Divine Diva Meter: Martha Wash

How three legends performing at WorldPride measure up

Track record

The powerhouse behind such anthems as “It’s Raining Men,” “Gonna Make You Sweat” and “Everybody Everybody” has survived four decades of clubland. Skipping through disco to house to circuit to EDM, Wash is a dancefloor chameleon. She really should be a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer by now, as she went on to change music history by suing C+C Music Factory and Black Box for not properly crediting her vocals on their chart-topping hits. This led to federal legislation that made vocal credits mandatory on albums and videos.

Her modus operandi

Her early days were spent supporting the late, great gay disco star Sylvester with Izora Armstead (her Two Tons o’ Fun/Weather Girls partner) before becoming the go-to voice for top gay house/circuit DJs aiming to create pre-Miley bangers. “I learned how to attack a song from Sylvester,” she says. “That’s why I have more drama than HBO in one track. I want people to reflect, stop and think when they hear me.”

Vocal range

Wash is a solid five-octave singer, belting out choruses with the love of God and gays behind her. She was trained in classical opera, led gospel choirs and headlined many groundbreaking discos in the 1970s.

On today’s dance scene

“For the longest time, singers have been in the background… and DJs were at the front of the bill. I hope it’s changing. Artists with voices [need to] get the play they deserve.”

LGBT connection

“Back in the day, when I played at the Paradise Garage [in the 1990s], I was trying to give the community relief because they were so ostracized by the media about AIDS/HIV,” Wash says of the time when she released songs like “Carry On” and “Give It to You.” “The papers called AIDS a gay disease — which was not true. I felt my job was to give [crowds] the happiness that wasn’t outside of the clubs so that they could have the strength to face the realities of the next day.”

What’s next

More remixes of 2013’s R&B-tinged Something Good album. Her club version of “I’m Not Coming Down” is currently hitting top 10 on the Billboard dance charts (the 60-year-old’s first Billboard hit in more than 20 years). “A remix can’t break your career,” she says, “but if you’re lucky, it can make you.”


Check out how CeCe Peniston and Crystal Waters measure up on our Divine Diva Meter.

WorldPride Closing Ceremony, Sun, June 29, Yonge-Dundas Square

Elio Iannacci is an award-winning writer and editor who lives in Toronto.

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