She would not be denied

Singer-songwriter Martha Wash [Photo: Daniel Åhs Karlsson – Own work, CC BY 3.0]

BY KEISHA BELL | Visionary Brief

Do you value authenticity? How often is she overlooked because her authentic self does not “fit” the traditional storyline? It happens more times than you know.

Meet Martha Elaine Wash, a singer-songwriter who was born on December 23, 1953. Although her singing portfolio is vast, she is known as “The Queen of Clubland” because of her success on Billboard’s Dance Chart. Notably, Wash has a total of 12 number-one songs on the chart to date.

Many know of Wash’s strong vocals from songs such as the multi-platinum single “It’s Raining Men,” the platinum-selling number one song “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” and “Everybody Everybody.” Her powerful vocals made it difficult for record executives to hide her, although they tried.

Wash was labeled “unmarketable” because of her weight. She, however, would not be denied. In the 1990s, Wash initiated litigation against the RCA record label to receive proper credit and appropriate royalties as the vocalist on a number of the group Black Box’s songs. After singing lead vocals on all three of their U.S. top-40 hits, she was not featured in any of the music videos. Instead, a model was hired to lip-synch the lyrics.

As if that was not insulting enough, Wash performed uncredited lead vocals on Seduction’s “You’re My One and Only (True Love)” and lead vocals on C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).” Known to be a woman full of optimism, was she mistaken as weak?

As a result of the lawsuit, Wash received an out-of-court settlement and a recording contract from RCA, as well as a guarantee to be properly credited for her work on recordings. Wash did not stop there. She later sued the producers of C+C Music Factory and their record label Sony for “fraud, deceptive packaging and commercial appropriation.”

Again, a settlement was reached and Sony made an unprecedented request to MTV to add a disclaimer that credited Wash for vocals and named the model that lip-synched her vocals in the official “Gonna Make You Sweat” music video for “visualization.”

Keisha Bell

Keisha Bell

It took courage for Wash to stand up for herself and sue for what she believed was just. If she did not do it, however, who would? Wash could not wait. She would not wait, thus proving to all that she would not be denied.

Keisha Bell is an attorney, author, and public servant.

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