, I have been working with Novartis on the SeeMeToKnow.com campaign (an initiative that celebrates patients’ success stories and encourages others living with plaque psoriasis to seek ways to get back to doing the things they want to do). There are 7.5 million people who are suffering with this in the United States, and everybody has a different reaction to this illness. You can go on the web page, you can see people with psoriasis, you can hear the stories of what they went through, and you don’t feel alone. Because when you’re that ill, you feel very alone and powerless. But knowledge is power.”
“That’s what this campaign is about. If you have psoriasis, you should go and find a doctor that specializes in diseases of the skin. Then you can discuss the options for you. And the more educated you are about what you have, the easier it is to come up with a solution. And there are so many solutions nowadays.”
“And I must say, speaking with other people that have it and listening to other people’s stories was a big comfort to me. ... I kind of never forgot their stories. One was a ballerina who nobody would lift because she had a flare-up. People think it’s contagious, but it’s not contagious. So the more you learn about it, and the more you speak about it, the better it is. All of a sudden you’re not by yourself. And it’s good not to be by yourself when you’re going through it.”
“I ultimately wrote the song ‘Hope’ after listening to the stories of people with psoriasis. I swore I wouldn’t write a song like that, but as I started writing, that’s all that came out. So instead of stifling it, I just let it come out. I realized that, in these times, hope is what you need. And a lot of people need hope for a lot things, so ... I try to do an uplifting set for people because, in these times, I want people coming to the show to forget about everything for a little bit, and feel happy and comforted, and even for some people to remember when times were better.”
Rod Stewart and Cyndi Lauper
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Spectrum Center, 333 E. Trade St.
Tickets: $59 and up.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.