By Tim Parks
Even though Thelma Houston and the disco era seem to be symbiotic, (you can’t mention one without the other) there are other facets to this talented lady, as I found out during our recent interview.
For instance, did you know that Houston was the first female solo artist at Motown to win a Grammy? Or that she has a new CD, A Woman’s Touch, which she is promoting? How about the fact that Houston has been a recording artist for close to four decades, starting with her first album, Sunshower in 1969? She also has quite a few TV and film roles on her resume, including Oprah Winfrey’s Beloved.
With that being said, not touching on Houston’s explosion onto the music scene with “Don’t Leave Me This Way” reaching Number One and that time in her life and career wouldn’t be prudent, and Houston shared her favorite memory of being a part of that era.
“I guess having a hit record that was a real good memory,” she said with a laugh. “Well, for me it was a lot of fun, it was a younger time. But, I think that people were very concerned with very important issues, political issues, such as the war; that era, I think, people were really trying to be more concerned. It wasn’t so me, me, I, I – that’s what I remember most about it, how supportive people were about each other.”
That caring about other people serves Houston very well as a champion of AIDS related causes, as was evidenced by her having a day (January 29th) proclaimed in her honor by the City of West Hollywood in 2003 for her efforts in raising funds and awareness for the disease.
Fast forwarding some thirty years from her initial bout of success to Houston’s latest CD, A Woman’s Touch, which covers materials previously recorded by the likes of Marvin Gaye, Sting, Luther Vandross, and even an affirmation of her days as a disco diva with her rendition of Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” is a clear cut reminder of the star power that Houston exudes through music.
And for Houston the time seemed right to record, and the desire to do so started at an almost grass roots level.
“Originally the idea was to do a CD I could sell at my concerts,” she explained. “Because I don’t do just all of my material, that would be boring for me and boring for everyone else listening to it. So I like to mix it up, and I am often asked if a particular song I was doing in my show if I had recorded it.
“For instance, the Sylvester medley, I have been doing that as an opener for five or six years. Then as we were getting more into it, my agent said, “You know what? I think we might be able to get a record deal from this.”
Although Houston has done isolated projects over the years, such as providing back up vocals for Patti LaBelle, this is her first solo studio CD in 17 years, and she explained the process of slipping back into the forefront.
“It wasn’t like, ‘Oh My God, this is a microphone?!” She stated. “But for me this time, it was much more relaxed, because I was doing it at my leisure. And, there was no big push or anything to deal with, other than let’s go in today and cut. I still wanted to do a great job with songs I really love and I wanted to do the people that had originally recorded them justice.”