Love Always! Martha Wash
For over 40 years, Martha Wash has kept people on their feet as the Queen of dance music, dominating the genre with a gospel-infused voice that fueled a string of Top 10 hits.
Martha Wash began her music career as a backing singer for Sylvester. With fellow backing singer Izora Rhodes, she was half of Two Tons of Fun who would later be renamed The Weather Girls. As such, they were responsible for providing much of the firepower behind several of Sylvester’s earliest releases. Especially the voices of Martha and Sylvester fit perfect, and they where an amazing team.
Sylvester, ‘Stars’ with the hit’s ‘Can’t Stop Dancing’, gay anthem and tittle song ‘Stars’, and the Lieber and Stoller classic ‘I Who Have Nothing’ (Martha Wash recorded the song later together with Luther Vandross as a beautifull ballad).
After Sylvester’s hit album’s Step II, with the mega hits ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), ‘Dance (Disco Heat)’, and his album ‘Stars’ Sylvester wanted something different, something special.
With the San Francisco Symphony, his own band with Patrick Cowley, and Martha Wash, Izora Rhodes, Jeanie Tracy, Sharon Hymes and Eric Robinson as background singers, Sylvester gave a sold out, black tie concert at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, as the first ‘non-classic’ act ever held in an Opera House.
Sylvester, ‘Living Proof’, 1979 Live recorded at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, as first ‘non-classic’ act ever. Sylvester absolutely set the stage and paved the way for all the rest … in many many ways.
After singing some of his classics, they perfomed Thelma Houston’s beautiful ballad ‘Sharing Something Perfect Between Ourselves’ a song where Sylvester and Martha’s voices fits perfect together: Sharing something perfect! The song was followed by Patti Labelle’s classic, ‘You Are My Friend’! While singing this song, it was a good reason for Sylvester to introduce his girls: “Everything I èver needed, was here right all the time”. “You see..these girls: Martha and Izora. I met them three years ago”. “We had our first rehearsel in a Volkwagen on our way to Marin county. And these girls have stuck with me all through èverthing yah, and they are here right now, and I want you to know that! You see… I don’t know if you all have noticed or not, but these women could sing yahh! ….Honey, your ear has to bé in your foot! Tonight here these women could sing! They don’t need these dresses! They don’t need that juwellery! They don’t need that hair! These women could sing yah!! Now folks, seeing is believing… right? I told you everything I could tell yeah… now it’s them to entertain……”
And they did!! Three voices that fit sóo perfect! They blew of the roof. Especially Martha Wash showed the world what she could! Not only on record she sounds clear. But live even better!
Sylvester, on stage with the Two Tons of Fun. Martha Wash (left) and Izora Rhodes (right).
…and fun they had!
Friends forever: Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes as the Two Tons of Fun. Their first album, with the hits ‘Earth Can Be Like Heaven’ and ‘Get The Feeling’.
Typical Patrick Cowley sound ‘Get The Feeling’.
When they left to pursue a career on their own, they achieved success with a handful of disco-oriented tracks, like ‘Earth Can Be Like Heaven’ and ‘Get The Feeling’, both with Partick Cowley, culminating in the 1982 release ‘It’s Rainging Men’, Written and produced by Paul Jabara and who wrote a lot of great dance anthems like Donna Summer’s ‘Last Dance’ and Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand’s ‘No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)’.
‘It’s Raining Men’ a worldwide hit that peaked at No. 2 on the UK Single Chart, No. 1 in Australia, No. 1 on the Euro Hot 100, No. 46 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 34 on the U.S. R&B chart, and No. 1 on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart. It reached the top ten in numerous other countries. ‘It’s Raining Men’ receives regular play in dance clubs and R&B radio to this day: it stands as one of the classic songs of the late-disco and Hi-NRG era. The Weather Girls scored moderate, lesser-known hits with ‘Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man for Christmas)’ and ‘No One Can Love You More Than Me’ in 1985.
The Weather Girls ‘Succes’, 1982
The former Two Tons of Fun: The Weather Girls (Matha Wash and Izora Rhodes) performing life at The Tube their monster hit ‘It’s Raining Men’ And fun they had! (1984).
