Like any liberated woman worth her crispy bra, my single mom spent most of the late ’70s and early ’80s disco dancing her troubles away. Friday nights, she’d pull up in the driveway in the green Impala, with a couple of pizzas or buckets of chicken, a couple of six packs and a stack of records. She just got paid and she wasn’t cooking til Monday. No sooner was the food laid out on the mini-bar in our shag carpet living room than the 45′s were spinning on our record-player console. One week it was “Fly, Robin, Fly;” the next, “One Way or Another;” the next, “Love Sensation.”
The last record was by Loletta Holloway, who passed away last night at the age of 64 after a heart attack slipped her into a coma. To a generation that grew up hearing her voice in the clubs, watching her perform on stage, she was, in the parlance of the demi-monde, “Legendary.” Born on November 5, in 1946 in Chicago and raised singing gospel with her mom, Holloway signed to Aware records in 1973 where she released her self-titled debut and then her follow up in 1975. When that label folded, she was auspiciously snatched up by Philadelphia’s Norman Harris for his Salsoul-distributed Gold Mind records. Her sound and presence were a perfect match for the symphonic urban arias that typified Philly Soul in general and Salsoul records in particular- big productions and even bigger voices. Her work with Dan Hartman included backing vocals on his 1979 hit “Vertigo Relight My Fire” and his reciprocal writing of the title track to her definitive album, 1980′s “Love Sensation.”
To a generation reared on reconstituted echos, she will be rightfully remembered as one of the most sampled voices in music. In the late 80s House music built its foundation on her chords. In 1989 Italo House act Black Box rode her pipes to the top of the charts with “Ride on Time.” In 1991 it was deja vu all over again when a young Wahlberg and his funky bunch made his “Mark” sampling her on his breakout hit “Good Vibratons.” Both cases pushed copyright issues to the forefront of the music industry and brought Holloway and SalSoul records a new wave of fans. By the time I moved to Holloway’s hometown Chicago In 1993, her voice everywhere, from boutiques to doctor’s offices, in its original form and its various sampled incantations. The list for “Love Sensation” samplers alone includes Moby, Romanthony, Nitro Deluxe, Samantha Fox and Cevin Fisher. Whitney Houston used Holloway’s “We’re Getting Stronger” for her recent hit “Million Dollar Bill”. 2001′s “SalSoul Nugget” by M&S Presents the Girl Next Door sampled her power anthem “Hit and Run,” as does “Throw,” originally done by Paperclip People (Carl Craig) in 1994 and recently covered by LCD Soundsystem, extending her legacy into the 21st century.
LIke everyone associated with Disco, her career waned with the genre’s popularity. She had a few more club hits in later years, and ultimately placed on the Dance Music charts a total of 18 times. To many of us, she will always be remembered as the voice that rose above the strife of Carter-era life and bridged the disco-house generation gap with the unrelenting promise, “Time won’t take my love away.”