As a child, Lara studied violin and received the first prize of chamber music at the Conservatoire de Paris in 1966.She played and composed for famous singers before starting to sing herself. Her first album, Ad libitum
was released in 1972. Since her 1979 album Coup d'feel
, her songs are more influenced by rock music. The 1983 album La Rockeuse de diamant
provided a major success with the single "La Rockeuse de diamant", and a daring song with "Autonome", in which she says : "[I'm\] free to love a woman or a man".In 1986, she made a breakthrough with the single "Nuit magique" written by Luc Plamondon, her biggest hit that brought her fame and made her win a Victoires de la Musique (French Grammy Awards) for best female singer of the year. She published her autobiography in 1987, L'Aventurière de l'archet perdu
. She was named Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in 1990.Still with Plamondon, she worked on a rock opera where she embodied female writer George Sand, titled Sand et les Romantiques
in 1991. As a part of the show, she released a duet with her friend Véronique Sanson, entitled "Entre elle et moi".She takes part in charity tours for Les Restos du coeur, alongside French rock stars Johnny Hallyday, Eddy Mitchell and Jean-Jacques Goldman, as well as Sidaction and Sol En Si.In 2002, she composed a song for the France national football team, to be sung by Johnny Hallyday. The same year Lara was named Officer of the Ordre de la Légion d'honneur.
Catherine Lara is openly lesbian. When asked in a TV show what she would look at first in a man, she answered "his wife". Nevertheless, she doesn't want to dwell on her sexual orientation, "For fifteen years I lived a love story and I didn’t tell anyone. I prefer to talk about love instead of sex. After coming out I realized that if it could do good to someone, man or woman, who feels outcast by society, fine."