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With a career that spans over 4 decades, Martha Wash has seen her share of the music industry and has emerged with something not all can claim- integrity. With a lifetime of experience in her rearview mirror, Wash, often titled The Queen of Clubland, has a new album out on her own label and proudly owns her new stance as an Indie artist.

She was set to perform at Tampa Pride 2020, however COVID-19 postponed Tampa PRIDE to 2021, but she took some time to answer some questions in an interview with Tampa Bay Gay's Kim Corda, right before the closures.

Photo Credit: Mike Ruiz

Kim Corda: Looking at the breadth of your career, it seems as though you have done what many artists could only dream to achieve, namely longevity. To what do you attribute your success?

Martha Wash: (Laughs) I guess being stubborn and refusing to give up. I had thought about it a few times over the years, to just stop the career and go into something else, but I'm still doing it. So, call me crazy.

I think it's the fans that I've accumulated over the years; the ones that have been with me since day one even to the newer generation who are just finding out about me. I think that's possibly what it is. They've kind of latched on to my music and that's a great feeling.

KC: Can you pinpoint times in your career that were either "the best" and /or "the worst" and what did you learn from those times?

MW: The bestů I think probably early on in my career (laughs) not knowing a lot about this business. Just going out and singing and doing the shows and making new fans and stuff, they were probably some of the best times.

What's going on now is a whole new thing (of people finding out about my music). The beginning and now would be the best times and the worst time was probably the early 90s when I had to go through all the litigation with the groups. That was one of the worst times for me, but I survived all that and I'm still here so what can I tell you?

KC: Yes. And when you look at the situation (the 90s lip syncing scandals) as an outsider it seems like it was something you just dealt with, but one could imagine on a personal level how stressful and hurtful that experience must have been.

: Well, you know, the thing is you have to go through the negative stuff and the the things that hurt you or could possibly make you step back from life, but you have to go through those things to appreciate where you are in the present. And be able to survive them and say, "Yeah, I went through all that and I came through it and I'm still standing." You can't have one without the other. Somewhere, sometime in your life, not so good things are going to happen to you, it just depends on how you're going to react.

Photo Credit: Sean Black

KC: It seems that the outcome was a win for performers because now you have to credit the artists who then have rights to royalties for their work. Have you seen any changes in the music industry lately that have been positive?

MW: I'll just say that there are more Indie artists out there getting their music heard which is a great thing. There are so many more music platforms that people can find to hear Indie artists whereas previously you didn't hear about them quite as much because the major labels were only promoting major artists. But with the new music platforms, between that and the internet, you can find music anywhere, any time of the day, and come across somebody that you've never heard of before. Then you may play their music and say "Wow, I really like this." I think that's the great part about it.

KC: So it's become more accessible to the fans and the general public.

MW: Exactly.

KC: Has that made it more difficult for artists to capitalize on their work?

MW: Mmmm. I don't think so. If you're the Indie artist, you know what you've got to do to get yourself out there to be listened to. I'm an Indie artist after all of these years. And it does take a lot because remember, if you're on a major label, the label takes care of everything else for you. When you're an Indie artist, you have to do everything that the major label was doing for the artist. So, it does take more time, it can take more resources and that sort of thing, but I think in the end, the artists have more control over their brands.

KC: And so, you have your own recording label now, correct?

MW: Yes.Purple Rose Records. (

Photo Credit: Purple Rose Records Website

KC: Who are some of your favorite artists past and present?

MW: Wow. Well, I'll put it like this, I'm kind of old school as far as the music and the artists are concerned because I came up during the time of the Motown sound and some of the rock groups and things, so I go back that far. As far as the new artists are concerned, I do like Lizzo, I do have to say. I think she's absolutely fabulous, just a multi-talented young lady. There are some really good ones out there now that I appreciate.

KC: In an article published in Rolling Stone in 2014, you stated that you had to sneak listening to secular music when you were young. Did you perceive any related barriers to becoming a performer on the disco scene?

