Martha Wash is fabulosity personified. From the beginning of her career singing backup for the legendary Sylvester, to her much-loved mega-hit “It’s Raining Men” as part of The Weather Girls, Martha truly has a voice like no other. Celebrity Parents spoke exclusively with this amazing woman about her music, her new stint as a children’s book author, and why appearances are no longer deceiving.
Martha, everyone knows you from The Weather Girls, but let’s talk a bit about your work with Sylvester.
I auditioned to be a background singer for Sylvester and after he listened to me he said, “Do you know anyone as large as you who can sing?” It was then that I brought in Izora [Armstead]. At that time, we were known as Two Tons of Fun.
Then you and Izora went on to record the classic “It’s Raining Men.”
Paul Jabara wrote “It’s Raining Men”. He asked a lot of people to sing the song, like Donna Summer, Diana Ross, and Barbra Streisand. They all turned it down. Izora and I were in L.A. doing shows as Two Tons of Fun. Paul asked us to record it, and we laughed and said no. He begged, and he pleaded, but we didn’t want to do it.
Why didn’t you want to do it?
We thought it was a joke. Finally, we agreed to do it. We went into the studio and recorded the song in 90 minutes. We left the studio; we went on our way, he went on his.
Then, Paul started taking the song on acetate to the clubs in NYC and L.A. There was no name on it, nothing. He would just hand it to the DJ’s and say, “Here, play this!” [laughs] The DJ’s played it and it became a huge hit in the clubs.
It was actually the fans who dubbed you The Weather Girls.
The fans in the clubs started a battle to see who was actually singing the song. Some said it was Two Tons of Fun, and others said, “No, it’s The Weather Girls.” And that’s when we changed our name. In a way, it was us starting all over again. We moved from San Francisco to NY and we changed our record company. And that’s how we got our new start.
And now, almost 30 years later, the song is as big a hit as it ever was.
It’s officially a cult classic. [laughs] Kids love it. Parents love it. Grandparents love it. It’s the kind of song that has to be played at least once at every party. “It’s Raining Men” has been very good for The Weather Girls. It was our number one hit. It’s a great, fun song. As crazy as it is, it is a classic!
I have to share something with you. My Mom was a large woman, and I remember when we saw the video for the first time, she was so happy. Up until that point, you didn’t see heavier women on TV who were strong, sexy, empowered women. She said, “I’m finally being represented on TV in a positive way.”
That is so sweet! I’ve never thought of it like that. I think that’s absolutely wonderful. I remember when we were singing for Sylvester, record companies didn’t know how to package us. They thought we might be a novelty act. Here was Sylvester, and then he had two large black ladies singing behind him.
Do you think there’s still a stigma?
Of course there is. It’s sad but yes, it’s very true. We’re slowly getting there, but there’s still a long, long, long way to go. We don’t fit the perceived norm, but it’s funny: what we fit is actually starting to become the norm. I think people hide their eyes from that.
Sure, we all want to be healthy. We all have to live with our bodies, whatever size we are. And if you’re large, you’re large. I’ve had my struggles with weight since I was a child, so I know the ups and downs of losing weight. My mom was also a large woman, so my genes are not going to make me very small. I’m going to be a large woman, but I try to be healthy, and that’s important.
Going along in that vein of societal perceptions, let’s talk about the incident with C+C Music Factory. For their “Gonna Make You Sweat” video, they used your vocals and had Zelma Davis lip-synch your part.
At that time, it was hard for me. It was very hurtful, but I got over it. I made it through. I survived. Looking back at it, it was nothing compared to other things people have been through. Eventually, Clivilles and Cole and I came to an agreement, and I wound up recording another CD. And since then, I’ve moved on. I’ve recorded two more solo CD’s. I’ve done so much touring. I did a stage play as well. Today, everybody is going down different avenues with their careers. People are branching off and doing new things.
As are you. You’re becoming a children’s book author.
The book is going to be loosely based on my life as a child. The character’s name is Lotta M., which is moi! [laughs] The premise is that she will meet many children – and their parents — of all different nationalities. Lotta M. will learn about these new cultures and traditions and spread it other children so they can learn about it, too. I think it’s going to be wonderful for kids.
In addition to the book, there’s going to be a CD.
Yes, we’re working on it now. There’s going to be a lot of music. I’m going to sing on the CD as well. It’s going to be educational and lots of fun with great music. Lotta M. has this terrific sense of independence and she will show the readers that they can strive for –and achieve — anything.
Just like you, Martha.
[laughs] Yes, just like me.
*Special thanks to celebrity stylist Micah McDonald.