Martha Wash Rains with Song and Talent as a Disco First Lady [Interview] [Video]

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Martha Wash
Image Courtesy of Gor Megaera via martawash.com

Martha Wash, best known as a member of The Weather Girls with the hit, “It’s Raining Men,” is still belting out her incredible voice releasing new music. Wash is taking her talent onto the high seas as part of the First Ladies of Disco Show performing on the second Ultimate Disco Cruise ready to sail February 2020.

Martha Wash
Image Courtesy of Kat Armendariz via Randex Communications

Wash Finds Her Disco Voice

At the young age of two, Wash started her musical rise singing in church where she resided with her parents in San Francisco. Through her church, Wash began her public singing career singing gospel and escaping from being bullied for her larger size. While in high school the future Weather Girl began private studies in opera and tour Europe. She joined as a member of a contemporary gospel group – News of The World (NOW).

The woman who started out as a gospel singer found inspiration to become a disco pioneer after witnessing Sylvester James, known as Sylvester, open for a 1974 Billy Preston concert. It was two years later that Wash had the opportunity to audition for Sylvester to become one of his backup singers.

Proving her weight to Sylvester as a songstress he immediately hired her and even asked Wash for a reference for another backup singer. Wash recommended Izora Armstead, who she had been singing with in NOW. The two worked with Sylvester on four albums before heading out with their own group, Two Tons o’ Fun.

The duos life was to be propelled into greatness when, in 1982, they accepted to sing the song, “It’s Raining Men,” written by Paul Jabara – songwriter of Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” – along with Paul Shaffer. Luckily the song had been rejected by Summer, Diana Ross, Cher, and Barbra Streisand so it could find its perfect fit with the two gospel queens.

Two Tons o’ Fun morphed into being known as the Weather Girls with the song’s release. “It’s Raining Men” became an immediate hit. It reached Number One status on Billboard’s Club Chart and was nominated for a Grammy. Although the two would continue to perform together as the Weather Girls until 1990, Wash and Armstead also continued to sing out as backup for session work for rock, pop, and gospel stars such as Bob Seger and Aretha Franklin.

Wash Discovers Heartache with Stolen Vocal Credits

As Wash continued working as a session artist she was brought together again with a former DJ and session musician turned producer, David Cole. Along with Robert Clivilles, Cole had formed C+C Music Factory to produce house music. While working for the team doing studio project demos, Wash’s vocals on “(You’re My One and Only) True Love” proved to make it a hit. C+C put together the group, Seduction, with three women – giving Wash credit as only backing vocalist on the song that was all hers.

Wash began working for the Italian house music producers Groove Groove Melody, who soon became known as Black Box, in 1989 doing demos for a flat fee. Unbeknownst to Wash her record demos became actual used vocals on “Dreamland,” the Black Box debut album released in 1990. The leggy beauty Quinol, featured on the album cover, received credit and was featured in videos, while Wash did not even receive credit for her vocals in the notes of the album’s liner.

C+C continued to use Wash to record background vocals and demos for a single fee as compensation. When “Gonna Make You Sweat,” with the famed “Everybody dance now” words, was released in October 1990 Wash soon realized that it was her vocals being lip-synced by band singer, Zelma Davis. To add to her pain was that Wash was only listed in the liner notes of the album as one of the six background vocalists – disregarding her contribution as the main singer on that song.

Wash was fed up with her lack of credit, as well as deserved payment and royalties, and took a stand filing several lawsuits. The first lawsuit was filed in July 1990 for unauthorized use of her voice against Clivillés and Cole, and A&M Records – the record label for Seduction. Wash later filed an additional lawsuit against CBS/Sony, for $500,000 – C+Cs record label – for what amounted to false advertising.

Also, in 1990 Wash filed suit against Black Box and RCA Records citing commercial appropriation. She was fighting for her life – for not receiving appropriate credit for the Black Box melodies she provided vocals for.

Wash Achieves ‘The Queen of Clubland’ Designation

Fighting to win credit where it was due, Wash climbed into the 1990s earning the notoriety she deserved. Although most of the dance club public may not have realized it was Wash singing, the music mavens noticed her distinct vocals and began to question. It soon became speculation that Wash being a larger sized woman may have been the cause of producers not wanting to feature her.

Martha Wash
Photo Courtesy of Mike Ruiz via marthawash.com

Along with her credited “It’s Raining Men,” the Grammy nominee’s other vocal hits became Number One on Billboard’s dance chart. “Gonna Make You Sweat” also climbed the R&B chart and reached the top of the Hot 100 – becoming a multi-platinum hit. Wash achieved the title of “The Queen of Clubland” with vocals on eight Billboard’s dance chart Number One songs being played in the dance clubs.

Her lawsuits were settled in Wash’s favor with Sony making a first-time label request to MTV. They asked the music channel to place a disclaimer on the “Gonna Make You Sweat” video giving Wash credit for the vocals and visualization credit to Davis.

Through Wash’s lawsuits, she became the voice for artists not achieving proper credit due. The same year Wash filed her suits New Jersey and New York introduced bills making it mandatory for concert promoters to state if pre-recorded music was to be used for on-stage performance. In addition, her pursuits for justice led to federal government legislation stating that all albums and music videos must have proper vocal credit.