MW: Well, I'll put it like this, my parents weren't thrilled. Because I came from a very religious household so that's why I had to sneak the music in. Between that and listening to the radio under my pillow at night. That's what I would do. I knew that I would always sing, I just didn't know which genre it would be in. Naturally, my mother wanted me to continue to sing Gospel music, because she loved to sing herself. I told her, "Look, whatever it is, whatever kind of music I might sing, it still wouldn't keep me from having the Gospel music foundation that I grew up with." That would never leave. So I was able to appreciate all kinds of music growing up whether I played it on the record player or listened to it under my pillow at night. I could hear all kinds of music on the different stations back in San Francisco. That's what helped me you know. I just liked all kinds of different music.

KC: It sounds like you were driven at that point in your life to just do what you loved to do.

MW: Yeah. I didn't know exactly what area it would be in. As it turned out it wound up being top 40 music that evolved into disco music. That's really where my professional career started.

KC: You've done a lot of different things in music so that it appears that it wasn't one straight line for you. You've kind of weaved in and out and perhaps recreated yourself or your sound.

MW: That's why I started the label. I could put out any kind of music that I wanted to. The new album, Love & Conflict, is more blues-rock, and pop, and a hint of psychedelic, and a little county. (Laughs) You see what I'm saying?

Photo Credit: Sean Black

KC: You're not in one box. You get to explore different genres and not have people comment. Well, I guess people will say what they're going to say but it's nice to say "I don't care. I'm doing my thing. It's my label and you can't tell me what to do." Right?

: Exactly, I've always said that I never wanted to be pigeonholed into one genre of music. I want to record whatever I want to record and put it out. Now, hopefully people will enjoy the music. Everybody knows me from doing dance music. That's all well and fine, but I'm more than that and always have been. So, follow me on this journey. You may hear some songs that you like. And the next album I put out will probably be totally different again. But just allow the artist to grow and experiment and be able to put out the kind of music that they want to put out. Don't just put them into one particular area of music and expect them to do it for the rest of their life.

KC: I perceive that a lot of fans get their feathers ruffled when their favorite artists have a departure from the norm. As I get older, I appreciate more and more that we all go through different phases in life and you need to express yourself differently than you did when you were 20.

MW: Exactly. Are you, as a person, going to stay the same as when you were in your 20s, but now you're 50? We all evolve so I say, let the music evolve with you.

KC: You are known to be something of an advocate for the LGBTQ community as well as for HIV/ AIDS awareness, support and funding. Quality Services for the Autism Community is another organization for whom you are a spokesperson. You must see and hear of many inspirational and also heart wrenching stories. Do you see your role as an advocate as something that drives you?

MW: Um. I'm not going to say that necessarily. I will talk or I will provide my services when people come to me and ask me to help them. Say, HIV and AIDS, when the big crisis was going on back in the 80s, it was just absolutely dreadful and there were a lot of organizations that were springing up to try and help the people in their communities deal with this horrifying illness. I remember I did so many shows, or I should say we, because I was still singing with Izora Rhodes at the time, with Two Tons of Fun and The Weather Girls, and it was just something that you did. People called and would say, "Would you please help us raise money for our organization?" Because there was nothing going on to help people that had AIDS, so these local communities were setting up hospices and facilities to try and help people who were dealing with this. So that's where my activism comes in as far as doing the show and speaking to people at times and visiting facilities. I have done that on occasion to talk to people and I share my story and they share their story. I do what I do the best way I can as far as helping people.

QSAC. That came to me, believe it or not, when I was watching a soap opera, and the story line was about a little girl, about 7 or 8 years old, who had Autism and I watched it for a couple of years and the thought crossed my mind: "OK, Well, she's got Autism, and if she continues to live she'll be an Autistic young woman. What kind of services are provided for adults with Autism?"

