Even those who may not heard Martha Wash's name have certainly heard her voice.
From the dance classic "It's Raining Men" ( recorded with the late Izora Armstead, Wash's partner in the duo The Weather Girls ) to the C&C Music Factory song "Gonna Make You Sweat ( Everybody Dance Now )" and the Black Box tune "Everybody Everybody," Wash's voice has been a staple at clubs as well as events such as weddings. In addition, she has recorded several of her songs as well as dance-club number-one hits such as "Carry On" and "Keep Your Body Working."
Now, Wash is keeping her body working in a different way: as part of the cast of WaistWatchers The Musical!, running at Chicago's Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St. ( Wash is there through Sunday, Oct. 28. )
Windy City Times: Of course, you're known for your legendary voice. I'm wondering what your thoughts were regarding another legendary singer: Aretha Franklin.
Martha Wash: Oh, she was my all-time favorite. I worshipped her. I sang one of her songs in junior high school. I thought the world of her; I admired her talent very much.
My favorite song of hers was "Chain of Fools," which I sang in junior high. I sang "Ain't No Way"in high school. I have all of her Columbia and Atlantic albums.
WCT: I assume your interaction with the LGBT community goes back to singing with ['70s disco artist] Sylvester. Could you provide some insight into what he was like?
MW: It does. Sylvester was a gay Black man who was a fantastic singer, and he didn't care if you liked him or not. He wasn't going to bow down to what you thought. He was this great talentand he was way ahead of his time.
WCT: Let's jump to WaistWatchers.
MW: Yes. It's a musical set in a women's gym. It's a great departure for me, in a way. This is a high-energy show, and it's fun. There's no intermission.
Think about going to a gymthe kind of people you meet there. There are five characters, and each one has her own story. It's real life.
WCT: What drew you to this musical? Was it the challenge of doing something different? Was it the message of the show?
MW: Oh, it's the challenge. [Laughs] And I'm hoping and praying that I'm up to the challenge.
WCT: But this isn't the first time you've done theater.
MW: I did theater in 2003. it was a show called Love on Layaway; it was written by David Talbert, and it starred Deborah Cox. I was in the original production but not in the version on DVD.
WCT: The last CD was Something Good, with the song "It's My Time."
MW: Yes, and that whole album was great. I'm in the studio working on another one. It won't be out until next year sometime. It'll have a little blues and a little R&B.
WCT: And you also have a YouTube series called 10 Minutes with Martha Wash?
MW: Yes. I've interviewed Paul Shaffer [the bandleader from Late Night with David Letterman, and who co-wrote "It's Raining Men"] and some others. It has me talking with people and singing. It's about grabbing your attention for 10 minutes; then you can go about your business. [Both laugh.] People can't seem to concentrate for too long.
WCT: You've noticed that, too?
MW: Oh, yes. It's been like thatgoing back to people using telephones; now there's [more advanced] technology.
WCT: And with you having been involved in music for a while, is that the biggest change you've noticedthe technology?
MW: Well, yeah, I would say. In terms of getting music, I would say yes, with the downloads and the streaming. People just get their music any kind of way now.
WCT: So, after WaistWatchers, you'll be devoting your time to the new CD?
MW: Well, I will be focusing on that; I have about four more tracks to do. Then I'll probably take some time off because I've been really busy for the last couple of months. Then I'll do another show: The First Ladies of Disco, with Linda Clifford and Norma Jean Wright, of Chic.
Tickets start at $45 each for WaistWatchers The Musical!; visit WaistwatchersTheMusical.com or call the Royal George Theatre Box Office at 312-988-9000.