Wash Speaks About Life

Wash’s amazing career includes her star turns in theater productions as well as recording movie soundtracks including “Kiss Me Guide,” “First Wives Club,” “Mighty Ducks,” and “Gun Ho.” She also has recorded several jingles.

Carol Ruth Weber: Do you think that the bullying you felt as a child could have been partly responsible for the strong woman you have become – such as giving you strength and more reason to fight back?

Marsha Wash: I honestly have never thought about that – I wasn’t large as a child but I always looked older than my classmates. I developed early so I naturally looked older. I keep doing what I am doing and hopefully, when you become an adult you realize that you are just you, and this is the body you were given. You learn as you get older that you are who you are and you try to be the best that you can be. You shouldn’t worry how other people perceive you, you should be happy with who you are. You can’t let life beat you down – it’s about what you do and how you are going to react to the situations in your life.

CRW: What were your first thoughts when given the opportunity to sing “It’s Raining Men,” and did you and Izora [Armstead] add in the wonderful hallelujahs yourselves or was it the writer’s ideas?

MW: Paul Jabara and Paul Shaffer, who wrote the song, had that all written in and had already placed it in the song. It was already done.

CRW: You are of amazing strength – what has kept you creating and reinventing yourself year after year?

MW: You have no choice in this business – you have to keep recreating yourself. I started as a background singer and then a lead singer. I started with disco, and through the decades the genres have changed where I am doing more pop and rock music, and putting finishing touches on my new album, “Love and Conflict.” I call it a gumbo kind of style of music – a little rock, a little pop, a little R&B, a little 60s inspired music.

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CRW: How do you feel about your Queen of Clubland title and being an inspiration to so many who are fighting for recognition?

MW: It’s funny, I did not name myself Queen of Clubland, one of my fans did years ago and it kind of stuck. I’m just Martha, I don’t need all the titles and that type of stuff. While I have been given the title Queen of Clubland I didn’t just want to be pigeon-holed with one type of music.

CRW: Do you have plans to do a solo recording again, as well as acting, as you continue to perform with First Ladies of Disco?

MW: I’m doing a whole bunch of stuff, I’m finishing up my own album and working with First Ladies of Disco – And we just were just on the Top 10 Billboard Dance chart with our second single, “Don’t Stop Me Now.”

[Wash is currently working on her newest album, “Love & Conflict,” due to be released in February 2020. I got chills witnessing yet another amazing work by Wash, as I listened to “Like Fire” – the first song released from the coming album. The song is a true indication that Wash will once again be climbing the charts proving that this super talent is deserving of her recognition to ignite fans, old and new.]

CRW: What brought you together with James Arena, the author of “First Ladies of Disco,” to create a marketing company along with the show?

MW: Well, it was because of James Arena and his first book called, “First Ladies of Disco.” My manager, James Washington, thought it would be a good idea if we took some of the women out of the book and put together a group, and it went on from there.

CRW: Are you enjoying your tour with First Ladies of Disco Show and what do you look forward to performing on the Ultimate Disco Cruise in 2020?

MW: We have a lot of fun on stage, and we all get along well because we have all worked together over the years – so it is easy. And I’m looking forward to performing on this cruise because there are a lot of great artists, some of them are friends and some of them I know. It’s going to be great especially for the fans. I’m looking forward to it and hoping a lot of people come out and enjoy themselves – and get there groove on.

Wash Continues Her Rise to Success and Notoriety

In 1994, Wash made peace with C+C Music Factory, and Cole the year before his death, teaming up with them for their second album, “Antything Goes.” She made an appearance in the “Do You Wanna Get Funky” video – the album’s number one hit.

Wash launched Purple Rose Records in 2004, her own recording label, to produce for evolving talent that has been rejected by the major record labels. The first label release was Wash’s top five Billboard Dance Club Song chart hit, the single “You Lift Me Up.” In 2013 the songstress’ second album, “Something Good,” was the first album released by Purple Rose Records.

In 2014 Wash climbed the Billboard Club Play Chart to rank number two with her song, “I’m Not Coming Down.” The song also ranked 37 on the Billboard Dance/ Electronica chart.

Purple Rose manages musical acts including the female group, First Ladies of Disco – featuring Wash as one of the ladies. The original group included Linda Clifford and Evelyn “Champagne” King as the other female leads. In 2015 the label released the group’s debut single, “Show Some Love.” It proved a hit-making it to the top-ten on Billboard’s Dance chart. In March 2019 First Ladies of Disco released their second single on Purple Rose Records, “Don’t Stop Me Now.”

The group, featuring headlining women from the world of pop, R&B, and disco, has been making its way throughout the U.S. on tour as the First Ladies of Disco Show. Inspiration for the group’s title and the tour name came from James Arena’s tribute book “First Ladies of Disco: 32 Stars Discuss the Era and Their Singing Careers.” The book has been a best-seller in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Martha Wash, Linda Clifford, and Norma Jean Wright will be the leads for the First Ladies of Disco Show aboard the Celebrity Infinity for the 2020 Ultimate Disco Cruise. The women are looking to “Show Some Love” in song and spirit to fans as they set to sail out of Miami to Key West and the Bahamas from February 10-15 in 2020.

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