Before there was a television show, if you mentioned “The Voice” chances were you were speaking about Martha Wash. This amazing songstress has enjoyed an amazing career that has garnered hits in every decade since the seventies. Since her 1978 #1 Billboard hit “Disco Heat” with Sylvester, Martha has delivered 22 Billboard Top Ten Singles with Sylvester, Two Ton's of Fun, The Weather Girls, Seduction, C+C Music Factory, Black Box, and under her own name.
Martha is known as “The Voice” as much for her amazing pipes as she is for the fact that her biggest hits were credited to other “more marketable” lip synching actresses. Her landmark lawsuits in the era of the Milli Vanilli scandal resulted in legislation that mandates vocal credit on all CD's and videos.
But this story begins as so many of these stories do with gospel music. “I grew up singing in the church and we always had music in the house, although gospel music was the only kind of music I was allowed to listen to growing up.” This early gospel influence has never left her music.
Martha with Sylvester and Izora
Martha entered the music scene with a bang, and has never been out of it since. “I auditioned for Sylvester, I didn't know I was auditioning for him, I thought I was auditioning to be a studio singer. I went to this little basement and come to find out it was for Sylvester.” Martha was no stranger to this unique artist. “I had seen him a few years earlier. I had gone to see Billy Preston and Sylvester opened the show for him. I had never seen or heard of him before and I just remember watching him with my mouth hung open. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, I had never heard a singer like him before.”
Fast forward a couple of years and she is standing in front of the legendary performer. “He had just finished auditioning these two tall thin blonde white girls, when I came in and auditioned. I sang, he told them they could leave and the rest as they say is history.” Sylvester told her he wanted her and another large woman to back him on his upcoming album and tour. Four days later she had introduced Sylvester to her friend Izora Rhodes and they had crossed the Golden Gate bridge to begin recording his new album. Sylvester saw the potential of the two and on several tracks mixed his own vocal into the background, bringing the incredible talents of “Two Ton's of Fun” to the forefront. The incredible success of these singles lead to the pair recording albums of their own under this monicker.
It was however, in the living room of Paul Schaffer that these two women would discover a new identity and a new level of success. “We were at Paul's house in L. A. and he told us the reason we were having lunch at his house was because he wanted us to record “It's Raining Men”. The pair were not receptive to the idea. “We laughed and laughed and laughed. We said 'You have got to be kidding.'”
But Schaffer was undeterred. From the beginning he knew the potential of the song, and would not give up until it was recorded. “Barbara Streisand had turned it down, Diana Ross had tuned it down, Cher had turned it down and Donna Summer had turned it down.” Schaefer was so convinced the song would be a blockbuster that all recording was already complete-minus the lead vocals when he approached Wash and Rhodes. “He said please, please, please, I need you guys to record this song. So we went into the studio, layed it down in less than 90 minutes and walked out and said 'See ya Paul.' We went back to San Francisco and forgot about it.”
Paul Schaeffer did not forget about it. He toured the country with 12” copies he had pressed on such a budget he did not have the label printed. He went to club after club, in city after city from coast to coast. He begged one DJ after another to give the record a spin. It was due to that blank label that Two Ton's of Fun would come to be known as The Weather Girls. The intro of the song “Hello, we're your weather girls” was the only indication of who was singing, DJ's ran with it and it stuck.
The Weather Girls went onto release two albums under their name, and while they enjoyed some other successes, nothing would ever match the success of “It's Raining Men” and in the late eighties Martha moved on and began doing some session work.
For one such session Martha was paid less than $1,000 to do demo's of six songs, sample recordings that were never to be released, they were supposed to be used as guides for the vocalists that would eventually record the tracks for release. Wash, for the very reason Sylvester wanted her, her size, was not seen as marketable. But, there is no denying her talent and the session tracks were released and three of the six climbed to Number One on the Billboard charts. At around the same time another group would take some of Martha's vocal's to create the biggest hit of the nineties. “Sweat, (Everybody Dance Now)”.
“I was the voice behind Black Box, and I was the voice behind C+C Music Factory. In both instances there were video's made, I was not included in the video's. I had to take legal action because it was basically false advertising. With Black Box I got a recording contract with RCA, and with C+C we got past it, we didn't go to court, I even ended up working on the second album with them and was included in the video.
It was that second C+C Music Factory album that provides one of my fondest memories of the times that I have worked with Martha. There was a single from that CD called “I Found Love”, it was never released in the U. S., but was a huge hit in Europe and was the song that best described the love that I had at the time. The song was about falling in love with a friend, finding love where you didn't expect you would.
Michael, Martha and Scott
Before one of here appearances at Heaven, where I was Promotions Director at the time I asked her manager to ask Martha to sing the song for me and my love. I would find out later that Martha had never performed the song live, but learned it that day to sing for us that night. They told me they didn't even have the tracks for her to perform to, and she would love to do it for me, but couldn't. That night, after “It's Raining Men” as the music for her final number started she looked over at me and said, “Scott, this is the one you wanted.” She surprised me with “I Found Love” and I will never forget that night.
For the past twenty years she has kept herself fresh and relevant with a new dance hit every few years, they always top the Billboard Dance Charts and they keep her working live dates all over the world in clubs, Pride Events and Disco Reunions.
With the release of her new single and Video, “I've Got You” she stays true to her commitment to only offer music with a positive message, but takes a definite turn to more of a Adult Contemporary feel. The song is amazingly appropriate for the times we find ourselves living in. With so many feeling the pains of the recession and the challenges of just making it, she let's you know that there is someone there that will help you through.
The song is brilliance, and the video actually is as good as the song. I grew up in the era where the video was an expansion of the song into a bigger experience than just the sound. Here Martha does just that. “Doing the video was great. We got online and found this restored theater up in Worcester, we did a two day shoot there and used some of the local people. We thought it came out so great. It just flowed.”
This slower, yet powerful sound is a bit of a change for Martha and her music. “It's a different direction. I think its' time. I still like doing the club stuff, but look, we are all getting a little older. I don't want to be Sixty-Five or Seventy and still bumping in the clubs.” Point taken.
There is good news for those who have been waiting for a new Album from “The Queen of Clubland”. “I am back in the studio working, and they are working on the album. This is just the first single.” When you ask? “Hopefully before the years out,” she tells me.
More on Martha at www.marthawash.com and be sure and check out her new video...”I've Got You”
Comment by Anonymous on 2011-12-04 16:17:41 Martha wash how dearly you are that god has poured his holy spirit upon you blessing you in every second in your life and given you such a great voice and talent. I love your voice, the way you perform on stage you give us energy and happiness...Diva Queen of dance/clubs
te quiero mucho Martha y que Dios te guarde siempre" from this Mexican fan of yours!