Naturally, you want to find out as early as possible if a child is on the Autism spectrum, but over time, that child is going to become an adult and you have to shift your expectations. What I found out was that there are a lot of high functioning adults with Autism who only want to be people who work in their communities, who can support themselves, and just live and be like everyone else. The only problem is, they have Autism. So that's where my activism comes in with QSAC.

There are so many different causes and situations that people have to deal with on a day to day basis. We all have challenges. Some are more pronounced or visible and then there are others that you don't really see, but are challenges nonetheless. I think it's also about being empathetic to people. And don't take everything and everyone at face value.

KC: You are something of an icon for the gay community. Do you recall when that came about? Was it a conscious step you made or was it something that randomly happened or evolved through your music?

MW: No. Not at all. In school, I had gay freinds and it never bothered me. They were just my friends. I had teachers that were gay. They were just my teachers. And then when I started singing with Sylvester, it just continued on. They're basically my number one fan base and have been for decades. You know, people are people. I don't care what your sexual orientation is. If I like you, I like you. That should have no kind of bearing on whether I like you or not. You're another human being.

KC: If only everyone could see it that way...

MW: Well. Yeah. When you start putting up barriers and you have these isms and schisms, you can narrow your thinking very, very small. My feeling has always been If God created you then who am I to say that you're wrong. I have no authority or judgement to place you in a positive or negative category. You're just who you are. Now, what I'm going to do if I want to, is accept you or not. And I choose to accept.

KC: Is there a message that you would offer to your fans and the LGBTQ community on being true to yourself?

MW: That's just it right there. Be true to yourself, whoever you are. At the end of the day, we're all singular beings. You're not like me, I'm not like you. I don't live in your skin you don't live in mine. When you take your last breath, it's just you. Love whoever you are. Be the best person that you can be and spread love. Spread positivity. Uplift people. You don't know what the next person is going through and sometimes a perfect stranger can say something to you that can lift your spirits. Or they said something that's very poignant to you that you needed to hear at the time, and they don't know it. They didn't know it but they said something very profound to you. I sometimes say that people can interchange with angels anywhere. It can change your whole outlook.

The section below was to run with Tampa Pride 2020 (March then June 2020).
Since the interview COVID-19 postponed Tampa Pride 2020. We decided to keep this part of the interview online to celebrate
PRIDE 2020 and what we can look forward to from Marth Wash this year!

KC: You're slated to perform as the headliner at the Cuban Club in Ybor City as a part of Tampa Bay's Pride celebration this year. Without giving away any surprises... will there be any surprises??

: (Laughing) I'm not gonna say. Listen, I just want people to come out and have fun and celebrate. Celebrate your greatness, whoever you are. Celebrate you and celebrate the people around you. When people can come together with a like mind and celebrate each other, it's a wonderful thing. There can't be a downside to that. If everybody is in a great mood and they want to have fun, be it adults or children, and they are celebrating each other, then that's a great day.

KC: Have you performed at pride celebrations previously?

MW: How about for quite a few decades now?

KC: So you've experienced it. It's a lot of fun. Is it something you look forward to?

MW: Yes. Because depending on where I'm going, if I'm going to a place for the first time, I'm not quite sure what to expect, but usually at the end, it's all great. The fans are having a great time, the music is good, everybody's in a great mood. There are some Prides that I've done, like every other year, which is fun. Then there are new places that I've done and that's always fun too because it's new for me. They're all different.

KC: Do you have a favorite song to perform?

MW: Well, as far as the audience is concerned, their favorite is always "It's Raining Men." I think with some of the newer music, I'll probably possibly do a remix of one or two of the new songs from the new album (Love & Conflict). But for the most part, everybody wants to hear "It's Raining Men."

In parting, she offers, "I hope that everyone likes the new album. It's available on all music platforms."

Wash performs both solo and with The First Ladies of Disco, has her own record label and production company, and a You Tube channel- Martha Wash TV.

Interview/Written By:
Kim Corda - Tampa Bay Gay Contributer

Her brand new album, Love & Conflict available here.

Follow Martha Wash:


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