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Irene Cara, Oscar-winning singer of hits including ‘Fame,’ dies at 63

A backstage photo of Irene Cara, second from right, and Keith Forsey, who were presented Academy Awards for best original song, “Flashdance ... What a Feeling,” by the film's star, Jennifer Beals, left, and Matthew Broderick, right, in 1984. (Bob Riha Jr./Getty Images)
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Irene Cara, the American singer and actress best known for the title tracks of the movies “Fame” and “Flashdance,” has died, her publicist announced Saturday.

“I can’t believe I’ve had to write this, let alone release the news,” publicist Judith A. Moose wrote on the performer’s Twitter account.

Cara died at her home in Florida, her publicist said in a statement, adding that the cause of death was currently unknown. “She was a beautifully gifted soul whose legacy will live forever through her music and films,” she added.

Born in New York City, Cara began her career as a child performing on Spanish-language television. She appeared alongside Rita Moreno, Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman on the PBS children’s program “The Electric Company” from 1971 to 1972, as a member of the show’s band, the Short Circus.

As a teenager, she played Sparkle Williams in the 1976 musical “Sparkle.” Although the film, about a rising girl group in mid-century Harlem, was a box office disappointment, it developed a cult following among Black audiences and inspired a 2012 remake starring Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston.

Cara’s mainstream breakthrough came with the role of Coco Hernandez in the 1980 musical “Fame” — a movie about students auditioning for New York’s public high school of performing arts, now called Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts — for which she also sang the Grammy-nominated title song.

A few years later, she co-wrote and performed the song “Flashdance … What a Feeling,” which earned an Oscar for best original song and two Grammys, for best female pop vocal performance and original score for a motion picture.

She also appeared in films including “City Heat,” alongside Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds, and “Certain Fury,” with Tatum O’Neal.

Officials in Largo, Fla., where Cara’s home is listed in public records, did not immediately provide details about her death.

Thomas Floyd contributed to this report, which has been updated with new information.