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Queen Of Clubland Talks Talent Vs. Looks

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
July 21, 2011

Soul singer Martha Wash’s songs have become classics played on repeat at parties and clubs around the world — so much so that she’s been dubbed “The Voice” and “The Queen of Clubland.”

Her solo career would win more accolades, and eventually she started her own music label Purple Rose. She’s working on a new album today.

She began singing when she was about three years old, and started her music career as a backup singer for Sylvester, who recorded soul, disco and other dance music.

In a performance chat with Tell Me More host Michel Martin, Wash recalls first seeing Sylvester: “I just kind of stood there with my mouth open, saying to myself, ‘Who is he?’ and ‘I don’t believe it!’ I had never heard anything like him before.”

A few years later she auditioned at Sylvester’s house. When she finished, he dismissed the “two tall, thin, blond girls” who had auditions right before she did. Sylvester asked if Wash knew of someone else who shared her physical size and singing talent. She brought in Izora Rhodes in a few days later.

“Maybe his mind shifted and said ‘well maybe I can do two large black girls as background singers,’” Wash says.

She and Rhodes became the duo “The Weather Girls” (formerly “Two Tons of Fun”). They released their smash hit “It’s Raining Men” nearly three decades ago. The song, written by Paul Jabara and Paul Shaffer, became an ear worm and won them a Grammy nomination.

Wash says she had no inkling that the song would be a hit. In fact, she thought the songwriters were kidding when they begged her and Rhodes to record it. But they weren’t.

“Barbara Streisand, Donna Summer, Cher — they had all passed on recording this song and my feeling is, we were the ones that were supposed to record the song,” she says.

And “It’s Raining Men” is an official cult classic now, says Wash. And next year, it’ll be 30 years old.

Another hit was “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).” Wash says she recorded the song as a demo for C+C Music Factory, and it became a hit in 1990. But then model Zelma Davis lip-synced the part and Wash was not credited for her work.

“I was in my hotel room, flipping through channels and saw the video,” she says, “and I said, ‘Ok, I don’t believe this.’”

Wash and her attorney settled the case in court, where she won legal changes for the industry, requiring artists to be properly credited.

Moreover, when asked if she thinks there’s now more tolerance for people who look different — particularly those with remarkable talent – Wash responds, “Why do you have to tolerate anybody? That’s just who they are. Either you accept or you don’t. You like, you don’t. You buy or you do not buy. And I’ve always kind of felt or hoped that the buying public can see through and has a little bit more intelligence than what the powers-that-be say.”

She adds, “Somebody asked me not too long ago if I had to go through what I went through before, now, would I be as successful? And I said,’probably not.’”

Regardless, Wash’s latest single is “I’ve Got You,” which she describes as inspirational and uplifting, with a lean toward the pop genre.

“We all go through our rough patches and it seems like we’re the only ones going through them. But there’s somebody out there who knows what you’re going through and they understand. It can be a physical person, but it can be a spiritual thing as well,” says Wash. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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