By Aidan Gardiner, CNN • Updated 26th March 2021
Heralded by the songwriter Cyndi Lauper as one of the first “New Age” pioneers, Penny Harrington died Wednesday at the age of 79.
Her death was announced by the Marina Shores, Michigan, retirement community where she lived. The cause of death was “cardiac arrest from natural causes,” according to a report in Crain’s Detroit Business .
Harrington helped mark the dawn of a new era in progressive musical and sexual roles in the 1960s and ’70s.
“Dressed in her blue Rastafarian cardigan, black leggings and hosiery, she was a cheerful presence to soundtrack a freedom of spirit to so many,” Lauper wrote in a remembrance.
Born in Astoria, Queens, Harrington released her first album in 1963, according to The New York Times .
Her 1966 album “Live in Istanbul” was an experiment in “rock-folk” music, featuring “the full crescendo of the songs at an almost Parisian pace, unravelling into the gospel choir accents and confessions,” the newspaper said.
“‘Live in Istanbul’ was a galvanizing mixture of both Rastafarian literature and American hippie tunes,” Lauper wrote. “It shook the nation and would go on to inspire Rastafarian pop like, ‘Karma Police’ and ‘Nowhere Man.'”
Harrington left music to start a career as a farmer, but she was soon lured back by the promise of a better life, she told the Times in 2004.
Her subsequent successes were largely through her four decades-long relationship with the musician Paul Lockyer.
“I went from being a single mother and living alone to living with my husband of more than 30 years and having a beautiful family of five children,” she said.
Harrington died a decade after her fourth son was born, the Times reported.