Carole Pope is a British-born Canadian rock singer-songwriter, whose provocative blend of hard-edged new wave rock with explicit homoerotic and BDSM-themed lyrics made her one of the first openly lesbian entertainers to achieve mainstream fame. She is the sister of Emmy Award-winning television producer and screenwriter Elaine Pope.
Pope was raised in Scarborough, Toronto, the daughter of immigrants from England. She attended Cedarbrae Collegiate Institute.
Pope met her longtime musical partner Kevan Staples at a band audition in Scarborough. In 1968, they began performing together as a duo in Yorkville, which was Toronto's live music and arts district at the time. In 1970, they adopted the name O, changing it to The Bullwhip Brothers the following year.
In 1975, Pope and Staples recruited several backup musicians and formed the band Rough Trade. Pope often performed in black leather pants and bondage attire. The band's first album, Rough Trade Live, was produced by Jack Richardson.
In 1980, Pope sang backup vocals on Murray McLauchlan's album Into a Mystery.
She won the Juno Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist in 1981, and subsequently won the Juno Award for Best Female Vocalist in 1982 and 1983. She and Staples co-wrote the 1983 single "Transformation," recorded by Nona Hendryx. Pope also appeared as a guest vocalist on the Payola$ single "Never Said I Loved You," which was a top 10 hit in 1983. She teamed up in 2000 with the Payola$ founder Paul Hyde to sing the duet "My Brilliant Career" on his album Living Off the Radar.
During the 1980s, Rough Trade won a Genie Award, and earned four gold and two platinum records. Although the band did not record or perform extensively after its final Deep Six in '86 tour, they did not officially break up until 1988.
Pope's solo career has been lower-profile than her time with the band. Pope issued a debut solo single in 1988 (Nothing but a Heartache/I'm Not Blind), but did not issue a follow-up release for several years afterward. In 1991, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue opportunities in soundtrack work and acting.
Pope issued an EP in 1995. In 1997, she provided the voice for the schoolteacher in the animated version of Pippi Longstocking. In 1999, playwright Bryden MacDonald staged Shaking the Foundations, a musical revue based on Pope's music with Rough Trade, at Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times theatre.
In 2000, Random House published Anti-Diva, Pope's autobiography. The book included Pope's first public acknowledgement that she had been in a relationship with British singer Dusty Springfield in the early 1980s. That year she and Staples contributed a track to the Dusty Springfield tribute album Homage to an Icon.. The same book also revealed fleeting 1970s dalliances with comic actress Andrea Martin and music producer Bob Ezrin.
Soon afterward, Pope re-recorded the Rough Trade single "High School Confidential" for the Queer as Folk (Season 1) soundtrack. She also appeared in the Toronto production of The Vagina Monologues in 2001, then moved to New York City to continue writing and recording. In 2005, 21 years after the release of her previous album, Pope returned to Los Angeles and released Transcend, her debut full-length solo album.
In 2011, Pope released Landfall, her second full-length album, featuring a duet with Rufus Wainwright. That year she also was a guest vocalist on the album The Hills Are Alive by the Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata.
Pope is an ambassador for the Harvey Milk School in New York City and the board director for the Songwriters Association of Canada. In 2015, Pope signed with Squirtgun Records (distributed by eOne Entertainment) to re-release the Music for Lesbians EP on 23 June 2015.
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