In a career that has spanned nearly four decades, Martha’s voice can be heard singing some of the biggest hits in dance music, including the chart-topping “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” and the inspirational “Carry On.”
However, as Wash once put it, “Unless you are a die-hard fan, you wouldn’t know who I was.” Now, The Queen of Clubland is reclaiming her legacy. After earning eight #1 hits and an additional eight Top 10s on various Billboard Charts, she is releasing Something Good, her first collection of all new material in almost 20 years.
“I’m trying to move my career forward,” Wash says about why she returned to the studio. “I’ve been working all along, but people weren’t really seeing me unless they were coming to my shows. People know the music, but they need to see me.”
But don’t call Something Good a comeback as Martha Wash has never gone away. “Where have I been?” she laughs. “I’ve been right here—working!”
Year after year Wash is in demand, sought after to headline concerts worldwide, and most recently returned from Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, where she performed a tribute to dance music at the request of Nile Rogers, Quincy Jones, and founder Claude Nobs. In an age where artists come and go, Wash is a proven survivor. Along with Izora Armstead, she began singing background for Sylvester under the name Two Tons O’ Fun. Together, their dynamic, soulful voices can be heard on his signature song, “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real.” Eventually Wash and Armstead released their own recordings, including three Top 5 Billboard dance singles, “I Got the Feeling,” “Earth Can Be Just Like Heaven” and “Just Us.”
In 1982 the duo announced, “Hi, we’re your weather girls and have we got news for you!” Within the blink of an eye, Two Tons O’ Fun became The Weather Girls and “It’s Raining Men” went on to receive a Grammy nomination, an achievement Wash considers the most memorable moment in her career. In 1984 The Weather Girls lent their voices to Rebbie Jackson’s hit, “Centipede.” By the late ‘80s they went their separate ways, and Wash forged ahead as a solo artist.
Although she’s recorded several ballads, including her #1 R&B duet with Luther Vandross, “I Who Have Nothing,” Wash has been labeled a dance artist. Proving she is much more, Something Good finds the songstress taking chances and singing skillfully crafted pop/adult contemporary songs. The first single is the beautiful ballad “I’ve Got You.” Written by Rony Goffer and Zach Adam, winner of the Billboard Songwriting Contest Pop Award, it’s a song Wash says speaks to everyone. Initially she had reservations about performing material her audiences wouldn’t expect, but realized that as an artist, she could no longer play it safe.
“I’m just spreading my wings more and moving in another direction. As long as you live you’re going to get a little older,” Wash says. “Are you going to keep doing the same things you were doing in your twenties when you get into your fifties? It’s about advancing and moving on.”
From the opening lines of the collection’s title song, also written by Adam, Wash reveals to her listeners that a fire has once again ignited inside her. She sings: “I’m feeling something. It’s been a long time, since I’ve felt something was burning inside. You’ve got me thinking I’ve been missing out.” The song drives with pulsating rhythms and Wash’s big, but never over-powering voice soars through to its conclusion. You can’t help but be convinced that she has been dreaming to deliver these kinds of songs for quite some time. It’s only fitting that she would remake the Aerosmith classic, “Dream On” for Something Good.
“It’s My Time,” the second single, was written by Swedish singer/songwriter, Helena Johansson. The lyrics embody the courage and perseverance Wash has become known for: “It’s my time to shine. It’s my time. Keep on walking your own path. Never let anyone hold you back. When you feel like giving in, you get right up and try again and again.”
Wash has done that time and time again.
“You may stumble and fall, but you’ve got to get up,” says Wash. “You can’t stop moving. Finding your path is the journey. Along the journey you have the highs and the lows, but you can’t stop because time will keep on going.”
In 1991 Wash proved her strength and became a pioneer for artists when she sang the lead vocals on C&C Music Factory’s #1 hit, “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now.)” However, in the accompanying music video, her vocals came out of the group’s lead singer’s mouth because her image had been deemed unmarketable due to her size. Furthermore, she also failed to receive proper credit and compensation on vocals she did for Black Box’s album, including their Top 10 songs, “Everybody Everybody” and “Strike It Up, and Seduction’s “You’re My One and Only (True Love.)” Where others may have backed down from this fight, Wash filed a lawsuit and won. Her efforts now make it mandatory for artists to receive accurate credits on albums and music videos.
In spite of difficulties in her career, Wash always maintained a positive outlook. Her new song “Destiny,” which she co-wrote, tells the story of her path. “Letting go was never easy for me. I was holding so tight, but it never felt right. Couldn’t see the person I could be through all this pain.”
Wash hopes the eight songs from Something Good, which she calls empowering, will inspire others to find their strength inside and follow their destiny.
“Whatever song they listen to, I hope they get something positive out it. I want them to think about themselves and about helping others,” she says.
Something Good comes on the heels of the 30th anniversary of “It’s Raining Men.” It seems impossible to comprehend today, but Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, Cher, and Diana Ross all passed on the iconic song written by Paul Jabara and The Late Show with David Letterman’s Paul Shaffer.
Wash says people still love the song because it’s fun. She doesn’t deny that it’s campy, but when she sees that older people know it, their children know it and sometimes their grandchildren know it, she proclaims, “I can’t be mad about that!”
Martha Wash still loves every minute of performing. While her fans revere her the time has come for her to receive the accolades she’s earned from all audiences. The truth is in the haunting new ballad “Proud” “I’ll make you proud of loving me. You won’t regret that you believed. How did you see what no one else could see in me?
If you don’t know who Martha Wash is by now, you’re missing out on something good.
Martha Wash’s new album, “Something Good”, on iTunes January 10, 2013. For more on Martha Wash, visit http://www.facebook.com/themarthawash
Listen to Martha’s new sound on It’s My Time: