Her voice is among the most recognizable in American pop culture, being heard everywhere from basketball games to TV commercials to gatherings as private as family reunions or as public as outdoor festivals across the country. Yet, when that anonymous set of powerful pipes command “Everybody dance now!” few know that it is the voice of Martha Wash. Hopefully that is about to change with the release of the inspirational “Something Good,” her first solo album in 20 years.
In the tradition of most R&B artists who sing with her power and passion, Wash, a San Francisco native, began singing in church, and first captivated crowds on a grand scale when she teamed up with Izora Rhodes, a vocal powerhouse in her own right. Billed as Two Tons of Fun, they served as high-profile backup singers for the campy and colorful Sylvester, the disco divo who delivered such infectious dance tunes as “Dance (Disco Heat),” “Do You Wanna Funk” and “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).”
However, it was as the Weather Girls that Wash and Rhodes made a global impact, with their catchy and clever dance tune “It’s Raining Men,” released in 1982, becoming a worldwide hit. Though Sylvester passed away in 1988 and Rhodes in 2004, Wash’s fiery vocals remained in demand for chart-topping dance hits by C+C Music Factory and Black Box — but only her vocals.
When she recorded “Gonna Make You Sweat” for C+C Music Factory as well as “Everybody Everybody” and “Strike It Up” for Black Box, decision-makers, who deemed Wash “unmarketable” because of her size, opted to have a wiry French model by the name of Katrin Quniol lip-sync in the videos, rather than have Wash, a bountiful beauty, deliver her own powerful vocals on camera. (As a former opera singer, I immediately knew that all of that sound was not coming out of that frail model).
During our recent interview Wash explained, “David Cole (C+C Music Factory producer) played for the Weather Girls. He was the musical conductor for four years or so, and sometimes I would go in the studio and record scratch vocals for other artists, which are like demo vocals for whatever artist may record the song. So that’s would I would do for him, and as far as ‘Gonna Make You Sweat’ was concerned, it was the same principal – I thought — until I saw the video for it on TV, and I’m saying, ‘What’s going on?’ So that’s how that occurred.
“With Black Box, they were some musicians out of Italy, and I did some vocals for them as well. So what they wound up doing was making a compilation CD and calling it Black Box. I guess that’s the name of the compilation, but the guys themselves, they were these studio producers called Groove Groove Melody, and basically, the same kind of thing happened. What made it so crazy was both of those situations happened within a year’s time, so it kind of magnified the whole situation. Also, it was during the time of the Milli Vanilli scandal, so it was totally crazy!”
“As far as C+C was concerned, we worked out the differences. There was a settlement made, and we were able to move on from that, because I even recorded another CD with them and was out on tour with them when David Cole passed.” Wash’s passion and persistence throughout the ordeal resulted in changes that would ensure that every artist in the recording industry – even those faceless voices behind the scenes – received their just due.
“During that whole situation, it was very uncomfortable for me, because I had never been in that kind of situation before,” Wash recalled. “There was press and all this other kind of stuff. But after all of it was over, there were other people – musicians and things that came up to me and said, ‘Good for you! I’m glad for you! It should have never happened.’ Now, there is legislation that says that you have to be credited for the work that you do on any type of music. I am glad about that.”
In 1993, Wash finally stepped into the spotlight with her self-titled debut solo album. “I think basically, it was time,” she explained. “‘Gonna Make You Sweat,’ the song had really taken off. I was getting calls for interviews and things like that, and I think at that time, the Weather Girls had kind of ran its course. We had recorded two or three albums and all we were doing was touring. We weren’t in the studio. The label dropped us, so it’s like, ‘Okay. I’m going to go out here and do this.’ With the agreement with Black Box, or Groove Groove Melody, I should say, RCA offered me a solo recording contract, so I decided to go for it.”
Now, with the release of “Something Good.,” Wash is finally claiming and taking control of her music and her sound.
“I had started my own label and I had put out a single, but I didn’t move forward with any other music, so we decided to go on and get started on getting this music together,” she said. “I met with Zach Adam and he wrote the first single, which is ‘I Got You,’ which got really positive reviews, and just continued on finding more music that would work for adult contemporary listeners. Not so much the dance, because everybody knew that I could do the dance stuff. I needed to go in another direction. I was getting older.”
As the vivacious and supremely talented Martha Wash embarks on the next phase of an intriguing career, she says of her latest project, “It’s uplifting! I want to uplift people and inspire people, and find songs that become anthems for their lives. ‘It’s My Time.’ That’s how I feel now about this project. This is my time to show people that I can do other types of music, and not be just stuck in one genre, because I never, as an artist, wanted to be pigeon-holed. I’ve always said that through my I career. Let me sing whatever I want sing! Hopefully the fans will like it and get behind it.”
Contact entertainment reporter Kimberly C. Roberts at (215) 893-5753 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally posted at http://www.phillytrib.com