Martha Wash is a dance music pioneer, but she’s not so quick to answer to that title.
Known as the “Queen of Clubland,” Wash sealed her spot in music history in the early 1980s with the Weather Girls, the duo that also included Izora Armstead and gave us the immortal “It’s Raining Men.”
Her voice became a staple, helping carry a number of hits to the top of the charts.
She demanded that everybody dance now on C+C Music Factory’s platinum-selling “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).” And she belted the vocals on Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody,” “I Don’t Know Anybody Else” and “Strike It Up.”
Deemed “unmarketable,” Wash’s vocals went uncredited. Skinnier model types replaced her in the music videos.
Determined not to be muted, Wash spoke up — loudly. As a result, legislation was enacted calling for proper credits on CDs and music videos.
“I was just trying to get my due,” Wash says. “That was really all. I was trying to let people know this was going on, and it wasn’t right. But I guess I can understand how others see it, and I accept it, especially with attorneys going to court and fighting for others as well.
“If you’re featured on the music, you have to be totally credited in writing.”
Wash feels she has gotten her due. She ultimately released her own album, “Martha Wash” (1993), featuring “Carry On” and “Runaround.”
“I was happy about that — excited,” she says. “I remember saying to myself, ‘OK, this is music I’m putting out under my own name.’ I was very happy about that — about the songs we put on it and the producers we used.”
Wash, 65, is still releasing new music, though she points out that many of her peers have moved on.
“I just keep it moving, and I’m glad to be here,” she says, attributing her longevity to “insanity, honey.”
“I’m crazy to be doing this,” she says. “I’d thought about quitting probably two or three times in my career. But then I asked myself, ‘What else am I going to do instead?’ And as you can see, I’m still singing.”
Since “Martha Wash,” she has only released one album, “Something Good” (2013). It had been suggested to her that she may have been branded a troublemaker, but she dismisses that notion.
“Am I the only person in the history of music to sue somebody? Really?”
She says the music industry wasn’t knocking on her door after “Martha Wash,” partially because restructuring at the label left her out in the cold.
But she kept working, even forming her own label, Purple Rose Records, to release her own music. Her album “Something Good” was more of a pop effort.
“I wanted to change it up,” Wash says. “Everybody knows me for singing dance music, which is easy. I want to be able to do any kind of music I want. I never wanted to be put in just one genre of music. Let me experiment. I’m no longer hampered by the major-label thing saying, ‘You have to do this kind of music.’”
Now Wash is working on an album that she hopes to release by the end of the year. “It’ll be different — a little blues, a little R&B, a little psychedelic. Think of a ’60s-type groove. It’s a little gumbo.”
She’s also releasing songs such as “Show Some Love” and “Don’t Stop Me Now” with First Ladies of Disco, a trio that also includes Linda Clifford and Norma Jean Wright (formerly of Chic). They’re performing shows, including Pride month events, and are contemplating an album.
Wash will perform Sunday at St. Louis PrideFest, where fans can expect to hear her belting the songs she’s known for — Weather Girls favorites, songs from her solo era and hits on which she initially was hidden.
“I just want to have fun with everybody, and I want people to enjoy the music and sing along with me,” she says. “Have fun celebrating who you are and the love you have for other people.”
Wash became known as an LGBTQ ally long ago, singing background for the late Sylvester.
Performing at Pride events over the years, she says she’s noticed more families in the audience. At a recent festival in suburban Connecticut, “I was looking at the children and they were having so much fun,” she says. “I was thinking to myself, ‘That’s the next generation of LGBT people and allies — people who are not gay but grew up in gay households.”
What Martha Wash at St. Louis PrideFest • When 4:45 p.m. Sunday • Where Soldiers Memorial, 1315 Chestnut Street • How much Free; $5 donation requested • More info pridestl.org