A Mississippi native, Houston’s fame hit when she teamed up with Motown Records. The single “Don’t Leave Me This Way” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, R&B Singles and Dance Music charts in 1977. The gold record earned her a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
Houston, who has been performing now for 45 years, recently released her 23rd album, “A Woman’s Touch,” on Shout Factory Records. To date, Houston has racked up 15 charting singles on Billboard’s R&B chart. Currently, Houston is touring with “Thelma Houston’s Tribute to Motown, Music, Memories & More,” a new show designed to pay homage to her Motown roots.
It was 1978 when Lynn made her grand entrance onto the music scene with the breakout hit “Got To Be Real.” It was a Top 10 R&B single and Top 40 pop single that quickly went gold. To this day, it remain in heavy rotation on urban radio. Lynn followed up “Real” with the hit “Star Love,” which became a favorite of female impersonators across the country.
Other hits include “Shake It Up Tonight,” produced by Ray Parker, Jr.; “If This World Were Mine,” a duet with the late Luther Vandross; and the number one R&B single “Encore” from 1983. The album it was released on, “Preppie,” became Lynn’s second album to go gold.
London-born Nightingale got her start performing in shows such as “Hair” and “Savages” in London’s fabled West End. Though it received little notice, she released her first album on Pye Records in 1969. Nightingale was initially reluctant to give a recording career a second try when approached by producer Pierre Tubs, but once convinced, “Right Back Where We Started From” became an instant hit, reaching the Top 10 in the UK in 1975 and going all the way to No. 2 when it was released in the States the following year.
When Nightingale released her third album in 1978, it spawned another massive hit – the ballad “Lead Me On.” The song was written by legendary songwriter and Detroit native Allee Willis (the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance” and “I’ll Be There For You,” the theme from “Friends”).
While no one likes to be called a one-hit Wonder that, sadly, is the fate that befell Ward. Before she ever thought of a career in music, Ward earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Rust College in Holly Springs, Miss., and became a teacher. Singer-turned-producer Frederick Knight originally wrote the song “Ring My Bell” for singer Stacy Lattisaw. When he presented it to Ward, she was not impressed. A few lyrical changes later, however, he convinced her to record it and it soared up the charts. “Bell” became a No. 1 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100, R&B Singles and Dance Music charts in 1979. It also topped the charts in the UK and Canada. Though she was never able to reach the Top 40 again, Ward’s place in music history is secured thanks to this smash hit.
A Taste of Honey
Though Taste started as a foursome, they are best known as duo Janice Marie Johnson and Hazel Payne. Signed to a five-album contract with Capitol Records, Taste hit their stride right out of the gate. Their first single, “Boogie Oogie Oogie,” spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978. “Boogie” also topped the R&B and Dance charts and went on to earn the group two platinum records – one for the single and one from the self-titled album it appeared on. Taste would go on to win a Grammy for Best New Artist.
Though subsequent dance tracks failed to make any musical waves, the group’s cover of the Kyu Sakamoto song “Sukiyaki,” from their third album, “Twice As Sweet,” reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B and Adult Contemporary charts and No. 3 on the Hot 100. Payne eventually dropped out of the duo, leaving Johnson to record a solo album to fulfill contractual obligations. Currently, Johnson tours alone to keep the group’s legacy alive.