Disco veteran Martha Wash is no stranger to Pride or a good dance party. Despite being in the entertainment industry for decades, Wash, 61, has rejuvenated the dance music scene by forming a new all-female group, First Ladies of Disco.
Wash says the inspiration behind First Ladies of Disco came from a book with the same name by James Arena, which focuses on disco artists and chronicles their stories from the height of the disco era through the present day.
Wash’s manager James Washington was inspired by the book and thought that a group should be formed with female vocalists from the disco period. Wash, Evelyn “Champagne” King and Linda Clifford came together and released their first single “Show Some Love.” The group is planning an album.
Wash’s love spreads beyond disco and into the LGBT community. She says her appeal to gay audiences stems from her work as a background singer for gay disco singer Sylvester. Wash left background singing for Sylvester to form the Weather Girls, known for their hit single “It’s Raining Men,” and the gay fan base followed.
“They’ve always been my biggest fan base. I have gay friends and I’ve had gay friends. I lost a lot of them during the ‘80s epidemic, which was really hard,” Wash says. “People are people. You love them or you don’t.”
After the Weather Girls, Wash went on to lend her vocals to some of the top dance music hits from the late ‘80s through the early ‘90s. Most notably, Wash sang vocals on C+C Music Factory’s wildly popular single “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).” Later she released three solo albums.
Wash has been performing at Pride celebrations throughout the country for more than 30 years. She has performed at Capital Pride, the opening ceremony of the first OutGames in Montreal and performed with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus. Yet Wash still holds a special place for Baltimore’s gay community in her heart. She mourns the loss of the Hippo.
“Someone told me the Hippo is getting ready to close down and I’m really sorry to hear about that,” Wash says. “We go back a long way. I’m really sad to see it close.”
Wash’s performance at Baltimore Pride begins at 9 p.m. and closes out the block party on Saturday. She wants everyone to have a good time.
“Just come out and have fun. Be yourself, enjoy yourself and celebrate everything,” Wash says. “Celebrate life. And you being able to celebrate. Because I’ve lost too many people over the years.”