Weekend Diversion: Martha Wash’s Biggest Fan
You’ve got to see what happens when this man realizes he’s talking to the living legend herself.
Image credit: GayCalgary Magazine, via http://www.gaycalgary.com/Magazine.aspx?id=109&article=3182.
“I’m just thankful that I’m still here. I hope I’m still relevant to somebody. I don’t trip on all that icon stuff. I’m still that down-to-earth girl I was all those years ago.” –Martha Wash
People may say believe half of what you see and none of what you hear, but in the case of Martha Wash, that isn’t quite right. Sometimes, what you see isn’t what you get; sometimes the truth is something that can only be discovered by trusting your ears. Based on all the music I share with you, it might surprise you to learn that one of my favorite songs to listen to when I need to either be picked up or pumped up is her legendary hit, It’s Raining Men,
but Martha is so much more than that. In the late 1970s, she got her start with disco singer/songwriter Sylvester, and as one of his backing singers (with an amazing voice), began to achieve some success and notoriety. Because of her huge voice, great personality and large size — something she had in common with another of Sylvester’s backup singers, Izora Armstead — he nicknamed them “Two Tons o’ Fun.”
A few years later, they struck out on their own taking that as their group’s name, scoring a trio of dance hits before releasing the mega-smash It’s Raining Men, which led to them changing their group’s name to The Weather Girls. After a few more minor hits, The Weather Girls disbanded and Martha Wash pursued a solo career, singing lead and backing vocals for a number of huge hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s with Black Box and C&C Music Factory, including the hit Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).
But something was amiss if you looked at the albums or videos for Black Box and C&C Music Factory.
The women portrayed and credited as singing the lead vocals on those hits were Katrin Quinol (for Black Box) and Zelma Davis (for C&C), when in fact the uncredited Martha Wash was the voice behind them. After suing to receive proper credits and royalities — and successfully appearing on TV shows to “prove” that the vocals were hers in the court of public opinion — the laws were actually changed so that vocal credits became mandatory on albums and in music videos. Ever since, Martha has become one of the most respected singers on the planet, and continues to tour and record.
But while all of this was going on, Sylvester was losing a battle with AIDS, dying in 1988. Martha Wash’s time with him had sparked close ties with the gay community, and that led to her taking a lead role in both raising awareness and money to help combat its spread. In an interview earlier this year with the Montreal Gazette, she said:
“I remember I was in New York back in 1993 and every day for a week or two, I kept getting telephone calls about somebody we knew was gone — had just died — whether it was a close friend or somebody in the business. It felt like… a plague. It’s been over 25 years now since Sylvester died, but HIV/AIDS organizations still need help. I have always maintained that I wish I wasn’t doing AIDS benefits, but I will continue to do them until this nightmare will really be over.”
We should all be Martha Wash fans for the talent, dedication, humanity and generosity she’s brought to the world, but in 2006 she appeared on the Game Show Network’s I’ve Got A Secret, and I don’t think anyone will ever be a bigger fan of hers than comedian Jermaine Taylor, who got to meet her here.
That is some pure, unabashed joy right there for you, and one of the greatest moments in modern game show history. I hope you all enjoyed it, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow for more wonders of the Universe, from Earth to infinity, here on Starts With A Bang!
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