I don’t remember how I was introduced to her. But I believe it was through V., whom I now think of as my first boyfriend. V. was an american soldier, based in Butzbach near Frankfurt and listened to the freshest US american r&b and house music. This was back in 1993, the Martha Wash album (and until today her only proper solo effort) had just been released. When we drove to Butzbach, it was blaring out of the speakers. I was in love. And shocked at first, thinking that my friends would judge me, because at that time the music sounded gayer than gay gayness to me. But I couldn’t help it. I was hooked.
Just fyi, after he dumped me, I never went back to the Butzbach army barracks, but I listened to Martha:
I have replayed the memories of you in my mind
Where you just killing time?
(Now That You’re Gone)
This album not only became one of my all time favorites, featuring fantastic vocal house (with some of the production by Todd Terry), soulful ballads, r&b and pop. With Give It To You it has one of my favorite videos ever. Directed by Marcus Nispel, who is probably best known for George Michael’s Killer/Papa Was A Rolling Stone clip, the video is pure delight. Miss Wash wiggles and giggles herself through the tasty hunks. It’s a bit blurry on youtube, but I have been waiting for ages for it to show up.
Martha started her career together with Izora Armstead as back up singers for disco-drag-diva Sylvester. They called themselves Two Tons of Fun, released two albums, changed their name to The Weather Girls and we all know what happened next.
At the beginning of the 90ties Martha appeared on a lot of records but was hardly seen. She was deemed to fat to appear in the promo pictures and videos by italo-piano-house-group Black Box. If you knew Martha’s voice, you recognized her from the first second by listening to Strike It Up, I Don’t Know Anybody Else or Everybody, Everybody. She is also behind some C & C Music Factory hits, such as Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).
Only after she sued all of them, she got proper credit and a record contract which lead to her triumphant solo release. The three singles Carry On, Give It To You and Runaround shot to the top of the US american dance charts. The album features a cover version of the Two Tons Of Fun slow jam classic, Just Us, reworked into a dance floor anthem cut in two: Just Us (Dancin’) and Just Us (Singin’).
When I moved to Toronto, I forgot to put Martha on my iPod, but suddenly I felt a heavenly urge to hear MW. I went to the next best used record store and as it is with a lot of great CDs, they are available in the cut-out bin. For a second I wanted to complain: This album is too good to be sold for $3, you have to sell it for $50 or even $500.
In the meantime I have been listening to the 14 gems quite often. As I am so in love with Martha’s immaculate, powerful & soulful voice, the album and the production doesn’t sound dated to me. Maybe it isn’t. Of course, I love the lyrics too. Everything.
Martha released a 12″, You Lift Me Up, last year on her own label, Purple Rose. I heard she is working on a full length album. You know I can’t wait.
So when you’re searching for that rainbow
I will help you find it
(Someone Who Believes In You)