The 80’s, and 1990’s brought a lot of succes. But also a lot of sadness. In 1982, Patrick Cowley tragically died, during those very early days in the Age of AIDS, not long after he founded Megatone Records. But not only Patrick Cowley died, many friends and people in the industry, passed away in that time. Like singer Frank Loverde (Die Hard Lover) and Paul Jabara (1992). As the panic and reality around the pandemic gained steam-cutting down man after man (and woman!) in its prime during the eighties Martha Wash worked tirelessly on many AIDS benefits. She helps raise much needed funds and awareness about the disease.
Later, when the Weather Girls disbanded, Wash continued to lend her vocals to various dance and ‘house music’ tracks. Several of them became massive pop, R&B and dance hits. She sang lead vocals on all three of Black Box’s U.S. top-forty hits, including the top-ten smashes ‘Everybody Everybody’ and ‘I Don’t Know Anybody Else’ as well as ‘Strike It Up’. But when the music videos for these songs were released, Martha was nowhere to be found, as imposters lip-synched her greatest hits however, she was not featured in any of the music videos as it was customary for Katrin Quinol, a French model, to be used to lip-sync the lyrics. All three of these hit singles (still!) continued to receive regular club-play and mainstream radio airplay as of late April 2010. In addition, Wash sang lead vocals on the lesser-known Black Box tracks, ‘Fantasy’, which charted at No. 5 in Great Britain, ‘Open Your Eyes’, and ‘Hold On’. All six of these songs appear on the Black Box album ‘Dreamland’. Also, she performed uncredited lead vocals on Seduction’s ‘You’re My One And Only (True Love)’, and the lead vocals on C+C Music Factory’s ‘Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)’ which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1991.
C & C Music Factory and Martha Wash performing Do You Wanna Get Funky?
In reaction to her lack of credit on a number of successful dance songs, and exclusion from their accompanied music videos, Wash sued Black Box label RCA to receive proper credit and appropriate royalties as the vocalist on all of these songs. In an out-of-court settlement, made in December 1990, Martha Wash received financial compensation and a recording contract from RCA, as well as a guarantee to be properly credited for her work in recordings. Wash later sued Clivilles and Cole, the producers for C+C Music Factory, along with the C+C record label Sony for ‘fraud’, deceptive packaging and commercial appropriation’, with $500,000 in damages; all parties settled by 1994. As a result of the settlement, Sony made an unprecedented request to MTV to add a disclaimer that credited Wash for vocals and Davis for ‘visualization’ to the ‘Gonna Make You Sweat’ music video, and a performance in the the video clip ‘Do You Wanna Get Funky’.
Under RCA, Wash released her solo debut album in 1992, with a cover photo só beautiful. The album scored three top ten club/dance hits including ‘Carry On’ and ‘Give It to You’, both of which reached number one.
Martha Wash first solo album.
Martha Wash ‘Carry On’.
In 1994, Wash covered Jean Knight’s ‘Mr. Big Stuff” for the soundtrack of the film Disney’s ‘D2: The Mighty Ducks’. Two years later, in 1996, she recorded a cover version of Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing’ for the soundtrack of the film ‘The First Wives Club’. Also in 1996 she recorded with a duet with longtime friend Jocelyn Brown the single ‘Keep On Jumping’. And that was what they did in clubs worldwide. A year later there was an other Todd Terry single: ‘Ready For A New Day’ and ‘Somethin Going’ On’. And 1997 she gave us alo a great duet with RuPaul singing…. ‘It’s Raining Men’. It became, again, a mega hit.
Martha Wash and Jocelyn Brown
Always to be found for charity, she was asked for the ‘Small Voices, Sounds Of A Better World’ project, in 1999. The tittle of the song says it all: ‘Listen To The People (Listen To The Sound of a Better World). In 2011 the song was used for the Arabian Spring movement, for more freedom, human rights and democraty. The single contains some great versions of this timeless song.
Small Voices Calling – Feat. Martha Wash, Listen To The People (Listen To The Sound of a Better World), 1999
Martha Wash, considered a gay icon since The War Memorial Concert in 1979 a few months after the vey Harvey Milk, continues to record new music into the 21st century such as her first new single in more than 5 years, ‘You Lift Me Up’, a fusion of gospel and house, which is the first song produced on her own label, Purple Rose Records in 2005. Wash performed in the opening ceremony of the World’s first ‘Out Games’ in Montreal in July 2006 and she performed at numerous Human Rights Campaign events in the U.S. The gay-themed podcast Gay Pimin’ with Jonny McGovern dedicated an episode to Wash and she obliged them with an extended telephone interview.
In 2006 Wash appeared as a guest on GSN’s ‘I’ve Got A Secret’, and performed ‘It’s Raining Men’ for the all-gay panel.
DJ Tony Moran’s compilation CD ‘The Event’ featured a single featuring Martha entitled ‘Keep Your Body Working’. It reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart for the week ending December 22, 2007.
Martha Wash ‘I’ve Got You’ (Click photo to enlarge).
Martha Wash ‘Ive Got You (Official Music Video), 2011
She was a performer at the annual Big Gay Day in Brisbane, Australia on March 9, 2008 and she also performed at the Chicago Gay Pride Street Fest on June 28, 2008, at the Nightingale as part of the Birmingham, England, Bank Holiday festival on August 23, 2008, at Washington, DC Capital Pride on June 14, 2009, and at the Opening Ceremony of the NAGAA Gay Softball World Series in Milwaukee, WI on August 31, 2009. In April 2011, the song and accompanying music video for the song ‘I’ve Got You’ were released. On Oct. 1, 2012, she was on ‘The Late Show with David Letterman’ celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of ‘It’s Raining Men’, where she ‘blew of the roof’ this classic with Paul Schaffer, six back-up singers, three female dancers and three male acrobats descending from the sky.
In January 2013 Martha Wash released a solo album ‘Something Good’. The album, which has largely garnered very positive reviews, opens with the rock-oriented ‘Alright’, then moves on to the ballad, ‘Destiny’. There are a mere eight tracks on this album, which might put off some potential buyers, but every song is a winner. Quality, people! Pure timeless quality! Martha Wash is a two-time Grammy Nominee, known for her distinctive and powerful dramatic soprano voice. Ms. Wash has been dubbed ‘The Queen of Clubland’ due to her ongoing success in the dance music genre. Martha’s fame would have made her mentor, the late disco pioneer Sylvester, proud. Vèry proud!
Martha Wash ‘Something Good’.
For Martha Wash, it certainly is her time to shine!
The ballad ‘Proud’ is particularly heartbreaking and beautiful; the lyrics reminding me a bit of Bette Mider’s ‘To Deserve You’, Martha’s cover of Aerosmith’s ‘Dream On’ is a surprise, and wonderfully covered by old girl. Her second single ‘It’s My Time’ a power ballad, was written by Swedish singer and songwriter Helena Johansson. An amazing beautiful song, wich reflects Martha Wash powerful voice, has already been successfully remixed as a club number from ‘Something Good’. And the title tune, ‘Something Good’, with a light dance tempo, also seems ripe for the remixing.
In March 2013 she was the special guest for the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus in their spring production ‘Big Gay Sing 6: Club Night Out’. Like every year, we could find Martha performing at World Pride, last year summer 2014 she performed in Toronto, Canada.
First Ladies of Disco: Martha Wash, Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King and Linda Clifford launch new single ‘Show Some Love’ (Photo by Mike Ruiz).
2014, Martha Wash, Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King and Linda Clifford came together and created in 2015 the show ‘First Ladies of Disco’ inspired by James Arena’s book ‘First Ladies of Disco: 32 Stars Discuss the Era and Their Singing Careers’, a best seller in the United States, Canada and Europe.They paying tribute to some of the people that are not in the show, but were part of the disco era, like Donna Summer, and even Sylvester. These legendary vocalists are coming together to bring you what will be one of the most talked about shows in dance music history.
Martha Wash, not only one of the greatest voices in modern music. But also one of the most beautiful and loyal persons in the music business. Loyal to her friends, her colleagues, her fans, and countless ‘unknown’, Always working tirelessly on many benefits, and helps to raise much needed funds.
But now: it certainly is her time to shine! Honey, your ear has to bé in your foot!
by Jean Amr